Have an ARD Meeting Soon? Be Prepared.

In the next week weeks, many parents of children who receive special education services under the federal IDEA Act will be invited to their child’s public school to attend an Admission, Review and Dismissal (“ARD”) meeting.

At this meeting, the ARD team will review the current Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for the student and propose recommendations for the child’s education plan –

To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. – IDEA (§300.1) 

At the ARD meeting, parents can agree or disagree with some or all of the proposals. If there is a disagreement with the proposed IEP, the ARD team can take a recess, negotiate terms, and reconvene (in ten days typically).

Preparing for such a meeting can be stressful for parents based on fear and anxiety for possibly failing your child by not protecting their rights or not demanding proper education services.

Parents who are engaged with the IEP process can find success by reading up on the following:

  • school records (including daily reports),
  • assessments from school and private sources (and knowing which new assessments should be requested), and
  • education laws.

U.S. Supreme Court provides guidance in the recent  Endrew F.  case that a student offered an educational program providing “merely more than de minimis” progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all, setting the floor for the application of the holding in the Rowley case that the school must confer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.

At the ARD meeting, show up with your questions and notes and if you are considering agreeing to a new service or the removal of a service that you are not comfortable with but are willing to try out the situation temporarily, agree to try it out and have a follow-up meeting in a month to re-assess the situation. Under IDEA, the ARD meeting can occur annually or a often as needed allowing a parent to request a meeting in writing.

Take your time at the ARD, listen to suggestions, and stay on track with your goals for the meeting.

Have an Upcoming ARD?

Fall semester school obligations have begun. Parents of students in general ed have probably had their 15 minute one-on-one meeting with the teacher. For the rest of us, we are preparing for upcoming ARD meetings. ARD stands for Admission, Review and Dismissal. For my son, I am at the review stage of the ARD process. We have an individualized education program (“IEP”)  in place from the last school year. The IEP is a contract and all the services described in the IEP must be provided by the school district.

In my situation, at the next ARD meeting, there will be a review of the prior IEP terms and suggested revisions based on my son’s new education needs. One example of what will probably be discussed is the reduction of support. Some members of the ARD committee have informally signaled to me that they will be requesting less paraprofessional in-class support time for my son during his inclusion in his general education classes. When I first heard of this potential change, I was frightened.

Parents involved in the ARD process may suffer an emotional toll.  In my situation, I have a concern that once I agree to reduce in-class support, my son may never get the support back when he really needs it. In contrast, I do want my son to gain independence and have an opportunity to blossom without the support of a SpEd professional. Will my decision short-change my son’s educational experience? To make an informed decision, pre-ARD actions need to be taken. I will review my son’s daily reports, his classwork and homework grades, and interview the special ed professionals that observe him in the general ed classroom.

As my son’s advocate, preparation for the ARD meeting is time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. To assist with organization aspect of the preparation, I will update my IEP binder with daily reports, progress reports, copies of communications with the school, therapist and doctor reports, and previous IEPs. For those of you who are preparing an IEP binder, if you discover that you are missing school records, give your school a written request for the records, as you are allowed under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”).  The IEP  binder will help you decide on IEP goals and provide you with evidence to support your arguments during the ARD meeting, if needed.

Being a present and contributing member of the ARD team can be hard work, but your child will need your involvement to get the most out of his or her public school experience.

Senate Vote Texas Vouchers for School

Parents,

All your work from years of ARD meetings, IEPs, and lawsuits will disappear once your student receiving special education services from public school uses vouchers for private school education. Private schools are not forced to follow the laws protecting your child’s education rights.

Click here to listen to the call from Filis Law Firm’s managing attorney Leona Filis to Pacifica Radio encouraging Texans to call their senators and tell them to vote NO to public school vouchers.

This segment was taken from the 7/24/2017 broadcast found at http://kpft.org/programming/newstalk/open-journal/

The Texas School Voucher proposal passed 19-12 in the state senate. The next step is the Texas House.  Please contact your representatives.

Merely More than De Minimis is NOT the Standard – Endrew F. – U.S. Supreme Court Special Education Case

This week, many families with children with special needs celebrated the United States Supreme Court ruling in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.  The Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) protects children with disabilities through a mandate that each eligible student receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), by means of a uniquely tailored individualized education program (“IEP”).  In this case, the Court found that student Endrew F.  failed to receive an appropriate public education.  Special Education and related services are to be provided so that the student may advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals from the IEP, and when possible, be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum.

The Court noted in its opinion that at age two, Endrew F. was diagnosed with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder generally marked by impaired social and communication skills, “engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.”  With this diagnosis, Endrew F. was eligible to receive special education services. Endrew F.’s parents were dissatisfied with the public school’s inability to provide and IEP different from any of the IEPs for the past few years. With no satisfactory results from the school district, Endrew F.’s parents withdrew him from school and enrolled Endrew in a private school that specializes in educating children with autism, where Endrew excelled.

