Keep an eye on HB 655…

HB 655 addresses the sad reality that some students engage in “habitually violent behavior.”  The bill defines this term as “a pattern of violent behavior, such as assault or behavior that results in the hospitalization of a student or school district staff member, that causes more than one incident within a grading period during a school year.”

The bill authorizes schools to place such a student “in a virtual setting” for “a prescribed period determined by the district.”  This should set off your special education alarm bells.  For students receiving special education services, district administrators do not have the authority to do something like this. It can only be done by the student’s ARD Committee. However, the author of the bill, Rep. Steve Allison (Republican, San Antonio, former school board member) was wise enough to take that into account in Section (b)(4) of the bill. 

That section requires that the ARD Committee (or 504 Team) must meet to discuss the “habitually violent student” and must “determine an appropriate educational setting for the student….to ensure the student receives a free appropriate public education as required under the IDEA.”

That language probably preserves the validity of this bill, as it reflects what federal law requires.  ARD Committees already have the power and the duty to provide FAPE to “habitually violent” students.    However, the next section of the bill adds an innovative wrinkle.  If the ARD Committee decides that “remote, therapeutic, or residential placement” is the “least restrictive environment” for the student:

the district is entitled to receive from the state reimbursement for past expenses and appropriate funding for future expenses for the provision of services to the student.

That would help.  Small districts in remote parts of the state in particular can be overwhelmed trying to appropriately serve habitually violent students. Spreading the financial risk of dealing with such students across the state would be helpful. 


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