On September 23, 2022, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) issued a notice regarding proposed amendments to the sections of the Texas Administrative Code related to special education complaints filed with the TEA. The proposed rules are currently open for public comment and are the subject of a public hearing on October 6, 2022. The only major change impacting special education due process hearings would clarify that summary proceedings in hearing may only be used when both parties in the hearing agree to use the summary process. This is significant because parties are currently able to file motions for summary judgment – which allows a hearing officer to rule on the legal viability of a claim without the need for a complete hearing. This approach can be productive and cost-effective for school districts, as it permits hearing officers to sift through meritless claims without the need for a full hearing. This is currently permitted in a due process hearing without the consent of the other party, and this change would require consent.
School districts and parents across Texas are regularly working together to ensure that the needs of students are met and that the district is providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Every child is unique; likewise, every Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is just as distinct. When a disagreement arises and disputes occur, the district and parents have the ability to go through various dispute resolution processes. The Texas Education Agency encourages and supports the resolution of any dispute that arises between the parent and a school district relating to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of or the provision of a FAPE to a student.
Several options exist for resolving disputes at any level or stage. Some of those options include but are not limited to: ARD meetings; meetings or conferences with the student’s teacher, campus administrator, or special education director; mediation through TEA; and filing a complaint or due process hearing through TEA. Districts and parents utilize these formal and informal methods to problem solve and settle disagreements.
But once a parent has formally filed a request for a due process hearing, is there any hope left for resolution or are the parent and district forced to go through with a due process hearing before a hearing officer? The answer is, yes, there is hope for resolution before a due process hearing. In fact, the majority of due process hearing requests are resolved without a hearing.
By Dianna D. Bowen and Taylor M. Montgomery
Thought your LEA’s Special Education Operating Procedures were good to go? You likely need to think again! As required by the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”), LEAs across the state worked hard to finalize and upload Special Education Operating Procedures for the Child Find, Evaluation, and ARD Committee sections of the Legal Framework by October 2020. At the time, most LEAs drafted separate procedures for each of the subsections under the Child Find, Evaluation, and ARD Committee sections in the Legal Framework. Since then, special education administrators have been actively working to review and revise these procedures to ensure accuracy and compliance with state and federal requirements while awaiting further guidance from TEA on drafting operating procedures for the remaining sections of the Legal Framework.
But instead of guidance on the remaining sections, TEA has released a series of templates (the “Legal Framework templates”) relating to the first three sections of the Legal Framework. By August 31, 2022, LEAs must re-upload Special Education Operating Procedures in accordance with the information in the Legal Framework templates. This includes new naming nomenclatures, certain content/topics, and answers to specific questions for each upload.
The Special Education Team at Thompson & Horton has been working with clients to ensure their Special Education Operating Procedures comply with the new requirements. Below are common questions and answers that we have been answering for LEAs during this process.