“But we won the first half!”

Are you signed up for our firm’s annual HR Symposium?  It’s coming up next week—Tuesday the 15th.  The focus this year will be on the many legal issues that arise in the hiring process.  This year when we have so many vacancies we are doing a lot of hiring. This is not the time to get sloppy about that process. So I hope you will sign up for this year’s Symposium. It’s all happening on Zoom. Sign up at www.walshgallegos.com

Now, for today’s Daily Dawg content…..

It was a brutal football season for us Longhorn fans last year.  Many of the games followed the same pattern.  The Horns played well in the first half, and often for three of the four quarters, only to squander the lead in the fourth quarter.  It turns out that winning three of the four quarters counts for squat. It’s only the final score that matters. 

This came to mind for me as I read Lamar CISD v. J.T.  This is a special education case in which the court ruled in favor of the district, thus overturning the decision of the special education due process hearing officer.  The main issue in the case was about whether or not the district had provided J.T. with a meaningful educational benefit during the 2018-19 school year.  In working with J.T. that year LCISD was a lot like the Longhorns, only in reverse: a bad first half, but a strong second half.    

During that first half—the fall semester--the court recounted at least five incidents in which J.T.’s teacher “responded inappropriately.”  This included throwing the boy’s shoes across the room, kicking him in the shin, shoving him to the ground and pushing him from a ball chair onto the floor.  The teacher, who was new to the district, resigned at the end of that semester.

When the mother saw the video of one of these incidents she pulled J.T. out of school. For the rest of the year, the school served J.T. by ratcheting up homebound services. The ARD Committee also agreed to provide OT, personal care services, ABA therapy, adaptive PE, and to make up for any lost speech therapy by the end of the year. Moreover, the district agreed to pay for six months of private counseling sessions for J.T.

The mother was complimentary of the homebound teacher, noting that the teacher “has gone above and beyond to make sure that J.T. progresses.”  That hard work paid off.  The student mastered his IEP goals in English, math, science, social studies and behavior.  He showed improvement on the STAAR, doing “exceptionally well on the Biology STAAR” while passing Algebra I and failing English/Language Arts by “only a few questions.”

To return to our football game analogy, what we have here is a lousy first half for the district but a whole ‘nother ballgame in the second half.   By the end of the year, the district could claim victory.  But do we measure educational benefit semester by semester? Or by the year as a whole?  Does the score at halftime matter?

The court held that it’s only the final score that counts.  (Note: the court did not put it in those words.  What a missed opportunity!)   The court held that we look at academic progress over the scope of the entire year.  After all, IEPs do not contain weekly, monthly or by-the-semester goals. They contain “annual” goals. 

So as we trudge along in this difficult year, remember that it’s not too late to improve services to students. It’s not too late in the year for students to make good progress. 

This one is Lamar CISD v. J.T., decided by the federal court for the Southern District of Texas on December 31, 2021.  It was reported on Special Ed Connection at 122 LRP 33. 


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!