Texas Listening Sessions

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will be conducting a series of Listening Sessions in Texas during the week of December 12. The schedule and location for the Listening Sessions are below.

For those unable to attend the listening sessions, the purpose of this blog is to provide members of the public an opportunity to provide comment regarding the timely identification, evaluation and the appropriate provision of special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In an October 3, 2016 letter to Texas Commissioner Mike Morath, OSERS raised concerns regarding Texas’s compliance with a number of requirements of IDEA. The State responded to OSERS’ letter on November 2, 2016.

OSERS and the TEA are interested in hearing from the public, including parents, family members, students, advocates, school personnel and other stakeholders. OSERS has set up this blog for interested parties to submit written comments. This blog will be open for comments from December 5, 2016 through January 6, 2017.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as children or school personnel names, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. Under no circumstances will comments be allowed to remain that contain Social Security numbers, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, or similar personally identifiable information, such as children or school personnel names.


Schedule and Locations for Texas Listening Sessions

Dallas, Monday, Dec. 12
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 10—Richardson
400 E. Spring Valley Road
Richardson, TX 75081-5101
972-348-1536

Houston, Monday, Dec. 12
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
McKinney Conference Center, Room 100 A-F
7200 Northwest 100 Drive
Houston, TX 77092
713-462-7708

El Paso, Tuesday, Dec. 13
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 19—El Paso
6611 Boeing Drive
El Paso, TX 79925
915-780-6570

Edinburg, Tuesday, Dec. 13
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 1—Edinburg
1900 West Schunior
Edinburg, TX 78541-2234
956-984-6180

Austin, Thursday, Dec. 15
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 13—Austin
5701 Springdale Road
Austin, TX 78723-3675
512-919-5313

These meeting sites are accessible to individuals with disabilities, and sign language interpreters and Spanish language translation will be available. If anyone needs special accommodations, please contact the Education Service Center directly at the telephone number provided.


423 Comments

  1. My high functioning autistic son entered public school in Clear Creek ISD in 2004. As he progressed through the system, his need for support increased. After elementary school, very little was available for students that didn’t fit in mainstream or life skills classes. After trying 3 different intermediate schools, one caring and highly trained teacher made his success in 6-8 grade possible.
    In a 5+ hour transition ARD for high school, a district official that we had never met arrived, ignored all data taken supporting his need for direct teaching and an aide and disassembled my son’s entire plan. He was placed in a program not meant to serve students with autism. He was placed in mainstream classes with “inclusion” teachers that had no idea how to teach him. Teachers were overly punitive and some told him he didn’t have a disability at all, that he was just lazy. One school official asked us, in an ARD meeting, if we didn’t think that he was just faking his disability. His stress level made him unable to manage almost all situations. He was anxious and angry all the time. AND – after passing all classes and working on grade level or above in all classes but math previously, he was failing.
    His math teacher was particularly insulting and unkind. We had him tested privately for math learning disability (dyscalculia) and the results were positive. When I contacted the head of special education services about changing his math teaching methods, she told me that CCISD did not “recognize” math learning disability.
    The next year he was moved to a different high school, and a self contained classroom with students with many different disabilities. The teacher taught very little. The lack of structure and chaos in the room was finally too much for my son. The teacher yelled at him, kept him from mainstream classes, took away his chair and desk if she got angry (she was often angry). Several independent observers in the class noted that she didn’t teach, didn’t implement the IEP, she just chatted with students. When this was read aloud in his ARD, district representatives were unconcerned.
    We pushed, with advocates and attorneys for a program appropriate for autistic students. CCISD has more that 40.000 students, but did not have a single high school program designed to meet the needs of autistic high schoolers. High functioning autistic teens that cannot manage mainstream without untrained support are put in multipurpose rooms with poorly trained teacher/coaches and a mix of ED, substance abuse, conduct disorder, students. All behaviors are met with the same punitive response. When that doesn’t work, assault by contact charges are filed. It is any wonder parents withdraw disabled students?
    We continued to push for an appropriate program, and his placement changed to a facility run by the Harris County Department of Education. Called an “Academic and Behavior School” this campus is 30 miles away, is not accredited and is not even recognized by TEA. It offers no academic or demographic transparency. There is no accountability at all. We withdrew our son to home school.
    Please remember when assessing this injustice that countless children have been robbed of an education and a path to a future. These individuals should have the chance to be educated, despite the time that has passed. An effort should be made to offer education and training to those who have already been ignored and denied. Thousands of lives have been gravely hurt by this policy. Please don’t forget them.

  2. ?*ALL names changed

    Important Disclaimer: Corporal punishment is allowed in Texas, regardless of complaint. No one person or entity referred to, has been charged, nor otherwise been found guilty of allegations, assumptions, implications listed, implied or directly stated herein. My statements are for information purposes. MY PURPOSE IS TO TRANSPARENTLY DEMONSTRATE THE PAIN POSSIBLE WHEN SPECIAL EDUCATION EVALUATIONS ARE REFUSED.
    ◾◾◾◾

    Friday, May 6,2016, my son (SN/504) was bullied in class. His Teacher TD* reportedly egged on the students meanness. (often occurrence & in other classes) Laughing along, Mr TD didn’t stop the bullying until Evan* spoke to defend himself. My son often can’t differentiate sincerity from sarcasm. And when TD told him to leave class, Evan didn’t understand. The strapping teacher clenched Evan’s neck/shoulder “as hard as he could… This time it really hurt.”

    Saturday May 7th: I learned of this when I discovered man-sized-handprint bruising. A seasoned Pediatric nurse- I knew exactly what it was. I called Missouri City PD. They said I must instead report to EHS PD. Evan begged me not to “snitch”. I probably deserved it. I still like___. You’re gonna get him fired. No one cares about the truth, Mom.

    Monday morning, May 9th, I filed affidavits w/Officer L* at EHS. Yet, I expressed empathy for the teachers. I told PO L & AP1*, Had Evan been evaluated for SpEd services (not only 504), this teacher might not lose his temper & hurt Evan. Perhaps staff would be better able to handle his special needs. I’m paraphrasing the following. But this is what I said. My son doesn’t easily differentiate sarcasm, abstraction and concrete concepts- ESPECIALLY when he is triggered, scared, bullied. But the single greatest factor in his language comprehension process and subsequent functional behavior is consistency. If he hears sarcasm, joking, “razing” that is sometimes tough enough. But if he’s in a class of unclear behavioral expectations- maybe teacher participates like a peer- and abruptly turns his direction to that of an authority figure- Evan struggles massively with the determination of expectations, to the point of having no idea what’s happening around him. (Yeah, I know. He looks normal. Seriously. What IS that?)

    Immediately Officer L said, Texas educators have every right to corporal punishment, (apparently special needs students are not off limits- even 6+ times- with no alternative.)

    Here’s the thing, for 8 bully filled years of academic/social digression, 5 schools & 2 districts of the same Texas prognostic- I asked for SpEd testing. DESPITE DEMONSTRATING EVERY IMAGINABLE PRE-REQ, EVAN WAS DENIED ACCESS TO SpEd EVALUATIONS FOR EIGHT YEARS BEFORE THIS ABUSE.

    Fort Bend Independent School District
    Dulles HS⚬2016, 2017, present
    Elkins HS⚬2014, 2015, 2016
    Quail Valley MS ⚬2012, 2013, 2014

    Stafford Municipal School District
    Stafford Intermediate School⚬2010, 2011, 2012
    Stafford Elementary School⚬2009, 2010

    SO, back to the report May 9th:
    Evan endured this reporting process- with me at his side. He was undressed, assessed, interrogated & photographed by Officer L- alongside AP1*- who made several attempts to distract me- even attempting a not-so-subtle move to usher me out. So it shouldn’t be surprising, this was later repeated twice by (a different) AP2*- Evan was coerced to answer in a way that made it sound untrue, Mom. No witnesses, notification or consent.

    This was AFTER I asked in person, writing & via phone, that I be allowed to be with Evan- as his support. I begged Administration to contact me PRIOR- for obvious reasons- namely, HIS VULNERABILITY, OBVIOUS SOCIAL & ACADEMIC DIGRESSION RELATED TO LANGUAGE, INABILITY TO DECIPHER/EXPRESS APPROPRIATELY & PROPENSITY TO RUSH THROUGH PAIN AND PLEASE OTHERS AT HIS OWN EXPENSE. Unable to advocate appropriately, he’s very easily manipulated in circumstances he already fears…I never spoke for him. I only wanted to BE WITH him. After all, his vulnerability helped put him here.

    Evan couldn’t handle reporting the alleged assault. He returned to class & publicly apologized “for getting TD in trouble”. He needed “everyone” to know reporting the abuse was his mom’s fault. She found the bruises. And I wasn’t gonna lie to her. I didn’t mean to get you in trouble. Immediately, Mr TD reportedly announced, (You) didn’t see any thing…If I’m not here, blame Evan. (May 9th)

    IMMEDIATELY, violent retaliation began. Evan’s life was threatened- liar, snitch, p*ssy. Don’t be surprised if your family winds up dead. I tried feverishly to get help- safety in the classroom, homework. I couldn’t. I BEGGED. I felt forced to keep him home- until safety was addressed. It took 9 days.

    Our emergency was labeled their 504 review. (a meeting denied the past 18+ months, now scheduled for May 17th) This mtg uncharacteristically included FBISD Admin AND EHS Admin, suddenly, SpEd Evals will begin immediately.

    Great. But SpEd Evals would not protect my son. And for these most important folks, Evan’s safety seemed like nothing but an elephant & an after thought. Bullying, fears of further retaliation, inappropriate handlings of confidential information, unrepresented interrogation- all these concerns were skirted. Virtually ignored. Yes, this was the response to coercion, death threats: Well, (that teacher) is pretty well liked..Kids are probably over it..Plus, there’s only a few weeks of school left. During that meeting, FBISD did gather a safety assessment per LSSP- who asked to speak privately w/Evan. We aren’t allowed to talk (w/non-SpEd). But this is kind of an emergency. After only a few minutes- the only SpEd Specialist we’d met in 8 years- said, Mr & Mrs, (howls) your son does not have autism. His executive functioning is fine. (more laughter) Mr and Mrs, you’re being duped by a kid who just wants to stay home. This LSSP must’ve said our names 25 times. Laughing so heartily, he struggled to speak. It was bizarre. The whole thing was absolutely bizarre.

    Convinced of Aspergers & danger, I was adamant. But w/a wink (& a hallpass) we were quite literally rushed out- midprotest. AP2 will keep an extra close eye on you. We had no choice- but send Evan back to school.

    The NEXT MORNING (lunch, May 18), Evan was approached from behind & punched in the head. As he then returned to class, Teacher S* asked Evan to confirm her students’ reports. Was he attacked? Evan feared another round of retaliation. So he denied everything. But there was no denying what kids saw firsthand.

    Allegedly, student Johnny* had snuck up behind him. Yes, he punched Evan, I’m gonna kill you. The kid walked away long enough to get written up (for being in the cafeteria). Only to immediately return- revel in the attention- and attack Evan w/a second blow to the head in view of cafeteria cameras & mockers. Evan was mortified. And apparently, “everyone” found this hysterical.

    Just the day before, Evan watched adults compound others’ bad behavior w/their own. His reports of violence, his parents’ pleas for protection, entirely unanswered. The people meant to protect him called him a liar. There was no safe place at school. No safe person.

