Loyal Readers of the Daily Dawg are well aware of the OSEP investigation of the Lone Star State that resulted in a Corrective Action Plan (CAP). This all traces back to the series of articles in the Houston Chronicle alleging that Texas had intentionally denied special education services to students with disabilities. OSEP conducted an investigation, found Texas out of compliance with Child Find responsibilities, and required a CAP.
In 2019, OSEP monitored Texas for compliance, with review of documents and interviews with educators and other stakeholders. On October 5, 2020, T.E.A. wrote to OSEP seeking to get approval of its progress on the CAP. T.E.A. asked for a finding that the state was now “compliant.” On October 19, 2020 OSEP wrote back and said: no. In the letter, OSEP cited 79 stakeholder inquiries which broke down as follows: 47 about FAPE, 10 on Child Find, 11 on dyslexia, 11 on T.E.A.
OSEP highlighted a great deal of confusion about how kids with dyslexia are supposed to be served. It’s not surprising that there is confusion. There is confusion about dyslexia because we are trying to apply standards from three different laws that overlap. There is IDEA, which has its definitions of disability categories. Those categories include Specific Learning Disability, and dyslexia is listed as a condition that can fit that category. So a student with dyslexia might be IDEA-eligible.
Then there is Section 504, which avoids categories but covers any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Reading is a major life activity. Dyslexia impairs reading, often “substantially.” So a student with dyslexia might be 504-eligible.
Then you have our state laws on dyslexia, which effectively incorporate and give the force of law to the Dyslexia Handbook where we try to sort all this out. Confusion is inevitable in a situation like this.
However, the Child Find responsibility under IDEA is clear, and can only be satisfied with a referral for an evaluation for IDEA eligibility. This is the point that OSEP has made repeatedly. Response to Intervention is a good thing, but cannot justify delaying or denying an IDEA evaluation when one is called for. Section 504 has its place, but may not be a safe haven when the student is suspected of having a disability that would entitle the student to services under the superior program—IDEA.
Let’s keep an eye on T.E.A.’s response to this, and keep on keeping on.
DAWG BONE: IF WE SUSPECT IDEA ELIGIBILITY, THE REFERRAL SHOULD BE MADE.
Tomorrow: this generation’s Catcher in the Rye?