The I in IEP….

We’re Zooming with the Dawg this Thursday! Hope you can join me at 10:00!  I’ll be joined by Ryan Pacher from our Houston office for a discussion of some of the legal issues surrounding school safety concerns. Hope to see you there.

Offering a student with a disability an educational program that involves less than a full day is a mistake. Right? Schools should not shorten the student’s day due to the student’s disability.  Correct? Doing something like that is a red flag and may very well lead to a decision that the district has denied the student equal opportunity.  Isn’t that so? 

All of that is true if the day is shortened in the absence of evaluation data recommending a shortened day due to the student’s unique situation.  Shortening a student’s day because we don’t have enough buses, or staff, or patience to serve a challenging student will be viewed as a decision based on administrative convenience. But what if there is ample evaluation data indicating that a student’s disability requires a shorter day? Or a flexible schedule?  A recent federal court decision addresses this issue and nicely illustrates that the most important letter in IDEA is I, and the most important letter in IEP is I. 

Decisions about a student’s IEP must be based on the evaluation data the school has.  Round Rock ISD had personal experience with Sophia’s inability to attend school due to debilitating migraines.  This was confirmed by recommendations of  Sophia’s neurologist and psychologist, both of whom recommended “that Sophia M. be offered one-on-one services in the school library until she was able to resume normal coursework.”  All of that is “evaluation data.”  The court accused the district of ignoring this information by “remaining rigidly committed to scheduling Sophia M. for a full day of courses even though she had not been able to attend general courses since early October 2019.”  Key Quote:

By early 2019, medical documentation and Sophia M.’s attendance record made it even clearer that she was unable to make academic progress by attending ordinary classes. However, rather than offering a shortened school day or homebound services, RRISD filed truancy charges against [the mother] and suggested that she homeschool Sophia M. 

The court affirmed a ruling by the special education hearing officer. The district was ordered to 1) reimburse the parents for 1) tuition at Fusion Academy for all of the 2019-20 school year; 2) counseling they paid for in the 2018-19 school year; and for mileage to and from Fusion at .575 cents per mile. The court also ordered the district to pay for the parents’ attorneys’ fees and court costs.

It's Round Rock ISD v. Amy M., decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on August 22, 2022. It’s published by The Special Educator at 81 IDELR 286. 


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Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!