    But still, Evan confirmed what staff and students already knew. Following the admission, the giggling whispers, the snap chats, the pointing- became too much for this child. Only one day after staff mocked concerns of death threats. No one did anything, he says. Even my friends laughed, he says. He tried to get it together. But, he just couldn’t do it anymore. He confirmed the attacks. And totally disappeared.

    EHS DIDN’T TELL ME FOR HOURS. They called at the end of the day. Something happened at lunch. And Evan’s missing. No one told me about the alleged assaults. No one mentioned reporting to law enforcement. So, I immediately attempted to report Evan “Missing Under Dangerous Circumstances”. A call that began (not about my missing son), but instead, the PO began to discuss MrTD case. Totally overwhelmed. I was confused. I expected police to be searching. But, Officer L began by informing me the completed investigation found No evidence that MrTD ever touched Evan. Officer said, Evan told a kid he caused his own injuries “horsing around”. Frustrated, I said, I don’t know what that means… Do you know my SN child (the one getting death threats) is missing? Something bad had to have happened. Please check bath stalls & field houses, in case he’s unconscious somewhere…

    Officer said he’d heard that. He admitted he was short handed & needed at the bus ramp, Your case is the most important… Staff are looking. I’ll drive his bus route when I’m done. Administration knew. Teachers scoured. It’s not like we are looking for a seven year old. I told him I understood. But now, I’m quite sure I didn’t.

    By God’s mercy, I found Evan. He was struggling. There was the heat, the blisters on his feet, the weight of his world.

    My special needs child walked nearly 5 miles on 2 major highways- before anyone told me he was missing. Surely this became my snap shot of Texas Special Education, my portrait of unquantifiable failure. A younger brain leading an older frame, Evan doesn’t quite get, what doesn’t yet fit. But he’s constantly reminded it doesn’t. The little boy that continually survives repercussions of a young man-
    fled uncertainty & instability- a place proven full of unanswerable despair. He sought refuge the only way he could.
    He walked home.

    Officer L did drive Evan’s bus route- all the way home. Because, on foot, Evan beat him to it. Officer stood on my porch- while I listed all these excruciating details. I also notified FBISD & AP2 of child recovery & Johnny’s assaults. AP2 (probably accidently) confirmed Evan’s claims. Teacher S answered an email- she’d instead call me. (But never did.) In recognition of all assaults, bullying & my missing SN child- Fort Bend Independent School District sent me a truancy slip. To this day, they maintain no record (or evidence) of the aforementioned occurrences.

    There was weeks of school left. This child’s life was sinking in every imaginable way. I called/wrote every breathing person, begged for safety & work! Eventually final exams were allowed @ FBISD District bldg, provided by District proctor/transportation.
    Then, we heard nothing. Despite my MONTHS of emails & interactions- FBISD Administration, Superintendent, Executive Superintendent, Special Education Director, Student Affairs, TEA, agencies of highest position & power- NO ONE COULD HELP. This was mostly a summer of silence.

    When school rolled back around, this fall, I was consumed without resolution. Grades hadn’t been adjusted (after finals) as promised, credits, all those missed days because of refusal to address death threats, the assaults & imminent danger. Time was ticking. What about the transfer? Safety? Credits? Immediate SpEd Evals? May. June. July. It would be August before testing began.

    Regarding the weeks of missed work after the assaults (WHEN NO ONE WOULD ANSWER MY PLEAS FOR SAFETY. FOR WORK. FOR HELP. FOR PROTECTION): As far as assigned FBISD Admin Rep was concerned, Evan was plain outta luck. Basically, I shouldn’t have kept him home, then. He would later claim Evan didn’t show up for finals. I reminded him his SpEd Director privately proctored every one of those exams. (And his board paid private transportation to do so.)

    FBISD Admin Rep treated the situation with the southern charm of a seasoned salesman. But we weren’t shopping that day. My child was going to get off that campus. As I had said to The District, I won’t have my child killed because you think third time’s a charm. These were violent repercussions from a seemingly calculated system of circling sharks. In my experiences, which I’m happy to provide on the record, The District was two steps ahead in formula & presumption- ten steps behind in truth & transparency. Or, maybe, they just didn’t know. (To be fair, The District couldn’t have known the veracity of my months of emails, at first). But they never asked. They spent nearly 5 hours repeating this (and other) Twilight Zone-ish claims, We haven’t had the chance to prove we can meet Evan’s needs. (Except the laughing staff when we begged for safety from overt retaliation for reporting alleged abuse from a teacher.) We believe he’s safe here at Elkins. (with 3 alleged assaults, constant bullying, negligence) THIS ADMINISTRATION GOT PAGES OF INFO FROM ME. FOR MONTHS. Unmerciful at every turn, FBISD Administration, clearly had no intention of helping us. They refused to transfer Evan off campus. We don’t have evidence that warrants a transfer. FBISD Special Education told us, a transfer further delays special education evaluations. They refused to even place him separately from bullies, it will slow down the testing process and may effect the results.
    This was unfathomable…like climbing cobwebs out of quicksand.

    We begged to transfer, SpEd completion, missed work. THEN, I called advocacy groups, attorneys, TEA, politicians. I attempted to discreetly find a reputable media source. But, gave up. (I wasn’t willing to give details, unless I trusted the portrayal.) I was totally alone. Absolutely no one could (would?) help. I wrote, called & recorded, more sensitive truths.

    Finally, the last day of summer, we watched , District SpEd & the new EHS Admin implicate a campus transfer to Dulles HS. The District wanted to be sure we understood ALL ADMINISTRATION (but 1*) were removed from EHS, and replaced. They wanted to have Evan try the whole new team. However, it became obvious the transfer was already done BEFORE this meeting. It seemed they preferred to watch us writhe in turmoil, for another few hours, rather than risk caving too soon. They KNEW Evan was terrified & vulnerable- that I had to drag him out of bed. They knew he implored daily- sometimes HOURLY- a surrender, to drop out. They knew our excruciating hours. They knew all of it, on every level. And they knew it for many, many months. I know this, because I told them. Clearly, transferring Evan was NOT a good thing for them. They seemed willing to sell their souls to prevent it.

    ◼Transfer <48º later◼
    Evan was rushed into the fifth school w/no SpEd, a scary do-over, without accommodations or introductions. No allotted time for acclimation. No clue how to navigate the bus, the building, the locker, the cafeteria, "friends". Academically, he carried 7 credits. Fine for a 14 y.o. freshmen. Evan is a 17-year-old junior. He was penalized for the weeks missed after the assaults. He received no makeup work. HE WAS GIVEN NO CREDIT. HE FAILED EVERY CLASS. I was, for months, denied access to all school records, vital for SpEd diagnostics, I drove to EHS & DHS, contacted 5 schools. By the time I received the "locked" file, it was nearly empty & virtually useless. (My fear in the first place.) We were, for months, refused the proper SpEd forms. It would be six more months before we learned (part of what we already knew) "Disabled: ADHD"….

    The testing was grossly inadequate. The plan is resultingly incomplete. It is not helping. It's NOT GOING to help, as far as I've seen. We know about ADHD. We know it well. ADHD is not the root cause of Evan's major struggles in the classroom- nor is it the instigator of immense social pain & loneliness. ADHD is not misinterpreted language. It is not the answer for his undiagnosed Aspergers- and any other unknown.

    ◼Present day: 2 months with SpEd◼

    Here I sit, a few months after our first ARD, planning another. Evan continues to digress. He failed chemistry & geometry.

    So many times I've thought, I'm a Pediatric RN- married to a public high school teacher. WE should be able to navigate Special Education within Texas Public Schools. WE should be able to get a correct diagnosis. But, what if we can't? And- in these extremes? If not us- then who? If not now- when? We are a public school system that seems fine blocking diagnoses behind procedural convenience. And then- Oh, we hope- through osmosis or crossed fingers, there'll be improvement. (Or, just maybe no one will notice when there isn't?)

    SpEd is subjective to the point of suicide. And we cannot continue to exclude disabilities- dismiss LIVES- by way of systemic preference or prechecked boxes. The fact is, those at the highest level (of 74,000+ students), were not naive to procedure, nor uninformed of case specifics. Everyone up there knew. They also knew we sought only a safe learning environment. Not retribution. Not justification. Yet, the system built to serve, stopped at NOTHING to destroy. Why?

    If the goal truly is (free & fair) public education- we must look at what's been done to our children & their families. And we must find a way to get truth from children who are terrified of honesty. Students KNOW they're in grave danger every time they speak to adults about another student. A few kids who WATCHED these assaults informed me they'd deny it, if I tried to insert them into the situation. I asked one boy, Why didn't you stick up for Evan, fill out AP2's form, tell her about Johnny?

    Kid scoffs at my apparent ridiculousness, Did you not see what happened when Evan reported that teacher?

    Indeed, I did.

  3. My son entered Plano ISD in the Fall of 2007 as sophomore at Vines Junior High School, having spent his entire time in school receiving special education while being in a regular classroom for most classes with some pull-outs. He felt he was ready to test out of special education services and just take regular education classes with 504 accommodations. He did test out successfully and his file was sent to the 504 coordinator for further action to put 504 accommodations in place. The coordinator took no action, however, and when I called to ask why nothing had been done I was told by the coordinator that he was fine and did not require 504 accommodations! I vociferously objected and explained what was supposed to happen. She did nothing. I called several times as months went by and finally I called the principal to complain. Despite constantly complaining all year long a 504 committee meeting was not held until the last day of school! So, my son had no accommodations and struggled mightily all year, getting up early to walk 45 minutes each day to school for early tutoring so he would not flunk (he had football in the afternoons after school) which did not help his narcolepsy. The next year when the 504 committee met the most important accommodation that he needed, teacher monitoring for understanding and completeness, was refused because the teacher had too many students in the class and objected saying that she would only agree to “self monitor!” I was told if his grades suffered it would be changed, but every request to do so was ignored until so late in the year that he failed many classes. Inadequate staffing and resources were responsible for my son having to spend an extra year in order to graduate, but only on a modified plan which meant he was not prepared for college. Little attention was paid to my son and he was deeply depressed, which went on through his many attempts to attend college, which he was not prepared for. Now he is 26 and still a sophomore in college all because of his terrible experience in Plano ISD.

  4. I have been involved in health care and disability advocacy since 2003. When my children were being diagnosed with Autism and PDD – and then later they got the Autism diagnosis from UCLA’s ADOS and ADI evaluations, which was followed up by Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s evaluations with the same measures. Five of my children are on the spectrum.

    The first child given the Autism diagnosis was in Kansas City. Center Independent School District conducted exhaustive evaluations and an entire team of experts gave us the report and developed an IEP that had a full slate of services and supports, which included parent training.

    We then moved back to Texas and Kingsville ISD. I met with the diagnostician and gave the comprehensive evaluations and the IEP. A meeting was scheduled shortly thereafter. At the meeting I was told right away that they could not give all the services and supports that were indicated on the papers from Kansas City, but my child will be in a school in the district that specializes in Autism and the school district will develop a program themselves. Which they did, with GARS, CARS and their psychologist. I did not have any real information on Autism, there was very little literature. Since the staff was friendly and the school did have skilled personnel I was OK, he did eventually settle in, and the early elementary was good for the most part – even though much intervention was not available – especially for South Texas. This was before the cap.

    Now that same year, his older brother was having trouble in school. He was being embattled by the teacher all day. At the end of the day the teacher would complain to me about him in front of everybody. After a disastrous first semester, the school principal called me in and told me that my son needs an evaluation, and I agreed to keep him home and wait for the evaluations – but they did not come. After two months I called the central administration and the diagnostician was unaware of the need for an eval — so she checked with the school and she told me that the principal decided to withdraw him from school instead of completing the referral for special education. This principal was known for that as I found out later. There was a complaint on the internet about him. That was the second refusal — but my son did return to a much more friendlier classroom at the same school his brother was attending.

