Is your child struggling academically? Is she having attention problems that interfere with learning? Is he overwhelmed and having behavioral issues in class? Or is he holding it together at school only to fall apart the minute he arrives home? Is the school ignoring your cries for help? As a parent, you want to know why – why can’t my child read, why is communication such a challenge, why is he being sent out of the classroom so much? And what can I do as a partner in my child’s education? And why aren’t they listening?
Last year, The Houston Chronicle published an article Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education, detailing a systemic problem in Texas public schools and the way Texas school children who need special education are often ignored. The article chronicled what parent advocates had long suspected – an effort to under-identify disabled children by refusing to evaluate them at all. According to the investigation, school districts refused to evaluate and identify special needs students based on an inappropriate cap of 8.5% established by TEA. The 8.5% cap was actually a performance indicator used in evaluating public schools. Those schools that had special education populations below 8.5% were rewarded with higher performance marks than those that exceeded the 8.5% mark. School districts interpreted the TEA monitoring system as a cap on the number of eligible students who can receive services, resulting in many students being denied the services they need and deserve. The Department of Education and TEA conducted listening sessions throughout the state where parents and advocates recounted case after case of schools underserving children in obvious need of special education. During the past Legislative session, the Legislature responded by passing Senate Bill 160, prohibiting TEA from adopting or implementing any performance indicator that measures a school district’s percentage of enrolled students who receive special education.
Although the 8.5% performance indicator is no longer used by TEA, parents and students may still experience the devastating effects of being ignored. Perhaps a parent asked the school to evaluate her child years ago, only to be told there is no educational need. However, whether there is an educational need for special education is a question that only is answered by the evaluation. By refusing to evaluate, schools put up a roadblock, denying many students the opportunity to be identified and receive appropriate educational services. These students suffer without appropriate educational services and continue to fall further behind academically, behaviorally and socially, often for years.
The school has the duty to evaluate any child it suspects may have a disability and needs special education because of that disability. This evaluation request can come from anyone, including a teacher, a school counselor, or a parent. It is the evaluation that determines whether there is an educational need for special education and related services. Special education is not just about academic performance. The student may have non-academic needs related to his disability, such as the need for behavioral goals or social skills training. The student may have speech and language deficits. Disabilities come in different forms, many of which lead to behavioral challenges, not just academic ones.
If you suspect your child may need special education, don’t give up. Request an evaluation. Be persistent if denied the evaluation. And know your rights! You are your child’s voice and best teacher!
IDEA guarantees all students a right to a free and appropriate public education. The Ramage Law Group will fight for the right of all students with disabilities to be identified and served.
The Ramage Law Group has authoritative solutions for special needs children!