It’s Toolbox Tuesday and We Are Wondering: How Many of you Know Where Paris, Arkansas Is?

I grew up thinking that Paris was in France. Then I learned that it’s right here in Texas.  Now I have learned that they’ve got one of those in Arkansas also. Who knew?

I found out about the Ozark version of Paris due to Paris School District v. A.H.   This is a case that provides an excellent illustration of some basic principles of The Toolbox. The Toolbox consists of ten “tools” that schools can use when dealing with disruptive and/or violent students who are in your special education program.  You want to continue to serve those kids, but you also want to maintain safety and order.  The Toolbox is designed to help you do that.

Paris School District placed a student in its Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) but, according to the court, did not do it the right way.  The record showed that the mother was not given proper notice that the IEP Team would be considering a change of placement; the meeting was “organized hastily without thorough review of data and without the participation of key people.”  Moreover, the mother stated that she “knew nothing” about the ALE.  The mother checked the “I AGREE” box at the meeting, but pretty quickly changed her mind. Despite the fact that the ALE was supposedly “agreed to” the court held that it was not the “stay put” placement.  Thus the student was sent back to the regular campus while the due process hearing was pending.

This is a great illustration of the risks districts create for themselves when they rush a parent into a change of placement, particularly a disciplinary removal.

There were other problems at the ALE also.  The parent convinced the court that the staff was inadequately trained to deal with the nuances of behavior that a student with autism might present.

The court cited the coach who was in charge of ALE to illustrate this point:

This lack of training manifested itself in the indifference that some of the staff took towards handling A.H.’s disabilities seriously.  For example, when asked about accommodations that he made for A.H. while she was in the ALE, Coach Prieur stated “and I mean, I guess, you know, I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but I just didn’t think she needed some of these accommodations, because she was doing so well on her stuff and so I really didn’t make a whole lot of accommodations for her.”

The case was decided by the federal court for the Western District of Arkansas on April 3, 2017.  We found it at 69 IDELR 243.