For best results, consult your special education administrator

The 2024 Title IX rules were finally released. As you may recall, the Department of Education had proposed a new provision in the rules to require the Title IX Coordinator to consult with the IEP or Section 504 team throughout the implementation of the grievance procedures and specifically with respect to the implementation of supportive measures when a party in the grievance process is a student with a disability. While the intersection of Title IX, the IDEA, and Section 504 is complicated and sometimes an IEP or 504 meeting is warranted, the proposed requirements would have been burdensome and unworkable. A coalition of districts across the country worked with Thompson & Horton to submit comments to the Department flagging this concern.

“You only get one shot.” Or sometimes more… The Fifth Circuit finds an ADA FAPE claim may be viable despite an IDEA FAPE finding

The intersection and interplay of the IDEA, ADA, and Section 504 can be complicated and confusing. All three laws provide protections to students with disabilities in public schools. But how are their requirements different? And when can families go to court versus when must they exhaust administrative remedies? What remedies are available under each? A year ago, the Supreme Court decided Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, weighing in on when administrative exhaustion is required. That decision altered the paradigm of IDEA exhaustion and the interaction of these laws protecting students with disabilities.   

The Fifth Circuit recently joined the fray on this developing intersection of laws in Lartigue v. Northside Independent School District. The Fifth Circuit held that even though a hearing officer found that the district provided the student FAPE under the IDEA (and the student did not appeal that finding), the student might still be able to prove a violation of the ADA related to her accommodations. The decision scraps the previous understanding that the provision of IDEA FAPE was a defense to FAPE claims under Section 504 and the ADA. The school district has requested that the Fifth Circuit rehear the case en banc.

New Student? New Rules

When a student transfers to the district during the school year with an IEP, the IDEA provides rules for providing services to the student. If a student moves during the summer, the IDEA is silent, other than the general rule that an IEP must be in effect for all eligible students on the first day of school. The Texas regulations provide timelines to adopt or create a new IEP for transfer students, and revised regulations in effect starting this school year provide additional details and shorten some of those timelines. The requirements can seem a bit confusing because they vary depending on whether the student is transferring intrastate or interstate and during the school year or summer. We have summarized the requirements for you in the chart below.

Don’t You Forget About Me: OSEP Policy Letter Sheds Light on Rights of Students Who Have Graduated 

Phew! It’s the day after graduation, and your school district is finally off the hook for a potential state complaint you have been fearing the legal guardian of a student with disabilities would file against the district for months. Not so fast! On March 30, 2023, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) (part of the U.S. Department of Education) released a policy letter relating to the rights of students who have graduated. Letter to Oettinger, which is dated March 2, 2023, addresses the following issues:  

(1) Must a State Educational Agency (SEA) resolve a complaint if the child who is the subject of the complaint has graduated? 

(2) Must an SEA resolve a complaint that alleges systemic noncompliance based on facts related to a child who has graduated? 

IEP Spotlight: Dos and Don’ts of Annual Goals

Today, we continue a series of articles focused on the components of a great IEP. We previously posted about the importance of and tips for successful IEP implementation, progress monitoring, and the statement of PLAAFP. In this post, we will cover the annual statement of goals, which is another critical component of the IEP. Like the statement of PLAAFP, the statement of annual goals is an outcome determinative element of the IEP, meaning it can be the reason a hearing officer finds the district did or did not offer FAPE. Keep reading to understand what is required and how to ensure every IEP includes an effective and compliant statement of annual goals.

The Supreme Court Finds IDEA Exhaustion Not Required When Parents Seek Money Damages Under ADA and Section 504

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held today that plaintiffs may file federal lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 seeking money damages without first exhausting the IDEA administrative procedures, even when the underlying dispute is the student’s special education programming. As we previewed in a post following the oral argument, this decision is a departure from current Fifth Circuit law and opens the door to parents filing federal lawsuits seeking monetary relief in special education disputes without filing for due process under the IDEA. As explained below, whether this path is truly advantageous for parents is uncertain.