The federal court in Sherman has upheld a hearing officer’s decision in favor of Frisco ISD in a case involving Toolbox issues. The Toolbox, as loyal Daily Dawg readers know, is our firm’s training program about the discipline of students with disabilities. The goal of the Toolbox Training is to simplify the complex web of federal regulations and state laws that govern this topic. The law requires schools to do two things at once: maintain a safe campus, while at the same time serving students who may be disruptive or even violent.
The lawyer representing the parent in the Frisco case argued that the district was too slow to conduct a FBA (Functional Behavioral Assessment) and therefore, too slow to develop a BIP (Behavior Intervention Program). The hearing officer didn’t see it that way and now the federal court has affirmed the hearing officer’s decision.
We spend a lot of time in our Toolbox Training on Tool #1 because it is the most important tool. Tool #1 is the development and implementation of a BIP. This is the most important tool because it’s the only one that is designed to improve a student’s behavior. If Tool #1 works, you can put the Toolbox away.
BIPs are very important, but they represent just one method of addressing student behavior. The law requires a formal BIP supported by a FBA only when the district proposes a change of placement based on behavior that is a manifestation of the student’s disability. Most of the time the decision to develop a BIP is a discretionary judgment call to be made by members of the student’s ARD Committee.
The record in the Frisco case showed that as of April, 2018, all members of the ARDC agreed that the student’s behavior was improving. Four months later, however, in August, the parents expressed dissatisfaction with the level of progress. That’s when the district agreed to conduct a FBA. The parents argued that this came too late, but the court found no support in the law for that argument:
J.B. points to no authority indicating failure to provide a FBA within a certain time period warrants concluding J.B. was denied a FAPE. To the contrary, courts have routinely found that failure to conduct a FBA does not necessarily result in the denial of a FAPE.
So local school officials have wide latitude to address behaviors in ways they believe will work. Here, the court complimented the district on its efforts:
Frisco ISD took extensive action to address J.B.’s behavior, including collecting data, intervention, support, goals, strategies and frequent meetings with parents and Frisco ISD staff.
Well done, Frisco. The case is J.B. v. Frisco ISD, decided by the federal court for the Eastern District of Texas on March 2, 2021. It’s at 2021 WL 790641. I’m pleased to let you know that Frisco ISD was represented in this case by Meredith Walker, Nona Matthews, and Craig Wood—colleagues of the Dawg with the Walsh Gallegos Law Firm!
DAWG BONE: STILL THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL: TOOL #1.
Tomorrow: a famous quote from Inigo Montoya…