Fall Advocacy Update: Public School Disability Rights

 In Special Needs Planning

As of September 1st, some new state laws have taken effect – 678 to be exact.  The 84th Session of the Texas Legislature tackled a myriad of issues.  For your advocacy update, there are four laws to highlight:

1) Physical Education for All H.B. No. 440

This new law requires schools districts to offer physical education to all students, at every level of physical and mental ability.  Implementation of the required adaptive physical education also mandates that proper accommodations be made for participation, including locker rooms and shower access.

Read the full text of the law here.

Learn more about adapted physical education here.

2) ARD Committee Meetings B. No. 1259

This new law amends Section 29 of the Education Code with new paperwork requirements for admission, review and dismissal meetings (ARD).

  1. Schools will now be required to make available the minutes from every ARD meeting. These minutes must include:
  • A summary of any discussion
  • The name, position and signature of each meeting participant
  • Any written statements of disagreement from a member of the ARD committee that pertain to the student’s individualized education (IEP) plan or amendment
  1. After each ARD meeting, both the parent/guardian of the student and a school administer, must:
  • Sign the plan or amendment
  • Indicate agreement or disagreement with the plan or amendment

Read the full text of the law here.

3) Expulsion & Disability B. No. 107

This new law takes the edge off the “zero tolerance” policy for student discipline, requiring a procedural process of sorts before expelling any student.  Every school must designate a “campus behavior coordinator” or CBC.  The CBC will be responsible for student discipline, including issues related to suspension and expulsion.

What is the impact for students with a disability?  If a student with a disability is removed from class because of a disciplinary issue, the CBC must consider whether the discipline issue stems from the student’s disability.  Further, the school district’s board of trustees cannot suspend or expel any student without evaluating whether a disability might be related to the conduct in question.

Read the full text of the law here.

4) Truancy No Longer Criminal B. No. 2398

More than a simple amendment, this new law has made what was formerly a criminal offense, now a civil matter.  Concerns that truancy laws went too far – especially regarding the potential for a criminal record – caused legislators enact the current law.  When one considers that 1 in 5 cases in the Truancy Courts involve a student with a disability, this change was arguably long overdue for our special needs kids.

In addition, this new law requires school districts to implement behavior improvement plans for truant students.  Parents must sign off on the plan.  A truant student can also be referred for a special education evaluation to determine if there are other factors, including emotional difficulties.

The new law does not, however, relax the State’s standard for school attendance.  In fact, where the former law required attendance for students ages 6 – 18, the new law extends the requirement to students up to age 19.

Read the full text of the law here.

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