    Also, at the time we got a visit from CPS based on a complaint from the school. I was unaware of the retaliation cycle. We did get help from CPS because we asked them – because at that time Driscoll children’s hospital made official diagnoses that both children had Autism/PDD. The young caseworker got us an advocate from children with special health care needs program and he helped us get diapering supplies. The stores did not carry the size we needed. They kept the supports until we secured their disability.

    We did enjoy a close relationship with the diagnosticians and the teachers and kept a very close collaboration with our children’s teachers and therapists from both the school and their outside medical providers. However, this close collaboration was not shared with the school district’s special education director.

    What was bothersome to us was that by 2004, the school district’s special ed director refused to send the teaching and support staff to Autism workshops held in the state that had specific peer-reviewed teaching strategies and learning systems. We obtained a lot of materials ourselves and offered them the materials. She never allowed the advanced training, however the elementary school principal did offer permission to take leave for the teachers/staff to attend these conferences, however the school district’s special education director (and quite possibly the school district assistant superintendent) refused to pay for expenses and registrations.

    The relationship between us and the school district administration quickly disintegrated after 2005-2006 school year.

    During the 2006-2007 school year, first, we found out that our oldest son was placed in regular classes with no supports, nor para-professionals/shadows and he sat in band class doing nothing. He was also “scheduled for fights” by other school children in the restrooms. After we found out that all of his supports were suddenly dropped, we immediately called central administration and demanded an ARD. Their claim “we think he is ready for inclusion and this is an inclusion campus” was “bogus.” We did place him back in the SCU (self contained unit) for at least half the day, but the school district refused to provide the personnel support staff to at least shadow him. We were told by the new teacher of the unit that the school district refused to hire extra teachers that were needed for special ed and there was only room for 8 students were allowed in the unit.

    At the same time our other son, who was in the 5th grade was also being bullied. The school principal noticed kids ganging up on him during PE and other times during the school day. Again the special ed director refused to provide the support personnel the children needed.

    We also found out the the principal had no idea what Autism was. So for the spring of 2007, the school principal ordered a series of training videos specifically for Autism and had all of the teaching and support staff who worked with my boys during the day. The training made a big difference, however, the special ed director retaliated against the school principal. From that point on the special ed director was included over the phone during ARD breaks so that the diagnostician and the principal can consult with her – of which she consulted the schools attorney.

    Although the IEP specifically allowed our son extra time in the morning to get to school – (they had a lot of behavior emergencies which required our presence every day) – the school principal “out of the blue” decided to file criminal charges for truancy against my son and against us. So we called an attorney and we called our psychologist from Driscoll Children’s Hospital to write up a letter explaining his disability and the arrangements already made, he also stated that he should not be prosecuted for manifestations of his disability — we presented this to the JP, and the JP scolded the school counselors and then called and scolded the school principal stating that students like my son had no place in his courtroom.

    At the end of the year, we could not come into an agreement for our son’s participatiion in both athletics and band and other mainstream activities — all with the specific interference of the special ed director. We then filed our first due process complaint with TEA.

    It was July 2007 when the special ed director received the fax transmission from TEA and within a matter of a day or two we get another visit from CPS with a complaint that was completely filled with false claims.

    in fact, there were so many complaints made by the same source – the school district – over the year that the regional office in corpus christi stopped accepting calls and complaints over neglect. However, we did lose the use of our home, which we finished paying the mortgage because of all of those calls to CPS. it has been 10 years and we still have not returned to our home, since we have to spare money to complete repairs and updates when our resources are being drained by paying rent.

    We have not finished our struggles with the school district. Most of the teachers worked very well with our children, o\however this constant interference with the special ed director has made our lives very difficult.

    In 2011-2012 school year, our youngest daughter was being severely abused in school and on the bus. The school district did nothing to protect her, and instead, planned to increase the abusive behavior compliance program that was never part of the ARD/ieP but was placed anyway without our knowlege or consent. She suffered from PTSD and she was apparently suffering from hypoxia from all of the excessive and inappropriate restraints. The last one was in April 2012 – under OCR’s watch– where she has never been the same – she also had ligature marks on both ankles. After 5 years she still has no services at all.

    Why does the school district engage in such disgusting conduct when they have some of the best teachers available and support staff who willing to be trained?

  5. My daughter developed Hydrocephalus at birth and has always had a basic 504 plan in place since First grade at her prior schools (in Washington and Tennessee) but to be honest, most of the accommodations were common sense and her teachers carried them out with no problem.

    We moved to TX in 2007 and she still had basic accommodations. Once she started High School in Lewisville ISD was when we got the real push back from the schools. In the spring of her 9th grade year she had another brain surgery and fell behind in school. She herself asked the teachers (and the principal) for help in getting back on track. The school was reminded that she had the 504 plan – some of the accommodations that she needs is being able to take the test in a distraction free area, no time limit on tests, being able to give answers verbally instead of writing them down, shortened assignments (like for math problems) and a few more.

    Repeatedly she was unable to get any of these accommodations for one reason or another. I stepped in and called a meeting – to try and get the 504 plan honored because we really just wanted them to help her get caught up. After her brain surgery she had a Neuro-Psych Eval done by her neurologist’s office, along with one done by the school district. Both gave the same results that backed up her 504 plan. What transpired was spending the entire spring fighting with the school to get her the help she needed. (She was also seeing a private tutor throughout High School). Many meetings. It should have taken ONE meeting. We got nowhere. Sophomore year comes around and she still is not officially a sophomore. There’s a new principal and we basically have to start all over again – my daughter went up to her the very first day to ask the principal for help. During this time I had called the state special education office to get their help in getting the school to honor the 504 plan.

    We go to a meeting with the Principal, the District SPED rep, the schools 504 rep and one of the teachers. The Principal is noticeably angry that my 16 year old daughter is there at her own 504 meeting. The 504 rep starts the ARD and we explain that we need the 504 plan to actually be honored by the school. The Principal states that my daughter needed a diagnosis in order to get a 504. We all stare at her – this incredibly unprepared person that somehow holds a position of power – and say that there is a diagnosis. The Principal says that she doesn’t know what it is. (Did it occur to her to actually prep before the meeting? Or look at the paperwork in front of her?) Then we tell her that it is Hydrocephalus, considered an OHI, and there are learning disabilities. The Principal says that she has no idea what Hydrocephalus is. As if she is stating this means it doesn’t count. We all are staring at her incredulously.

    She then states that if my daughter was to go to her doctor and get a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, she might be able to get her some accommodations, but that she really couldn’t with this current diagnosis. I guess the 2” stack of documentation in front of her didn’t matter. {Years later we heard that schools get more $ for students with ADD/ADHD, and that’s perhaps why the Principal suggested it} We had to remind her that she already HAS a diagnosis AND a 504 plan – all she needs to do is require her staff to carry it out.

    She then turns to my daughter and says, ‘This is partially your fault. You should’ve asked for help.” My daughter explained that that was what she had been trying to do – for 11 months after the surgery. Finally, having got nowhere, I said that I would be seeking legal counsel. Shortly after that, the school contacted me to say that everything was great with the 504 Plan and they would be able to follow through with the accommodations.

    After this disastrous 2 years, my daughter tried online homeschooling for her junior year to get caught up. While it worked for her, she was unable to get the extra help she needed and so transferred to Denton ISD and retook her junior year. Once again her teachers were unaware of the accommodations (even though all had been given a copy), and she had the same problems as she did with the LISD HS. Two teachers made fun of my daughters condition. The attendance office refused to accept notes for my daughters medical absences. The nurse refused to believe when my daughter said she wasn’t feeling well. The accommodations were not upheld. She luckily graduated and thought she was done with all the BS of dealing with schools who wouldn’t follow basic 504 plans.

    Well, now she has started her first year at a local community college – and they are just as messed up as the High Schools. Her accommodations were not properly relayed to the professors – and even when they finally were, the professors have flat out refused to honor them.

    I also have one other child that is in the TX school systems, who does not have a 504 plan. However, we have found that of all the states we have lived in, Texas is by far the worst when it comes to quality of education, quality of teaching, special education accommodations and schools in general. I have numerous relatives who are involved in the educational system in other states and all of them cringe when I tell them what goes on in Texas.

  6. So disappointed with Texas schools. We moved here from Oklahoma and the services at the school here does not compare. The school my 8 year old daughter attends is 5 times bigger than the one she attended in Oklahoma but the therapies and grade level teachers in her current school are not preparing her to be a successful independent working and thriving adult. It would be nice for her to actually receive special education but that teacher is not able to teach the kids anything other than the regular curriculum books. When people say Texas does not teach common core, I just want to say come see these GO Math books – word problems in Kindergarten and 1st and 2nd grade so advanced and quick lessons, typical kids are lost – the special Ed kids don’t stand a chance with that math. The aide for my child in 1st grade said she would pull her out and count chairs in the lunchroom for math. At the ARD meeting in May of 2016 the school kept telling me a special education math program did not even exist?!
    Last year’s special education teacher encouraged me to ask the administration to buy a new reading program for the special education kids because I had more of a voice, I suggested one that I had seen at a Down syndrome conference and my daughter and other children had success with the program. When our daughter started 2nd grade this year, the teacher forcing grade level work, with no modification (modifications are listed in her IEP for all subjects) suggested even more time in self contained classroom. Today my child is only in the typical classroom about 30 minutes a day! -so much for inclusion! The new special education teacher was not approved to use the reading program I suggested the previous year and until my child started to regress in reading did she get permission to use it but she still had to use the regular curriculum along side it. This school needs better access to special education teaching programs.
    Our child had a wonderful year in kindergarten and learned so much. She is making good progress with reading, if we can just keep her on one simple program but her math has shown regression. The school just makes up the percentages for her progress of her extremely limited and simple IEP goals so regression will be not recorded and they do not have to offer ESY. Every summer I beg for summer services and last year I was told by the principal that she would see if funding was available for my kid to go to summer school. That is illegal. She did not and has never received summer services in Texas, she always got summer services in Oklahoma including speech and physical therapy.
    I have asked for the school to keep a folder or a body of work for my child to prove that she has not regressed but they have not complied. At ARD meetings the school administration and the speech therapist consistently talk about “there is no proof of regression and by such and such law, with no proof of regression, we don’t have to provide ESY”. The teachers that have been present at these meetings always disagree and then are shot a look. I feel like there is a class these adminstators attend that teach them the legal wording to deny services, because it really is the same wording every time. The therapists make her IEP goals too simple and attainable so that they do not need to offer ESY as well. The speech therapist has admitted that she wants the goals to be easy and attainable and she will not work over the summer. The physical therapist does not even see my child anymore, even though the IEP goal was not met, I was told as long as she can walk to class – she doesn’t really need PT. The occupational therapist taught her 2 different ways to tie her shoes (before some typical peers could do it) but her hand writing is not progressing as it should be. One of the biggest problems with the therapies is the lack of homework and communication (this is also addressed in her IEP but there is no consequence for lack of communication) between myself and the other teachers, if we could work with her thought out the week on everything she would be so much better. I even tried to suggest the installation of cameras in the self contained classroom to be able to watch the therapies and mimick the work to help my child in these areas. This was not accepted. We paid for our daughter to go to private speech therapy over the summer, that service should be provided by the school or an in home support waiver that would get her on Medicaid to pay the medical expenses.
    It is sad to see the way Texas treats the special needs community, not just in the schools but the lack of support and programs is unfathomable. The school my daughter is currently attending is setting such a low bar, in turn creating a child that will not grow into the incredible independent adult I know she is capable of becoming. The adult this school will create is a child who falls through the cracks, learning as little as possible, an adult who will be dependent on the system that refused to deal with them properly as a child.

