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Protecting and advocating for the rights of Texans with disabilities...

because all people have dignity and worth.

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The Rights Times
Back to School Fall 2015 Edition

Boot Camp for Parent Advocates

The Partners Resource Network offers a series of free back to school webinars that prepare parents to advocate for students receiving special education services. Upcoming topics include "Ask the Special Ed Director" and "Top 5 Tips on Preparing for an ARD Meeting." Click here for a complete list and a link to register.
Some of the webinars have already occurred, but you can register and listen to past sessions such as "What Every Parent Needs to Know about School Discipline" and "Education Law and Policy Update." Click here and then click on "View Event Recordings" to see the full list of recorded sessions and to register to listen.
New Legal Rules for Texas Schools
school bus in front of school This past legislative session, several bills were passed that impact students with disabilities. Here is an overview of just a few of the new laws that you need to know about:
ARD Committee Meeting Minutes and More:
An updated state law addresses new paperwork requirements anytime an admission, review and dismissal (ARD) committee meets.
Now a school must provide minutes from every ARD meeting that summarizes the meeting discussion, lists participants and their signatures, and includes any written statements of disagreement by a committee member regarding the student's individualized education plan (IEP) or an IEP amendment.
Also at the end of every ARD meeting, a school administrator and the parent or guardian of the student (or the student if age 18 and does not have a guardian) must each indicate or sign whether he or she agrees or disagrees with the IEP or IEP amendment.  Find out more about this new law.
Schools Must Consider Disability Before Expelling Students:
A revamped state law eases the student discipline zero tolerance policy and requires certain steps to be taken before serious disciplinary punishment like expulsion.
The legislation also requires that each school campus designates a campus behavior coordinator (CBC) responsible for maintaining student discipline and addressing issues related to removing students from class.
Before the CBC can propose the removal of a student with a disability from class for disciplinary reasons, the CBC must consider if the disability is related to the student's conduct. Also, the district's board of trustees cannot suspend or expel a student without first determining if a disability is related to the student's conduct.  Learn more about this new law.
PE for Every Student:
A new law and an adapted law require school districts to offer physical education classes for students of all physical ability levels and classes that are adapted for student with all kinds of disabilities, including mental disabilities. Accommodations must be considered for all phases of participation including locker rooms and showers. Learn more about adaptive physical education.
Handcuffs Come Off Texas Truancy Laws:
While skipping school is definitely not cool, state legislators have decided current truancy laws go too far. Currently, Texas counts truancy as a criminal offense, meaning youth are charged in court with jail time, big fines, and black marks on their record. Students with disabilities account for 1 in 5 of these cases and are overrepresented compared to students without disabilities.
photo of justice scales and handcuffs But starting September 1, 2015, a new state law will require truancy to be handled as a civil procedure in locally designated truancy courts. It also means districts must adopt truancy prevention measures including implementing behavior improvement plans for students who fail to attend class, and parents must sign off on the plans.
Additionally, if a student has a pattern of skipping school and cutting classes, a special education evaluation can be requested to see if there are causes for this behavior, such as emotional disturbance.
Current state law requires children in school ages 6-18 must attend each day that instruction is provided. This new law now changes the requirement for compulsory attendance to include children up to age 19.  Read more about this new law.

Off to a Good Start

As the parent of a student in special education, your back to school checklist not only includes supplies and clothes but also several smart moves to ensure you are prepared to effectively advocate for your child in the coming school year. Get off to a good start with this Back to School Checklist from Wrightslaw.
Schools Use Truancy Courts to Force Out Students with Disabilities
teen boy behind chain link fence
Texas school districts are using truancy courts to force students with disabilities out of school according to an administrative complaint filed May 27 with the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
The complaint also accuses TEA of failing in its responsibility to ensure that Texas districts are complying with state and federal law that allows students with disabilities to receive the supports and services they deserve to promote regular attendance and appropriate education.
The complaint was brought against 13 school districts and TEA by Disability Rights Texas, the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and Texas Appleseed, on behalf of all students with disabilities who have been funneled into the truancy courts and then forced out of school. School districts named in the complaint include... Read more.
Resources to Help You Help Your Child
IDEA Manual - A guide created by Disability Rights Texas and the ARC of Texas for parents and students about special education services and supports in Texas.
DRTx Online Resources - Disability Rights Texas provides helpful special education resource handouts and links to help parents advocate for their child.
SPEDTex - The Texas Special Education Information Center delivers accurate and timely answers to questions about special education to people in Texas.

Need Help?

If you are a Texan with a disability who believes your rights have been violated, call 1.800.252.9108 or our Sign Language Video Line at 1.866.362.2851. Intake Hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.


Online Intake, Available 24/7 

Can't call during our regular intake hours or can't get through due to high call volume? Click here to use our online intake form available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!


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