It’s Toolbox Tuesday! Here’s a case illustrating Tool #3

The Toolbox is a full day workshop focusing on legally compliant and educationally effective “tools” designed to serve students with disabilities who engage in violent or seriously disruptive behavior.  Tool #3 involves an Educational Change of Placement Without Parental Agreement. This frequently involves moving a student to a more restrictive environment.  The federal court in Austin recently issued a decision in favor of a school district that illustrates the type of situation in which such a move—and Tool #3—are appropriate. Thus we are reminded again that the mainstream is not for every student.

The student in this case was described as having “severe intellectual disabilities and autism.”  One district reported that he would “repeatedly hit his head and bite his hand so severely he caused tissue damage.  He would charge at adults and throw objects at them, sometimes pursuing an individual for over an hour when agitated.”   This district placed the boy in a separate classroom with two adults and no access to his peers.

Then the student moved to Manor ISD, which also placed the student in a highly restrictive environment.  The court tells us that “on at least one occasion [the student] engaged in as many as twenty acts of aggression throughout the day. During this same time period, the staff reported implementing as many as seventeen hug restraints and six ground restraints in one day.”

The parent eventually filed for a due process hearing, alleging a denial of FAPE and a placement that was not in the least restrictive environment. The hearing officer ruled for the school district and now the federal court has upheld that decision.  With regard to the LRE issue, the court noted a psychiatric evaluation showing that the student “was not capable of academic work at any level.”  Moreover: “the record indicates that educating [the student] in a separate classroom removed from similarly situated peers was necessary because his aggressive behaviors threatened others and impeded his own learning.”

This case also addresses other issues that we may take up in future Dawg Bones. But for today, it stands as a good illustration of the propriety of highly restrictive environments for the few students who need this.  In Toolbox training we discuss the two ways to accomplish this: Tool #2 involves a change of placement with parental agreement. Tool #3 is the one to use when the parents do not agree.  This case is Reyes v. Manor ISD, decided by Judge Sam Sparks for the Western District of Texas on February 2, 2016.

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