  7. The story of my child is similiar to many of the comments on here. While I am personally familiar with many stories of what has gone on in our current district relating to dyslexia, learning disabilities, autism, aspergers, adhd, mental illness, medical disabilities and other factors that can put a child at risk for graduating, I know I must focus on how our child and family has been impacted. While we have services in place now, there was a long delay. At every ARD, I submit into the minutes from kindergarten to the present time what we ask for and what was denied, ignored or put in place but not implemented. (Implementation is a whole other issue)I document everything. Our child is twice exceptional. He has the labels of Aspergers, anxiety and ADHD. While he is cognitively above average he does have short term memory and processing issues. He has always done well academically and scored well on state tests. Which is part of why services were delayed. He struggles in the area of social pragmatics, emotional regulation and impulsivity. The documentation from neurodevelopmental pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, speech therapists and occupational therapists were all presented before kindergarten. We fully disclosed before kindergarten our concerns and that we wanted to be working partners. We TRUSTED the system to guide us. Until we brought in a proper advocate(4th grade), he was running out of classrooms, ripping classroom property and coming home in tears everyday. “But he’s so smart,” is what I would hear. Once, in an ARD and I asked how much autism training had any of his mainstream teachers had, the principal responded with “none, it’s not required.” How is it fair to a teacher, my child and the other students in that classroom? It is essential for children with a formal diagnosis’s to have the proper supports in place as early as possible. When mainstreaming a child to do what is right under L.R.E. it needs to be considered how to start with supports and fade out. I feel for twice exceptional children under the S.P.E.D umbrella, L.R.E. can actually work against them. Before our advocate was brought in, every year our child’s behavior increased and spiraled. Our advocate was able to help put us in the right direction as she is an L.S.S.P. who left working for local districts. She was worn down by being told to do what needs to be done for kids to graduate. She knew, she could graduate them, but they did not have the skills to be hired or keep a job. She knew the laws. She also was his group social skills instructor and knew exactly how he struggled. She was able to apply this to what needed to be done in the school setting. WE asked for our son to be transferred to a campus with more supports and a behavioral unit that specializes in social emotional support. For 4 years our son refused to do work, ran out of classrooms, hid in lockers, disrupted others learning, not one time was a behavioral unit offered until we asked for it.When I was frequently meeting with teachers and staff asking how can we help him? Once task avoidance behavior was approached head on and teachers had direct support, things quickly turned around. Because he was in 4th grade when transferring, it was difficult as many behavioral habits had been formed. By then his self esteem and outlook had also plummeted. I could sit here and list what I have in the minutes that we were denied and delayed, but I think many others have shown evidence. My heart hurts for any child that has to go through what my son has. My heart hurts more for the children out there who may have parents that for whatever the situation are not advocating for their child in the way that I can and have.There are many children who have disabilities that cannot be seen on the outside by looking them or even talking with them, but it doesn’t mean they are less. I know so many who have left the public system because they felt they had no other option, not because they wanted to. How many of these kids that do not have supports in place wind up in alternative school or, by the time they reach middle school are written off as problem kids because proper supports were never put in place. For children that have a diagnosis of Autism or Asperger’s and are academically mainstreamed, it doesn’t mean these kids do not need supports for the social and emotional aspects. These are vital life skills for a population of children that are EXPECTED to graduate and be independent functional productive members of society, in whatever capacity that may be right for them. This specific population of kids have an incredible amount of potential and are falling through the cracks. There needs to be a shift in approaching this population of kids. It must be identified and intervened during early elementary when there is time to pull out and work with them. This population of students should not be mainstreamed when gen ed. teachers do not have direct training and support from sped and administration. It is disservice to the child, teacher and the OTHER students. If a child is to be mainstreamed, gen ed teachers should have the proper training in how to approach an deescalate a situation. SPED paras need to be paid more. When looking under employment opportunities, para positions are always listed, they are needed and underpaid. All of this starts with funding.Funding is tied to politics. In the state of Texas, the way local taxes are used needs to be more transparent. What we pay and how the state applies it needs to be examined. Federal support needs to be increased. None of this should get lost in the dangling carrot of what school choice and vouchers can do to fix it. The private project based learning gifted school down the road may seem like a better fit for my 2e child, but they are NOT obligated to accept him or keep him when they see how group projects are not his forte and he has a moment. So when the director says sorry, your child is very bright but not a good fit, does the public system get it’s voucher money back when my child returns, because the public system is obligated to my child? When I use a voucher to home school but then have to be accountable to the state with my voucher money, am I accountable with state testing like the public system is for funding? I hope the federal government doesn’t use the situation here in Texas as a platform for school choice. I can choose private, homeschool or charter. I choose the public system, where my child can pick a trade school or STEM academy or just a general track to graduate. The point is, my son is going to graduate. He should as well as all kids graduate with the life skills that it takes to apply for and keep a job. All kids need that. Yes, that is my job as a parent. We spend many hours of social skills therapy and practicing these skills. He is at school 5 days a week all day long, interacting with others. He needs the support to apply these skills while there. When children do not get the supports needed early on, we will all pay for that as a society later. Withholding and delaying supports for our child lasted 4 years. To this day we are still undoing the damage it has caused. Putting proper services in place has allowed our child to become incredibly resilient and on a positive path. Because of what we have been through, we have very little trust in the system. Yet, we are firm believers in pubic education. I really hope this blog is not just a “show” for us parents to think for a minute someone is actually listening. Actions speak louder than words. The TEA needs to take accountability. The TEA needs to be much more transparent. They need to allow SPED directors, OT’s, SLP’s , Behavior interventionists and teachers to have the ability to say how they feel and really be a part of the ARD committee. All of them work really hard and have the best interests of our kids and ALL kids at heart. Ask them what they would do to improve things. Allow districts to help one another by sharing what works for them. Districts need to be more transparent with their community and explain each one is funded based on demographics, therefore the right resources may not always be at the home campus. Parents should be given a choice up front about what resources are available at what campuses within their own district rather then having to fight for it. Not everything should have to fall apart in a child’s educational world in order to then receive services. Especially when a parent has documentation and asks to be a working partner. Districts need to take pride in how they support kids beyond academics. SPED parents should be allowed to be more visible as working partners with the districts. Some districts such as Richardson, Mckinney, Plano and Frisco ISD have done a good job by being open and working with parents. The have councils of SAGE (Special and Gifted education) PTA’s. It allows for monthly educational forums for parents , teachers and administrators. It allows for parent councils for diabetes, dyslexia, sib shops for siblings of children with disabilities. I approached our prior sped director about this asking to have help spreading the word to other parents only to get a lip service response 3 months later. Many of us parents have been worn down by fighting for our children. To the point that it seems like a battle too big to fight. It’s very consuming. Many of us have other children who are impacted by all of the time and negative energy that we have to consiously not let consume us. There has got to be a more transparent and gentle way for parents and schools to work together. There needs to be more structured and specific policies and procedures in place especially to protect and foster growth in those children that do not have an adult voice fighting for them. Thank you for your time. I have little faith that all the time I took to express my feeling will be read and taken into consideration. I am however very grateful for Brian Rosenthal and his team investigating and exposing this issue. It is heartbreaking to hear so many stories but I now know we are not alone.

  8. Is there any possibility that there are too many special education staff in some schools? Do the school need to find enough special students to provide work to them? Some students will not be listed as special otherwise.

  9. I am a parent of two, both identified. I was a professional with a career in banking up until the birth of my first child in 1999. He was born with down syndrome. Very quickly i began learning all i could about his rights and planning big things for his future. It never occurred to me before then that so many sytems and programs would be in opposition to those goals.
    EARLY INTERVENTION began in Texas immediately and was satisfactory.
    Moved to New York January 2002 for 2 years.
    His Early Intervention in New York consisted of inclusive pre-school services , speech and language direct services in the class and teacher assistance by the slp. He received speech and language service from the school in our home, ot services in school and ot sensory services including listening and sensory modulation service at a clinic separate from the school but part if his iep. He had a communication system of pecs and was accessed and recommend for a personal communication device.

    January 2004
    We moved back to Texas and lived in Coppell. With his personal iep in hand, and at his first ARD meeting we were immediately told there was no inclusive early intervention and that he would not need a personal communication device.

    What were we supposed to think? This made no sense! How would he be educated if he could not communicat and did not learn to learn with his peers? It became obvious the school district had a plan for him that did not match his need and denied his right to a beneficial intervention. We advocated for change disagreed with committees documented documented documented need and they continued that their intervention worked. We hired attorneys filed tea complaints . None of this went anywhere.
    Enter kindergarten, no communication plan, a runner due to sensory processing disorder and you get a 6 yr being body slammed by a special education aide. When i complained to the campus administrator with no resolve and met with superintendent to discuss my concerns nothing changed. When a parent group of my peers was organized to have our issues taken seriously a private party was hired to audit the district special education services. Nothing changed, we left cisd disgruntled March 2008 mid 2nd grade.

    Northwest ISD March 2008. In Northwest ISD my sons intervention was worse….scarier than the previous district. He began acting out and running away. Still no communication plan and forced to endure mundane and meaningless repetitive punitive tasks. Seeing his friends mistreated bothered him in ways he could not express and he was axting out more….all if the students in that class were. We filed complaints with tea and things got a little bit better when the campus was afraid of publicity and TEA oversight.

    February 2009 my daughter was having difficulty retaining information and had symptoms of fight or flight . I reported and documented my concerns. She was failing TEA testing and failing classes. 3 years later after being accessed and denied services, an iee and another year of not coming up with a plan to address her needs, more failing and denial of education to benefit her unique needs the district finally had a principal willing to stand up for the student against the special education director , superintendent and against the TEA directive.

    Fall 2010 my son with a communication disorder was paired with an aide who had a language barrier, spoke with a very strong dialect and broken english skills. I advocated that he needed a different pairing. Thus was not received well. The teacher trained in his way of learning was moved to another campus and he lost the year of learning to an ill prepared staff. He was being educated in more and more restrictive settings with adults not really teaching …instead testing to see what he did not know constantly.
    March 2010 my son had become so rigid and none responsive to everyone we were forced to hospitalize him. Cooks children psych department had him stay for two weeks, they sent him home saying they could not help. In may of 2010 we began working with a private behaviorist in our home. This went on for the entire summer. We presented his intervention to the school in august 2011 . They refused the intervention and did their own re-evaluation. We disagreed. He was in the choir and no aide was available for him to attend extracurricular activities the principal refused in an email when asked. My son was becoming frustrated again and after all the progress he made over the previous summer we opted for homeschooling in october 2011.
    In august 2012 he entered pruvate shool, he was doing well , behavior and communication were progressing but he was travelling 40 miles each way to school everyday .

    March 2013 he went back to public school. Self contained classroom all students being mistreated being denied individualized education plans that would benefit their acess to learning and future employment and community life. His behavior again spiralled out of control we request private placement they refuse. They refused to develope personal communication system and refused his listening intervention that was part of his executive funtioning developement. We compalined to the tea hired advocates, had mediations , nothing changed.

