Alamo Heights Trifecta

Alamo Heights ISD prevailed in a special education lawsuit in which the court addressed three very common issues, ruling in favor of the district on all three.

CHILD FIND.  We are hearing a lot about Child Find these days, in part due to the OSEP investigation of Texas and the Corrective Action Plan now being implemented.  AHISD was accused of failing to “find” a student when it should have, but the court rejected that argument. 

The district promptly responded to a parent request for evaluation when the student was in 10th grade.  The district had no reason to make a referral prior to that time in light of the fact that the student was passing all classes, including multiple AP or Pre-AP courses, and had performed well on STAAR in 9th and 10th grades. The court noted that “This success in general education classes cuts against placement in special education.”

FAPE.  The district did conduct an evaluation when the parent requested it and ultimately found the student to be eligible for services.  The parent alleged that the IEP was inadequate, and that the district failed to provide FAPE.  However, the court upheld the hearing officer’s decision that the district provided FAPE.  The court used the four factors from Michael F. placing emphasis on the fourth factor—evidence of progress:

At the end of the 2014-15 school year, A.L. passed all his classes, including Pre-AP Spanish, Pre-AP English, Pre-AP Chemistry and AP World History, while receiving no incompletes.

That “no incompletes” was important, because the student’s failure to complete work was one of the reasons for the referral.

IEP IN PLACE TO START THE YEAR.  The parent argued that there was no IEP in place at the start of the 2015-16 school year.  The evidence showed that an IEP had been proposed at an ARDC meeting held just prior to the start of school.  But the parties did not come to consensus, so there was no agreed-to IEP in place.  Nevertheless, the court held that the district had an IEP in place at the beginning of the school year, as required by law.  When the meeting recessed without consensus, the district provided Prior Written Notice, informing the parent that the previous year’s IEP would be continued until the ARDC could agree on new goals.  Good enough:

Taken together, this evidence suggests to the Court that there was an IEP in place at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year—the 2014-15 IEP—and Parent had notice of its implementation. 

It’s always good to see the good work of educators being recognized by hearing officers and judges.  Kudos to the folks in Alamo Heights! The case is A.L. v. Alamo Heights ISD, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on October 12, 2018.  We found it at 73 IDELR 71.


Tomorrow: pushback on restorative practices.