Toolbox Tuesday!! Tool #3: Educational Change of Placement Without Parent Consent…

Our firm’s Toolbox Training presents ten “tools” that school personnel can employ to address challenging behaviors presented by students with disabilities.  Tool #3 involves a change of placement for behavior that is a manifestation of disability.  If the behaviors of the student arise directly from the disability the district should not pursue a disciplinary change of placement. Those are reserved for behaviors that are not a manifestation of disability. But when a student’s behavior is disruptive in the classroom, there comes a time when a move to a more restrictive environment may be the right thing to do. 

A recent decision involving Comal ISD provides an excellent example. The school district recommended a change to an MRE (More Restrictive Environment). The parent did not agree.  The case ended up in a due process hearing. The hearing officer ruled in favor of the district, and now the federal court has affirmed that decision. 

The move to an MRE was based on both academics and behavior. The court’s lengthy decision provides a good review of how the student progressed from first, to second, to third grade. As she did, the gap between what the student could do vs. what the rest of the class was doing was widening.  This was not due to a lack of effort by the district, as the court noted that “this case presents no doubt that the District has taken steps to accommodate [the student] in regular education.”  The court endorsed the district’s narrative of the case:

The story of [the student’s] education so far is one of a student continually struggling to make adequate progress and a district continually responding by increasing her special education supports and lowering her goals. 

When it reached a point where the supports the student needed were more than could feasibly be provided in the less restrictive environment, the school called for an ARDC meeting and proposed a change of placement. 

The case provides an excellent example of the three things that the school has to prove in a Tool#3 case. First, the current situation is not working.  Second, we have given it a good faith effort.  Third, this move will be beneficial for the student.

It’s H.W. v. Comal ISD, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on August 31, 2021.  We found it at 2021 WL 3887696.  


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Tomorrow: a California COVID Case….