    Our only chouce is homeschooling for our son. Its costly in many ways to my son and my family. But the harm that has been done by denying him a beneficial intervention is worse.
    I am not sure what, if anything will come as a result of this process . And i am not sure what adulthood in texas looks like for him either . He is nearly 18 now. Denied state wide services as he is still on the 100 year wait list. Lord only knows.

  10. On behalf of parents who have been ignored, educators who have been silenced, professionals who have dedicated their lives to affect change, myself and my family, thank you for your commitment to hearing and reading our stories. My hope is that the oral and written testimonies submitted will force a complete and widespread overhaul of the Texas Education Agency.

    Advocating for my children has been a full time job for years. I have been forced to do a job that state employees are PAID to do. It is NOT a parent’s responsibility to be a special education expert, teacher, administrator and quality control employee for a school district. It is a burden the state has laid squarely on the shoulders of parents, most of whom don’t have the time or resources to make sure the school is doing what federal law mandates.

    In addition, and on a predominantly voluntary basis, I have worked as an Educational Consultant with many families and have seen countless children be denied, segregated, ignored, belittled, and most importantly, not educated.

    As a native Texan, I’m appalled that my state has once again DENIED a population of its citizens – both access to and appropriate services within special education. I am grateful that Mr. Rosenthal had the courage to report on what we as parents have known for a long time. But make no mistake, his primary talking point – children being denied access to special education – is only the tip of the iceberg. Even those students in the system are often DENIED social, emotional, behavioral and academic opportunities afforded to most students. I’m convinced that if you follow the money – exorbitant amounts spent by districts for lawyers (Walsh) using taxpayer money and the misappropriation of funds at both the state and district level – you will find a treasure trove of answers to what’s really going on here.

    While my story is not about children being DENIED access to special education through an IEP, it is about them being DENIED special education services that meet their individual needs as mandated in IDEA.

    I have 3 children – one “typical”; one with Williams Syndrome (cognitive disabilities); and one with Anxiety, ADHD and Dysgraphia. After a few years of my middle son attending school in Eanes ISD, and as I learned more about the intricacies of special education, I became increasingly concerned about his access to the general education curriculum. By 3rd grade, it was clear he was a visitor to the classroom, and in reality, spent the majority of his day in a segregated setting.

    Upon understanding that data must drive decisions made in an ARD, my husband and I requested that our son be placed back into the general education classroom, with his peers and without an Aid, for English Language Arts. The school simply didn’t have the data to support him being removed from the LRE. What occurred over the subsequent days and weeks can only be characterized as a systematic campaign to belittle, intimidate and bully us.

    By the grace of God, we did not give in and they were forced to place him in the ELA classroom with appropriate support. To the surprise of administrators and his teachers, but not to my husband or I, he not only participated, but contributed and excelled.

    The following year, after requesting a copy of all academic data collected on my child since he arrived in the district, we learned that none was collected for years K-2 and very little in 3rd-5th. That’s right. The school had not administered any assessments to confirm that academic progress was being made for 4 years!!

    After countless meetings and documentation sharing our concerns about the need for data and its analysis, my husband and I were called into a meeting with the principal where one or both of us was accused of being medically/mentally ill, having a dysfunctional marriage and of physically abusing our son.

    I share this story so you understand the lengths that these people will go to bully parents into submission. Fortunately for my children, this despicable behavior only fueled me to get more educated and more involved.

    I am proud to report that my son is now in 7th grade, attending gen ed classes for most of his academic subjects, and even takes preAP English LA. And just so we’re clear, he has an IQ of around 80.

    My district has, over time, realized that I am not going away. While I am encouraged to see small changes for this population of students, my experience is that only a handful, those with squeaky wheel parents, are receiving an education that will remotely prepare them for the future.

  11. There is an obvious disconnect in purpose and understanding between all concerned, parents, educators and State administrators. What may have been intentioned to bring better teaching online for students resulted in a gross injustice.

    I believe the cap was created to motivate educators to engage in early identification, and the RTI process, which is meant to be utilized as a preventative and data gathering force – not a delaying tactic. The idea, I believe, was to marshall a model that would prevent worsening of outcomes, and prevent “dysteachia,” the condition whereby teachers treat all students similarly, and do not identify gaps, deficits and address them through differentiated, research-based instruction.

    But in a large system such as public education, there has to be capacity to spread the knowledge of expert teaching, resources to train teachers and administrators in districts, and education of parents about what is truly needed to help children who struggle.

    Within this whole issue are multiple, different systems and issues. I see a great many areas where laws or rubrics are conflated and not well understood; or, where parents are so beat down that even if the district was doing its best and serving students, the impact on families has been a source of difficulty, struggle and sorrow.

    I’d also like to clarify that dyslexia has been in Texas law since 1984, yet schools still tell parents myths about when it can be identified. We know it can be identified as early as kindergarten, signs evident in preschoolers. We know that early remediation works best for all students….and we in Texas know how to teach students with dyslexia. See our resources and handbook listed here: http://tea.texas.gov/curriculum/dyslexia/

    There is much to be learned from the transparency and education created by having open resources for parents, by districts having an open, collaborative approach to serving students – and working together. Models, systems and resources need to be aligned to to create capacity for powerful, research based and appropriate instruction for every student – whether those plans are created via IDEA or through regular education via 504, or dyslexia services. We shouldn’t be thinking of caps but collaborations.

    How can we best teach and serve students? Period.

    So, I’d urge the DOE and TEA to wrestle with this issue at a high, systems level. How can compliance to the student’s best interest be advocated for by all parties and measured by the TEA and others? What is needed to build a better system? How can the parts function better together to serve children?

    Jack Fletcher believes that labels don’t matter so much as instruction: how can every child get the instruction and services he or she needs?

    The problem is that you have to work on all aspects of a system to get the “engine” up and running. Working together, I think that can be done, and hopefully, there will be an end to the distrust and the suffering of families — generations denied educational benefit — and not just in Texas, but all across the country.

    The ability to reach and teach kids is going to crack open with the use of technology for monitoring, tracking, teaching. Individualization is possible, the alignment of resources can happen….but leadership is needed to build a well funded, transparent, experienced system that meets the needs of all learners. That’s where our agencies, lawmakers, educators and parents come in…

  12. The statements I make are documented via TEA hearing records and testimony, ARD recordings, e-mails and information via FOIA.
    My child attended school in Denton county served by a special education co-op. In second grade, she was diagnosed by University of North Texas with dyslexia, speech deficits, anxiety, depression and ADHD.
    The report indicated dyslexia and speech deficits could be eliminated completely with early intervention.
    The battle began when I asked for services.
    The district had a reading aid, not a teacher, administer a test which did not screen for dyslexia. They started her (after my formal complaint) on their dyslexia program. A meeting occurred with myself, UNT and the school. The school stated because she was moving quickly through their dyslexia program indicated she did not need one. The principal advised post meeting that due to special education cuts in Texas she would never get services because she was too smart. She encouraged me to pay for outside services.

    It is a depressing when as a parent with limited resources (time, financial and geographical proximity to providers) is forced to choose between mental health, learning to read and learning to speak. To this day my daughter has a speech problem because I chose mental health and reading.

    In middle school, behavior and grades worsened and the school accepted my daughter in special education. The district accepted UNT’s diagnosis for speech and continued to deny dyslexia. Supports listed in the IEP were: social skills group,psychological counseling and speech.

    The district fraudulently documented speech services as 30 minutes. The hearing process included testimony of the speech therapist indicating 30 minutes was with a group of six students. It is my understating this is a common tactic utilized by TEA to inflate services.

    Despite a plan in place, my daughter worsened; her grades decreased, depression/ anxiety increased. I fielded weekly calls to “come get” her. In fifth grade, she received written death threats and I witnessed bullying on school grounds.

    The district’s LSSP testified he had test results indicating my daughter had autism three years before I received a diagnosis; had he shared this with me and/or the school acted on this information when designing a plan many of the academic problems and my child’s suffering could have been avoided.

    In retrospect; it is highly unlikely an IEP which ignores autism and dyslexia could be successful. . A reasonable person would predict failure. Unsurprisingly, a year with a flawed IEP in place resulted in my genius IQ child’s failing grades , depression and anxiety increased. Teachers contacted me with hostile complaints , i.e.- why won’t this child (with dyslexia) try harder to pass spelling tests, I witnessed bullying and discovered written death threats sent to my child.

    I sought counsel and “new players” appeared at the ARD Meeting. The head of the sped co-op and the assistant superintendent, in charge of special ed.

    My data demonstrates:
    TEA ARD Meetings- are a “vehicle” to document non-existent progress.
    I recorded my ARD meetings; listening to the recordings provided insight as to how the district manipulated data and created a false paper trail of “success”.

    Example one- Grades (Fraudulent success claims disputed by the districts own data)

    In the ARD Meetings grades were reported by “teacher observation”. Teachers reported my child “did very well academically” and “has no trouble”, when the school’s data- online portal documented failing multiple classes and State Benchmark exams.

    Example two- Fraudulent Minutes
    The special education director insisted a fraudulent claim that my daughter had made “tremendous progress” with goals when data documented no progress had been made. When I objected, she advised me “to make my own meeting minutes”.

    Example Three- ignoring data to demonstrate progress
    The district ignored its own data of worsening behavior and chose to rely on teacher observation to “demonstrate progress had been made with their plan”.

    I would caution the Department of Education to look for the actual data and not accept any finding of TEA at face value. The substitution of “teacher observation” for actual data and or ignoring data appears to be a common tactic utilized to claim success.

    Example Four-Fraudulently alter the Minutes- i.e. Lie
    One recorded ARD meeting documents the districts admission of lying regarding dyslexia. The assistant superintendent acknowledged my daughter was dyslexic: the reason for denial of services was due to the school’s dyslexia program “not a right for my daughter”. The ARD minutes state my daughter was not dyslexic.

    TEA Evaluations are rigged against the student:

    After engaging council, my request for an evaluation was approved. The sped director provided a list on “recommended” providers.

    Ironically, I had two reports from UNT listed as a “recommended” provider for dyslexia and speech- the district deemed these reports incorrect despite no evidence the results were false.

    In reviewing the “recommended” list, I could not find a single psychological provider on the list who specialized in children and/ or autism. The “preferred” evaluator specialized in geriatrics. How many senior citizens are enrolled in Texas grade schools? The next “preferred” provider specialized in Spanish speaking adult domestic abuse survivors. I rejected these “recommendations” and sought a board-certified specialist who focused on children. The sped director rejected every quote from my independent board certified evaluators claiming “too high”. She refused to provide any pricing parameters, simply denied every quote claiming cost issues and continued to pressure me to use one of their “recommended” evaluators. I sent a FOIA request for payments to past evaluators to attempt to gauge what had been deemed reasonable and customary payment in the past. The sped director testified she ignored this and other FIOA requests.

    These evaluations are critical for understanding the root causes of a child’s issues; it should not be treated as an opportunity to hide disabilities by going low bid with a geriatric specialist administering a low bid test. I paid for my own evaluation.

    Evaluations-Unreasonable restrictions/ Biased for the district

    The district limited observation in school to two hours by a board certified licensed psychologist specializing in children. They required her to sign a document which banned her from speaking to my child and any of the staff. I sent an unanswered e-mail asking why educators who constantly commented/complained they were frustrated and did not know how to manage my child would not seek advice from a specialist, especially when I was paying.

    TEA complaint process

    TEA claims in its response letter that parents have a path of recourse via the TEA Hearing process. My experience demonstrates this is not correct. TEA Hearing Officers (HO) are TEA paid agents.

