Texas Found Denying Students Special Education

 It’s about time! Parents and advocates for years have known that Texas schools have systematically and arbitrarily reduced their special education populations by refusing to evaluate and identify disabled students who need special education and related services. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) launched an investigation in response to a series of articles published by the Houston Chronicle. For years, the Texas Education Agency, in evaluating school performance, used a performance measure to either positively or negatively grade schools based on whether a school’s special education population was below or above 8.5% of the overall student population. Schools who provided special education services to more than 8.5% of the student population were scored poorly, while schools that reduced the special education numbers were rewarded. Of course, there are problems with the numbers. The 8.5% number is arbitrary and significantly below the nationwide average.

Public hearings, as well as changes to Texas law, followed, and the end result was that Texas eliminated the 8.5% performance indicator, which many believed to actually be a cap on special education enrollment. However, OSEP concluded its investigation and found that in addition to the 8.5% cap on enrollment, the State of Texas and Texas schools have failed students in other ways. According to the investigation, Texas schools have engaged in a number of practices that have led to a decline in the number of students receiving needed services. For example, many schools have improperly used Response to Intervention, or intervention services for struggling learners, as a way to delay or deny eligibility. Many schools have improperly used Section 504 services and Dyslexia services in lieu of evaluating and serving students with suspected disabilities. Many educators did not understand when an evaluation for special education is required. OSEP concluded that the State of Texas has failed to ensure that all children with disabilities who need special education and related services are properly identified and served, has failed to ensure that a Free Appropriate Public Education is made available to eligible students, and has failed to appropriately supervise school districts and monitor the implementation of special education laws throughout the state.

What does this mean? On a state level, it means TEA will be forced to take corrective action to remedy the problems. On an individual level, it means schools can no longer use arbitrary numbers to deny services. It also means that other programs, such as dyslexia instruction, Section 504 plans, or RTI services cannot be used to delay or deny special education.

This breaking story has received attention nationally from publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Texas Tribune, and NPR.

If your school is refusing to evaluate your child for special education, speak up. The school cannot delay your child’s evaluation. If your child is not receiving the special education and related services he needs, contact The Ramage Law Group, or call us (972) 562-9890

 

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