It’s Toolbox Tuesday!! Let’s Talk About Tool #3.

The Toolbox is a full day training program, focused on the legal requirements that apply to the discipline of students with disabilities.  We spend the day talking about ten “tools” that are available to the school. The goal is to serve every student appropriately while maintaining a safe and orderly school environment.

A federal court case from Warren ISD illustrates how Tool #3 comes into play.  When the family moved to Warren with a third grader, WISD called for a self-contained placement for most of the day. The mother expressed disagreement, and in fact, one day after the ARDC meeting she revoked consent for special education services. Two days after that she rescinded the revocation.   So the placement went forward.

Things did not go smoothly.  There were five physical restraints of the student before Christmas.  The first of these was prompted by the student throwing chairs and other objects, and then “repeatedly banging his head on the door and wall.”  When the teacher intervened, the boy “began hitting, kicking and biting her.”

It continued that way throughout the school year.   The parent finally requested a special education due process hearing in March, 2016.   Hearing Officer Mary Carolyn Carmichael conducted a two-day hearing in May, 2016 and rendered a lengthy decision in favor of the school district.

The parent appealed the decision into federal court, which also ruled in favor of the school district.

We call this a Tool #3 case because the district placed the student in a restrictive environment in the face of parental opposition.  Two of the tools in the Toolbox are “Educational Changes of Placement.”  We call them “educational” to distinguish them from a “disciplinary removal.” When the student’s behavior is a manifestation of disability, the school cannot impose a disciplinary consequence. But it can call for a move to an MRE—a More Restrictive Environment. Tool #2 involves doing that the easy way—with parental agreement. Tool #3 involves doing it the hard way—when the parent is opposed.

When using Tool #3, the school has to be prepared to justify the MRE. Why can this student not be served in the mainstream?  What efforts are you making to bring the student into the general education classroom?

Both before the hearing officer and the federal judge, the district passed that test. The district pointed out that the student often refused to participate in the general setting: “When he was not refusing to participate…his behavior and aggressive outbursts….impeded his own learning and the learning of his peers in the general education classrooms.”

The case of C.M. v. Warren ISD was decided by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on April 18, 2017. The court ordered the case not be published in the official court reporter, but we found it at Special Ed Connection at 69 IDELR 282.  The hearing officer’s decision can be accessed at the T.E.A. website.  It’s Docket No. 175-SE-0316, decided on July 5, 2016.

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Tomorrow: I’m in Victoria at Region 3, and the Daily Dawg warns you of what really happens in the surgery room.