    This week America protested the proposed move of having the congressional ethics department report to congress. The TEA process is the same flawed model. The HO’s are not supervised, chosen and/or paid by an outside independent party. They are agents of TEA.

    Step One-Mediation
    The Superintendent never showed up for mediation; instead the head of the special ed co-op attempted to push the geriatric specialist as an appropriate evaluator.
    Mediation does not work when the DM fails to show and attorneys representing the district (financially benefit from hearing) are involved.

    TEA Hearing

    The hearing process was eye opening. My records document a fraudulent process rigged against the parent.
    The HO ignored data, and plagiarized the districts closing (direct cut and paste).

    Example – Physiological counseling was one of three services the existing IEP called for.

    The district wrote in closing documents the student received it and it was beneficial, the Hearing Officer performed a cut and paste to rule: ““Student asserted that Respondents failed to provide her with appropriate speech services, social skills services, and counseling. The record reveals otherwise.”
    What did the actual record reveal:?

    After I filed for due process hearing the district engaged in three months of data collection on my daughter’s day HOURLY by the district. In addition to hourly reports from teachers, an aide was assigned to follow my child with the sole purpose of documenting ever move including bathroom breaks.
    Speech sessions and social skills meeting were documented; not a single counseling session
    No goals or documentation of any counseling occurring.
    No one including the school counselor and LSSP testified they provided counseling.

    The TEA HO RULED SERVICES NEVER PROVIDED WERE BENEFICIAL. How can a parent win when the district can “make up” services and the HO rules the imaginary services were beneficial?

    This demonstrates the district can fraudulent claim services were provided, despite no records/ testimony and be rewarded for the fraud with a TEA HO a rubber stamp of approval.
    Post hearing, I submitted a FOIA request for her counseling records to the school and TEA. TEA ignored the request. The school hired an attorney to fight this request. Again, the school hired an attorney to fight my request for my child’s records.
    The school lost the FOIA denial with the AG.
    The school admitted there were no records…. This example clearly demonstrates fraud.

    I submitted this and other examples of fraud to TEA and was advised “nothing we can do because of DOE rules”.

    Further, the attorney for the district (who provides tax payer funded sped training for Texas schools) asked multiple staffer “can you tell XX is special needs by looking at her”? Even the TEA HO took offense at this, yet the question continued through the duration of the hearing.

    TEA Hearing Fraud Recap:

    Parent discovers school withheld autism diagnosis for years.
    Child with genius IQ was “dumbed down” by TEA; regressed in skills, failed course work and state benchmark tests. The school and TEA agent ruled this a success.
    IEP created by the school calls for counseling.
    Services are not provided, no records, no comment in ARD meetings including minutes, no goals, no staffer testifies to have provided the service and the schools on data collection reflects no counseling sessions- ever. Multiple staffers place their hand on a bible and commit perjury claiming the student received counseling, they could not recall who provided the services, simply that it was provided. A member of the Texas bar fraudulently claims verbally and in writing that counseling was received and it benefited the student- an agent for TEA, another member of the Texas bar hired as a HO plagiarizes and agrees the fraudulent claims.

    Again, I ask how can a parent exercise the right to a fair hearing when imaginary services are ruled successful and no penalties occur for the district staff when committed perjury and fraud?

    Waste in Hearing Process:
    Unlike other areas of sped, there is not a lack of funds when it comes to lawsuits.
    Unable to find anyone in the Dallas Fort Worth area to dispute University of North Texas evaluations, the district FLEW in a person from Austin and paid for her testimony.

    I offered to settle for five thousand in mediation to be made whole for speech and dyslexia services I had paid for. The district refused and spent an estimated six figures plus in legal fees and labor. A reasonable person would have accepted the five-thousand-dollar settlement offer as win or lose a trail is exponentially higher. The district chose to waste six figures in sped dollars to “win” a claim costing five thousand.

    Where is the stewardship of the tax payer dollar?

    I moved and enrolled my child in private school. Despite a six figure spend in schools and counseling, the damage inflected by TEA is still apparent in my child.

    I urge DOE to read Judge Jack’s Texas Foster Children ruling for a road-map for corrective actions. Unless dramatic action is taken no changes will be made at TEA .
    TEA’s reply to DOE validates my conclusion that TEA is not capable of providing services. TEA states “Furthermore, TEA has not received any formal or informal complaints
    demonstrating that specific school districts have engaged in such an effort to deny eligible
    students with disabilities the services they need based on the special education representation
    indicator in PBMAS. Anyone with evidence indicating that a school district has denied special
    education services to an eligible student should file a special education complaint with TEA or
    request a special education due process hearing.”

    They claim innocence/success because no parent included the correct acronym in their complaints. This is the strongest argument they use to justify their behavior. Parents failed to guess Rumpelstiltskin’s name ( PBMAS) therefore TEA has every right to steal Texas children’s’ education.

    They direct parents to utilize the same biased systems and direct us to “trust only TEA”.

    Texas is violating the 14th Amendment rights of all Texas sped children “to be free from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by the State”. The State’s denial of services, miss-leading parents regarding progress and disabilities, withholding medical information harms our children.

  13. I am not even sure where to start. I was unable to attend the live sessions because I was in a mediation trying to help a child get the services they are entitled to by law.

    As an advocate on behalf of families for 20+ years witnessing the most unbelievable use of public funds imaginable. The money is just scratching the surface.

    Being an advocate that travels to the need, I find myself all over Texas and know without question that it is a systemic problem. When you have the SEA allowing the LEA to “self monitor” how it is doing in special education department versus the direct onsite monitoring as it use to be, I can’t think of any person or entity that will expose or admit its wrongdoing.

    Let’s start with the school employees who secretly call me or refer a family and ask that their name not come up because they don’t want to lose their job. Then the district employees who tell me that they are told to continue the RTI process sometimes for years (not weeks or months) before referring for special education testing and/or sometimes other district employees are not allowed to refer for special education or recommend to family the need to special education evaluation.

    As an advocate, I am constantly having to file due process just to get evaluations started to determine the need for special education and many times it is a clear that student is in need of special education services, failing horrifically, falling further and further behind, has a declining self esteem and the list goes on. Many times I ask the District via the special education director to test and we are denied stating that they do not seen an educational need.

    So parents have to go hire (pay out of their pocket) to fight for the rights that they are already entitled to by law against the big school district with deep pockets with tax payer money. Because I have done open records request on funding, I also know that what money they don’t use they roll over into general fund aka whatever they choose to spend it on to include their attorneys who are, in many cases, the biggest problem to all situation either from the conferences they put on to the the Districts at a hefty cost to the District and another resource to line the law firms pocket or when they show up at the ARD/IEP meeting again at tax payer expense when often times the parent is not represented by counsel in attempt to run the meeting, manipulate or intimidate the family, skew the records with lies and even change the records after the fact considering many times parents do not get a copy of the ARD document until days, weeks and sometimes months later or never at all. The Districts have been trained to request the family to sign in agreement the signature page prior to receiving any part of the ARD document. The sad part of this outrage is the District many times manipulates the minutes and other part of the document but it doesn’t matter how wrong or bad it is because the District now has a signature page with parent agreement.

    The educational need is a joke because clearly the student is in need of services whether emotionally, academically or otherwise. Like the student that we attempted to obtain services for as a student with an emotional disturbance due to outcry and other behaviors on the District’s assessment but to no avail for any support until the student attempted suicide and even then it was a battle but special education was finally provided with support.

    The stories are endless and very frighting since children are are future. Despite most district mission statements list something to the effect that they want to “partnership” and/or collaborate with the families, but when a family becomes involves and begins to ask questions, they become the target for retaliation, CPS being called, erroneous criminal charges (that are typically dismissed) and the list goes on.

    Let’s not even talk about the poor goals made that does has no baseline or means of measurement of progress or lack of progress, Related services that are blatantly denied despite the need again with the excuse of “no educational need” as if academic is the the reason to evaluate and/or even provide service.

    I do file due process and typically do get results but it should not ever have to go there, but then the District wants a confidentiality as part of the agreement and since the children are the priority, we agree and they again get away with abusing the system. UNACCEPTABLE.

    I would really like a response from the USDOE so that I know that my input in not in vain and that you really are concern about the children in Texas and this is just not another railroad job to let everyone believe that you are listening.

    Respectfully,

    Debra Liva

  14. The TEA’s failure to provide differently abled children and English learners an appropriate public education is a disgrace to the state and its future. Why are Texas legislators so intent on making Texas a terrible state for women and children to live in?

  15. As a parent and Education Advocate, I have fought at the school, district and state level for IDEA compliance. I started advocating when my daughter was denied evaluation for 504 accommodations in fifth grade even though her ADHD was documented every year since kindergarten. I was told she had to go through RTI. I was told it was “hormones” not her ADHD even though her pediatrician provided documentation to the contrary. My son was found eligible for special education services but other then a list of accommodations, he has never been provided much in the way of actual services. The social and study skills have been nothing more than lunch bunch and study hall with no actual curriculum being taught.
    I have seen my clients receive documentation that looks suspiciously similar to special education documentation stating evaluation was “not recommended” at this time. It was not an official denial of services but it was convincing enough to dissuade many parents from pursuing the matter further.
    Texas also does not elicit meaningful stakeholder input as required under IDEA. What they do is more of a token gesture. The “stakeholders” are carefully chosen and the meetings are secret. The Advisory Committee required under IDEA is hamstrung by TEA. They have no power, advise no one and can’t even publish a list of priorities.
    There is a lot of “looking busy” in Texas when it comes to implementing IDEA but unfortunately, there isn’t much actually being done.

  16. We removed our daughter from public school after a disagreement with our school district Regarding one assessment for her FIE. We accepted all testing except for one and we asked for supporting documentation on the validity of the assessment and the purpose. We were given no information and told we had no choice. After four months and many ARD meetings, the assistant spec ed director told us we would have to go to due process over this but it would be a waste of our money and we would lose. We interviewed lawyers in preparation for due process. In the end, they agreed to eliminate the one assessment. Additionally, the ARD committee had determined that my daughter’s placement would be a co teach classroom that was not at her home school but less than 10 minutes from our home. We requested she continue in this school the following year to stay with peers and supports. We were told we had to go through the administrative transfer process and then they denied our request. My husband and I decided that we could not go another 12+ years with that much stress and anxiety as our daughter was only in kindergarten at the time. Due to limited options We homeschooled our daughter for 10 years under the umbrella of a part time private school.

  17. I am a former high school social worker in HISD. I worked at a hs with a huge poplation of new immigrants and refugees, many of them who arrived in the country that year or within 3 years and who did not benefit from early special education interventions. As a professionally trained clinician, there were students who clearly had learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, possible ID (or even documented ID from other countries), ADHD and other health impairments who needed evaluation. With some of the more pressing cases I took it upon myself to advocate heavily on their behalf. When asking for evaluations for these students I was given the following excuses a school counselor, a department chair and a diagnostician. 1) “Ugh. It was YOU who told the parent to put the request in writing?! I’ll be honest, when I get a request in writing, that just makes me want to respond even slower. I mean who do they think they are trying to tell me how to do my job?!” 2) “We can’t keep evaluating all these kids, Ms. X! We have to keep the number we serve under 10% or we get in big trouble!” (this was 2014, so now 10% seems kind of high, right?) 3) “I wouldn’t even bother requesting an eval on that kid (a recent Iraqi refugee with stereotypies, tics, anti-social behavior, aggression, inability to sit through a class or learn much English beside racial epithets and curse words), they’ll just say his problem are due to inconsistent schooling, language barrier and trauma.”