Endrew F.’s parents sued the school district for failure to provide an appropriate public education for Endrew F.  The Supreme Court noted that a IEP is unique for the circumstances of the child for whom it was created.  The standard for the student’s educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, not merely more than de minimis progress from year to year.

Parents and advocates, when you are in attendance at an Admission, Review, and Dismissal meeting (“ARD Meeting”), argue with confidence so that your child to receive an education appropriately ambitious in light of your child’s circumstances.

Has Your Child Paid the Price for Texas’ Lack of Special Education?

Policies of the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) are under investigation by reporters and parents.  It is alleged that there has been an organized effort to keep eligible students in Texas from receiving special education services in public schools.  It has been argued that the goal was to save the TEA billions of dollars; however, this is at the expense of disabled students.

Earlier this year, the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) stated it estimated 1 in 68 school-aged children in the United States have Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”).  With diagnoses of ASD on the rise, the fact that Texas schools on average failed to reflect an increase in special education services is perplexing.  Many parents over the past few years have been informed that their children were not eligible to receive special education services despite parental concerns and outside diagnoses.

Parents have to know their rights.  The Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) was originally enacted by Congress in 1975; improved in 2004.  Under IDEA, each state is charged with the obligation of identifying, locating and evaluating all children with disabilities in the state who need special education and related services.  Additionally, parents by referral, should identify their child as possibly needing special education and request an evaluation in writing.  After parents give consent to have their child evaluated, the evaluation must be completed within sixty days.

If parents disagree with the evaluation, the next step is to request an Independent Education Evaluation (“IEE”) at the public’s expense.  A new and independent evaluation of the student will evaluate the student.  The school can reject the parent’s objection to the school’s evaluation and file a due process complaint.

Frustrated parents can choose to remove their children from public schools and home-school or place their children in private schools or Applied Behavior Analysis clinics.  Without the supports and services in place for Texas students with disabilities, these students can lose the opportunity to reach their individual full potential as protected in IDEA.

What to Expect in the New School Year

There is a new focus on the alarming rise of special education student suspensions.

The U.S. Department of Education – Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released a letter dated August 1, 2016 restating a goal of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to offer eligible children with a disability a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  The letter “serves to remind school personnel that the authority to implement disciplinary removals does not negate their obligation to consider the implications of the child’s behavior needs, and the effects of the use of suspensions (and other short-term removals) when ensuring the provision of FAPE.”

Be proactive.

If your child’s Individual Education Program (IEP) has already been prepared for 2016, the new school year can mean you will have a new IEP team member, new classroom, and new teaching method. Your child’s IEP may need to be modified to address any new behaviors your child may have due to the changes in his or her classroom routine.

School is starting soon and parents are invited to meet the teacher. This is a great opportunity to quickly discuss some key points with the newest member of your child’s IEP team. Typically, schools will offer 15 to 20 minutes with your child’s new teacher so start the school year off right.  Have a friendly introduction letter ready to hand off to your child’s new teacher so that he or she can later take their time to read and review the special details you determine are important for knowing your child.  Offer proven strategies for the new teacher that may have worked with your child over the summer break to establish a safe, supportive learning environment, such as wearing head phones when in a loud environment.  Point out what is important in the IEP.  Add your contact information and make sure you answer the calls or emails in the event your child’s new teacher reaches out to you. Respect your child’s teacher’s time.

Stay current with new special education legislation and news. Parents of children receiving special education services in self-contained classrooms can write a letter to the school district to have cameras installed in the classroom.  See an example letter. The Texas Education Agency has created a comparison chart of laws applicable to schools and students receiving special education services.

Cameras in the Classroom – Special Education News

Parents – the time has come to send your letters to your child’s school district and request surveillance cameras be placed in your child’s classroom.

The Department of Aging and Disabilities (“DADS”) released a report discussing Senate Bill 507 that allows parents, and others, to request that any self-contained SPED room have a video camera to protect the safety of students. Click here for more info on Page 41 of the Report DADS Report.

However, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) has a proposed new rule being Section 103.1301, currently still in the rule adoption process. The proposed rule is offered for clarification of the Texas Education Code Section 29.022 regarding Video Surveillance of Certain Special Education Settings. Once the rule is adopted, it will be published in the Texas Register at the Texas Secretary of State website.  For more information of the proposed 19 Texas Administrative Code Section 103.1301, go to TEA Proposed New 19 TAC Section 103.1301.

You as parents of students receiving special education services should act now. Gather the contact information for your school’s principal and Special Ed director for the district. If your child is a student in Spring Branch, I have the district contact information.

Contact me and I will share an example of the Camera Request Letter.