What’s the “trigger date”?

The 5th Circuit uses the term “trigger date” in reference to that specific point in time when the school district should begin to address a possible disability that impedes learning.  If the parent requests a special education evaluation, the trigger date is obvious.  It’s the date the parent makes that request. The district needs to respond to that request within 15 school days, and must respond by either seeking consent for the evaluation or providing prior written notice to explain why it will not do that. 

When there is no request for an evaluation, the “trigger date” is determined through hindsight, looking back at what happened, and what information the district had.  The trigger date is the date when the school has enough information to suspect that there might be a need for specially designed instruction to address a disability. 

In a recent federal court case the parent argued that the “trigger date” occurred in the spring of 2018 when the parent requested 504 accommodations due to a diagnosis of ADHD.  Was that enough to “trigger” the district’s duty?  It certainly was enough to trigger a duty to consider  Section 504, but what about IDEA? 

The court held that this did not trigger the district’s duty.  This was largely based on the student’s good performance in school.  It’s not enough that the school was informed of an ADHD diagnosis. The school also has to have some basis to suspect that the student needed something beyond what general education and 504 accommodations could provide.  The district did provide a 504 plan, which produced good results. The student got all A’s and B’s on his final report card which included pre-AP classes in all four core courses.  He also scored “Masters” level on his STAAR tests in reading, social studies, and science. The court held that the 504 accommodations were adequate and there was no Child Find violation.

It’s Zamora v. Hays CISD, decided by the federal court for the Western District of Texas on June 20, 2021. We found it on SpecialEd Connection at 79 IDELR 12.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at jwalsh@wabsa.com

Tomorrow: responding to a request for an IEE….