    I also witnessed a situation of a legally blind 14 year old child who spoke Spanish only and seemed to have other intellectual or developmental disabilities who arrived from a South American country with some medical documentation (and who was CLEARLY impaired) who was not evaluated for at least six weeks in to the school year. The child was placed in all regular ed ESL classes where they would sit, isolated, at a desk. The child got no instruction, stimulation or socialization opportunities. The child was picked up between classes and escorted to the next class by different clerks or administrators. Sometimes the child was forgotten, and left behind just waiting. There seemd to be no sense of urgency to get an FIE done for her. A caring administrator (who has also since left the school) pushed and pushed which seemed to be the impetus to get the FIE completed after 8 weeks. of this treatment.

    As if that was not bad enough, the Iraqi refugee child referenced above that actually was the last straw for me. NO ONE would honor the fact that this child had more than just a language barrier, inconsistent education and trauma. Those things were clear, but it was also clear that he had other psychiatric and developmental needs. He continually acted out in bizarre, socially inappropriate, scripted and verbally aggressive ways — which ultimately got him suspended repeatedly, sent to ISS and finally sent to the district’s alternative school for several months, then returned to general ed with zero progress made.

    I now work at a developmental pediatrics clinic where I regularly listen to the frustration of parents who are being turned away from SPED services even WITH confirmed LD/DD/ID by a team of neuropsychologists, neurologist and developmental pediatricians, or who are receivng less than adequate or appropriate services from their school districts. It has been one year and Ihave also been privy to more than one case of inappropriate (abusive) restraint and even corporal punishment of a child with a seizure d/o and ID at the hands of school principal (not in HISD).

    Texas needs a special education overhaul. What those at the helm of districts think is happening on the ground at the schools is not happening at many schools. Princiapls need training on IDEA, all teachers need training, not just a few on a campus.

  18. Hello,
    I come before you as a parent, an advocate for parents, children and teachers, a nurse of nearly 20 years, and a biologist.

    I understand that our state congress put TEA in a dire position by defunding them in 2004, so they were forced to figure things out and I’m sorry about that. However, there is no good excuse for denying special education to students and for violating federal law during the last 11 years.

    I have struggled to advocate for my son for four years as I have been constantly obstructed and continuously bewildered when I would encounter school districts blatantly violating federal law.

    Then came the Rosenthal Report, from the Houston Chronicle, titled, “Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of kids out of special education”, and all became clear. I understood that my son, my younger children and the futures of Texas children would be negatively affected, all because of the lack of federal oversight over entities such as TEA, that disperse federal funds.

    It will be a shame if Texas has to be defended in a lawsuit, simply because a group of folks came to unethical solutions to manage a budget. Abuse may come in many forms including unjust practices. The definition of neglect, in the legal sense, is defined by an entity or individual falling below their given standards. I believe TEA has fallen below standards by implementing a system with surgical precision to force Texas School Districts to also fall below standards.

    Specifically, federal standards that were put in place to prevent the very practices TEA has and is currently implementing. Specifically, the Rehabilitation ACT of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Act, there are many others. All of which, were put in place to ensure FAPE and make certain our children with disabilities are not neglected. With Texas denying a free and appropriate public education under IDEA, Texas has failed to prepare an entire generation of unidentified students to be able to further their post-secondary education, to prepare them for employment and independent living, all of which negatively impact the society of Texas, as a whole.

    When children are denied special education the following occur:

    – Many don’t graduate, thus they miss out on a critical general education.
    – If they go to college, they are unable to identify they need disability services and thus, they fail.
    – Social Security benefits are denied. If a child is not placed in Special Education, the SSA deems that child as not having a need.
    – As adults, Social Security benefits are still denied as they attempt to apply for benefits. One question they are asked: “Were you in special education?” If not, they are more often than not, denied.
    – STAAR testing: When 250,000 unidentified special education students are taking a test based on information they were unable to process during the year, this leads to poor scores. School districts, teachers and students are held to these scores.
    – Forcing teachers to mainstream these children, affects the ability of general education students to learn and for teachers to teach.
    – Bullying: These children are at high risk for physical, mental and at times sexual abuse from peers and faculty.
    – Many of these children have gone on to enter the school to prison pipeline, because the manifestation of their behavior is not being identified and addressed.
    – If their second language is English, and they do not have citizenship, they grow into adults that risk deportation when violating a law.

    The efforts of advocates are in vain and futile, while this 8.5 percent practice remains in place. I am imploring you to suspend this entire practice as earliest as you possibly can DURING the time TEA looks into the matter.

    I also encourage all Texas School Districts, especially, school districts in the south, to push back against this unjust practice, band together and commence to identifying students, in direct defiance of the 8.5 standard. I find it hard to believe that TEA and its board will not come under fire if they attempt to force all protesting school districts into submitting corrective action plans, submit regular status reports, or commence a takeover of any/all districts, all moves that are tools of harassment and retaliation to force unethical compliance.

    This blog does not allow me to include attachments, you are welcome to review my son’s ARD meetings. In those meetings I tell them, “One day this will be heard by the right ears and this may very well be a ground breaking example of corruption in Texas School systems in regards to the denial of special education.”

    I beg them, implore them to do the right thing. This committee of professionals refused to do so time and again, they refused the recommendation of other professionals (who were much more qualified) that claimed my son needed special education services.

    Perhaps what is most concerning is that in ELEVEN years NOT ONE highly educated professional identified that a MYRIAD of federal laws that were meant to protect our children were being overtly ignored and/or violated.

    Even when faced with statute, they still refused to do what needed to be done, when I brought them the authority they needed to abide by.

    * ONLY FEDERAL MANDATE WILL FORCE TEA TO DO THE RIGHT THING.

    * WE MUST BE ALLOWED TO SUE THE DISTRICTS OR THE STATE THAT HAS DAMAGED OUR CHILDREN.

    * WE NEED FEDERAL INTERVENTION TO HOLD THESE FOLKS ACCOUNTABLE AND TO ENACT CHANGE THAT WILL BE ENOUGH TO DETER SUCH VIOLATIONS.

    * If the appropriate amount of change is catalyzed at the federal level, districts and professionals should FEAR denying a child needed services to such a degree they will not even dream of falling below their standards.

    * We must have federal oversight or they will regress once the outrage dies out, this is TEXAS, they will revert to doing what they please and it may be another 10 years before we get the attention of the U.S. Department of Education.

    This debacle is likely the biggest story of mass negligence of students with special needs in America, we would like you all in charge of addressing this, to please behave yourselves as if this is indeed the biggest story of mass negligence of students with special needs in America.

    What has happened to Texas Children, our children is unconscionable, disgraceful and deplorable. Please fix this.

    I will leave you with a reminder that, the world is watching.

    Thank you,
    Vanessa S. Tijerina

  19. Our daughter qualified for services through the public school at age 3 due to delays in speech, fine motor, and gross motor skills as a result of having Down syndrome. We sought the least restrictive environment to be provided for her, in which she could receive the services needed. Our district did not have a general education classroom for 3 year olds at the time, so they recommended a placement in the PPCD program, with other students who also had similar or more severe delays. Having had experiences where our daughter learned negative and harmful behaviors from students with behavioral issues and significant speech delays, we knew this environment would not be productive for her development, but instead would have detrimental and negative effects. However, the district employees would not consider any alternative environments, though we requested placement in a local Mom’s Day Out program with children at her age and developmental level. The district refused to provide the least restrictive environment until we brought in a representative from an advocacy organization to an ARD meeting. Suddenly, the district was willing to consider other classroom environments for our daughter! However, the only option they offered to us was the Pre-K classroom with ESL and low-income students, most of whom were at least 2 years older than our daughter. We agreed to the placement, while expressing our concerns for her safety playing on outdoor playground equipment that was not appropriate for her ability level, and with children twice her size. Our daughter was able to function well in the Pre-K classroom, academically and socially, much to the surprise of the district employees. They clearly had underestimated her ability level. However, during the course of the next several months, there were numerous incidents where it became clear that they were unprepared and unable to provide our daughter with appropriate care. For example, they had no guidelines in place for potty training, and the methods they implemented included reaching bare-handed inside our daughter’s diaper to check if she had urinated, while in the middle of classroom activities. When it was found that she had in fact urinated, our daughter was reprimanded in front of the whole class. It was clear to us that not only was this an unsanitary method, but it was a horrible and demeaning way to attempt to train behavior. The classroom workers were clearly untrained in how to address our daughter’s needs, yet the district administrators continued to remind us that they were considered to have received the “highest levels of training.” We had also requested that OT and ST and PT services be provided in this least restrictive environment, but there were many times the services were not provided at the intervals and times that had been agreed to in the ARD meetings and her IEP. We filed a complaint with the TEA, and the school received a reprimand and command to provide additional therapy times. There were many other incidents that occurred which were cause for concern and which we believed were clearly detrimental to our daughter’s safety or development. We expressed our concerns with school board members and the district superintendent. During a meeting with our superintendent, he told me that a more appropriate environment could be provided for our daughter and students like her, but the district was instead choosing to spend their discretionary funding on sports programs. Upon hearing this, we realized that our district did not place our daughter’s basic educational needs even at the same priority level as extra-curricular programs for typical students, and it likely never would. When we recognized this fact, together with the realization of how much stress our family had been under throughout the process of learning about our legal rights and the legal requirements placed on the school district, we determined that our time would be better spent educating our daughter at home rather than spent fighting against a school district that clearly did not care to provide for even her most basic educational needs.

  20. In regards to the situation concerning my child who was diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, Austism Spectrum Disorder, Depression and fear provoked to the incident, EPISD does not and will not care about evaluating a child or the consequences that may arise for not evaluating them due to their corruption that exist in the district. The incident that I will described below was not taken care of and they never informed their superiors including denying that they were informed of the situation in which my child was hit by the whole class on September 11, 2015. This was reported to the district superintendent. I did ask her that if she did not understand Spanish that I could request another meeting with somebody that did and she said that she did understand me this was done in the presence of principal of my child school.
    In the document it was mentioned of the physical abuse of my child and the negligence of the principal and the teacher.
    The District Superintendent was informed about the 1st day of class in which the Teacher spoke to me that my child was misbehaving really badly. The second day she called us to meet with her in the classroom. The teacher let us know that my child had made another classmate cry and that is the reason why she gave permission to the whole class to hit him. My sister, older son and I attended this meeting. In the same meeting my child wanted to show me some paperwork of his and the teacher took the papers in an ugly manner. All of this was reported to the principal and he replied that he was going to speak to the teacher. The following day the teacher told my son that if he continued telling me what was happening to him she was going to keep him after school and that nobody was going to pick him up and that he was going to be in detention. Shortly after that he came home beaten. I requested for my child to be moved to a different teacher and the Principal informed that he had no other teachers. Also, the Principal informed me that as Principal he couldn’t believe my child was the only one misbehaving. My son informed me that The Teacher would not allow him to go to the bathroom and that was the reason why he would arrive home with his pants wet. When The Principal was informed of the situation he replied that the teacher and the child were not compatible and that that was the reason why she was doing that. As well my child was not allowed to eat her breakfast; the teacher would take his food and tell him to be quiet that she was going to throw the food away. When returning from P.E. and recess The Teacher would ask the student s if any of them got hit by Steven so she could punish him.
    A classmate that severely injured my child kicked my son on the chin and invited the other classmates to kick him. My son asked the child why he was hitting him and he replied that he was hitting him because The Teacher gave them permission to do so. Due to the beating my son was unable to eat and had to be taken to the doctor. My son did reported to the coach but the coach ignored him.
    When I requested a meeting with the principal he quickly replied that he was not going to meet with me and that he did not have time for me. In many of the instances that I went the office to report that my child was complaining that he was being picked on the Principal threatened to end him to the previous school and he would verbally assault me and Mrs. Lopez never did anything.
    I informed the Principal that I was taking my child out from the school due to the abuse my child was suffering he replied that that was fine and that the required paperwork was at the front office. All of this was told to both the Principal and District Superintendent. If they are denying this is because they have no morals because this information was also provided to the person in charge of the superintendent of the district by my brother and I and she acknowledges that she received said information.
    I went to the office of the assistant of the Superintendent to inform her of the situation but the assistant did not allow me to communicate with her. The reason for my visit was because I wanted to inform her about the situation so I could avoid anybody telling me that they were not informed. The assistant told me that they would call me at a later time but I never received a call back from them. Since they never called back I wrote a letter to the Superintendent to request a meeting when they responded with a date and time I met with another Superintendent. In the meeting I found out that she was never informed about the situation. Due to all of this I believe that the district needs to be investigated thoroughly and that financial help no t be disbursed.

  21. I am the parent of an autistic young adult. When he was in elementary school, I had to report the school district for which I work to TEA because they didn’t follow his IEP.

    I have continued to work in the same district. Over the years I have taught grades 5, 4, and 3. When I was teaching 5th grade, we were not trained on the RTI Process. We were told that we could not refer kids for special ed until we had gone through the RTI process, yet no way was made for us to do this. No training, no materials, no personnel to help us. We were given a sheet and told to go by it. When I went to an administrator to refer a student, I was always told they would not qualify. When I moved to an elementary campus, the procedures were much clearer and resources were more accessible, yet still students who were identified by teachers were not served because our special ed director was adamant that we could not go over 8 per cent of special education students for the district. Dozens of students I taught were not served in special education, and they should have been. In the worst case I have witnessed, a student came from Allen. Allen schools had her since she had been in an early childhood program for students with special needs (PPCD). She came to me as a fourth grader, and Allen schools had not completed testing by that time. Our school “completed” the testing. Even though it had been years since any part of the testing had been done, they didn’t start the testing over. Even though the child obviously needed services (she was reading at a first grade level), she did not qualify. At the ARD meeting, the parents were not present. I was given a signature page that required me to check Agree or Disagree. I asked our diagnostician if it would do me any good to disagree, and she said she didn’t know. No teacher had ever done that before. Future forms didn’t have us agree or disagree. The parents ended up having to take her to the physician she had gone to in Plano and get a diagnosis. The parent took the needed steps, which were really beyond the family’s means. Our school finally identified her under Otherwise Health Impaired thanks to the efforts of the parents. As a parent, I have been disappointed time and time again. Our school marginally serves my son, and most things that are done for him, I must take the initiative to force the school district to do it. Many things that the school district is responsible for doing,I I do it for him. Job training, transition management, and many other things schools are by law supposed to support, I have had to arrange for my son. It’s as if individuals with special needs have no place in our or in the real world. The last two special education directors our school has had have been ineffectual. They have been the “gatekeepers” whose job appeared to keep people out rather than to help people who need it. My husband and I have often scoffed at the school district’s publication of “Child Find.” Our school district has never wanted to find people who need services. If they are approached for help, it’s like there is a big KEEP OUT sign. Programs to serve kids exist in our district, but seem to be in name only, and don’t dare send any more kids into them. I have seen two teachers endure a student throwing chairs and desks, endangering himself and other students daily. Special education didn’t put him in a class for emotionally disturbed students until documentation of this type of behavior had been submitted for two years. It’s ridiculous what it takes to get a child identified. The only reason I can attribute to this is that they had information passed down from the state level that we could not identify more than 8 percent of our kids as Special Ed.

  22. Since 2002, I have been battling my school district to provide services for my son who has autism. When I say battling, that is an understatement. I have filed seven due processes and have gone to hearing three times. I was not surprised at the TEA cap of 8.5%. Special education has been skewed against Texan children and their families in my experience and from what I have observed from other families. The procedural safeguards (if you actually get them) are written to make the process seem fair. The whole process is anything but fair let alone kind to families struggling to help their special needs child. It is true that kids are not being evaluated. How can you provide services if you do not evaluate the kid? But, it goes beyond that. Parents are not being provided paperwork in advance of ARD meetings. How do parents know to even ask for an evaluation if they do not know how to prepare for a meeting? I cannot tell you the number of times the school district presented papers to me for the first time at an ARD and tried to force me to make a decision. I could write a book about my experiences, but I will just write about one. My son was enrolled in the PPCD program when he was 3 without the school ever doing a single evaluation in 2002. Why? Because his ECI services were about to end and the school district dropped the ball and did not do any work for his enrollment. I became hysterical about him not having any services, so they enrolled him. I was so naïve about the deficiencies of the services.
    I truly hope the Federal government will reform Special Education in Texas. I was truly saddened by the Houston Chronicle expose. I know the listening sessions have had a lot of parents who have been venting. But, that is because it has been hard dealing with the schools in Texas.

  23. Thank your for providing this blog and for the listening sessions in Texas. I am a parent of a child with a disability who attended Eanes ISD and received special education services from 2012-2016. I also have my Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology so I have professional and educational training in understanding children with disabilities including evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. My child immediately qualified for services because of the nature of the disability. However, the delivery of the services were in violation of IDEA and did not follow appropriate best practices for identification and treatment through her entire time in EISD. How did I figure this out? It took one year of research, observation, and direct questions to school administration and staff. Like other parents that have given testimony, my child was not making progress and was being excluded from participating in the least restrictive environment. During this year, I discovered that she was not administered state and district required early reading assessments. When I asked the teacher about this in front of administration, the response to me was first, “the technology person is looking for the results’ followed up a week later with “I was on maternity leave at that time”. In addition, I discovered that the staff was writing and choosing goals not based on diagnostic data which is the special education equivalent of “guessing or taking a stab in the dark” at what children should be working on in their IEP goals. I became horrified at the lack of appropriate diagnostic and educational practices used by the staff in one of the most highly rated school districts in Texas. This particular elementary school is rated in the top 10 in the state of Texas. The response from the principal, “I suggest that you go home and leave what happens at school with us”. The response from the special education coordinator “We do not have to follow best practices”. I started to dig farther, network with other parents, research the regional service centers in Texas. I was disturbed to find that my child was not alone. The most disturbing part of my research was the education training materials to school districts and their staff that I found from the law firm of Walsh and associates. That quote from the special education coordinator is directly from Walsh training materials. The next year came and I asked for more data, hired educational consultants out of my own pocket to train and guide the staff in best educational practices, and worked tirelessly to improve my child’s education “in the system”. I volunteered numerous hours of work at the school and volunteered for all special education committees. I never once hired an attorney or advocate. I paint this picture because it is unfair to categorize parents as angry, hostile, or bent on abusing the legal system. Why do I mention that? Because this is what I hear the firm of Walsh etc. tells school district staff at training about parents. These law firms are unfairly painting pictures of parents to school district staff and it is an ugly, below the belt technique. The only one that benefits here is Walsh and TEA. Teachers, parents, and children with disabilities are caught in the middle.
    Still, after 3 years my daughter was denied appropriate services based on IDEA and the IEP. The violation of appropriate practices is abhorrent and unethical. Here is one example, When my daughter magically improved exactly by 10% for the same goal three years in a row, I called foul. It is statistically impossible for someone to improve on the same goal exactly to 70% in May, 2014, 80% in May 2015, then 90% in May 2016. Meanwhile my child has lost 3 precious years of her education on a goal that I don’t believe was ever addressed and no data was ever taken. The breaking point was when I discovered that goals were intentionally sandbagged and this practice was approved by administration. At an ARD meeting it was suggested that my child’s third grade science goal (keep in mind this is for 1 entire school year) would be to identify 3 body parts in a field of 3 choices. This goal written for her was grotesquely sandbagged. My child could name body parts at the age of 3. This practice of sandbagging goals is unethical and does such extreme damage to the potential of children. Parents that are not educated blindly accept these goals to the unknowing detriment of their children. All because they trust teachers. The most crushing part about all of this to parents is that teachers are doing this. People that we entrust to “do no harm” to our children every day. Also, in my particular school district, I witnessed administration to the highest levels condone such behavior from the teachers. At one point, it was suggested that I work with the district’s special education family liaison. This fox guarding the henhouse (she is a an attorney) told me that parents have no control over “academics”. This same “special education family liaison” speaks at lecture series throughout the city giving parents advice that is not in the best interest of their children’s education. It is a shameful practice.
    After 4 years, I looked at the bigger picture for my child and how despite my best efforts she was still being denied an appropriate education based on IDEA. Like so many other children in the denied series, we have relocated to another state. The services in the new state are not in violation of IDEA and are based on appropriate best practices in education. I am satisfied with the services that my child is receiving in the new state but miss my family and friends every day. More importantly, my child with disabilities misses her family and friends everyday. The decision to move away from family, friends and a support network was difficult. How does one make the decision to choose a support network or a good job over your child’s education? This is what the state of Texas is doing to families of children with disabilities. It is wrong and has to stop now.
    OCR, the children and families of Texas need your help. This denial of services is across all demographics and income levels in school districts in Texas. How did this happen? Besides poor leadership at TEA there is also corruption and greed at the expense of disabled children and their parents. Follow the money trail between TEA and Walsh and associates. When TEA gives the message that it is okay to cap and deny services, there is the obvious affect of children being left out of receiving appropriate services. There is also a bigger cultural message that kids with disabilities don’t count and they don’t matter. The state of Texas is saying that children with disabilities don’t deserve to be educated to reach their fullest potential in life. When did TEA become God?
    Somewhere between the time that I graduated with my Master’s degree until now, the state of Texas has lost touch with what it means to follow best and appropriate educational practices and instead has focused on educating staff in how to deny services via Walsh and associates. Oh and one other thing that I can’t prove but let’s just call it a “working theory.” These techniques that teachers use like sandbagging…hmmmm…I wonder who is teaching them to do that? Oh I don’t know, could it be the law firms that teach them that their number one job is make sure that children “achieve their goals” so as they are not legally out of compliance with the IEP?
    My daughter and so many others have had their future potential negatively impacted by the TEA. The heartache that I feel as a mother who unintentionally put my child in harm’s way by enrolling her in public schools in the state of Texas will never go away. There is a social injustice happening in the state of Texas in broad daylight.

    • Agreed with all of the above. Please help these children and their families. Please enforce the changes desperately needed. These aren’t a day or week travesties. They are travesties lasting throughout the children’s entire education. Lives need to improve, not be destroyed before they even get started.

    • We moved to Texas in 2011. My son was diagnosed as dyslexic, ADD and gifted in 3rd grade in Louisiana. With accommodations, he was a successful honor student. He was in 7th grade in 2011 when we moved to Katy, Texas. Katy ISD removed all of his accommodations with a “screening” not a full evaluation. I had paid $7,500 to remediate his dyslexia in Louisiana with private tutoring of an Orton Gillingham based program. They said he did too well making all A’s and B’s in GT classes. I was not advised of my right to persue further testing. Year after year, I was told that he did too well to qualify and that he wasn’t dyslexic anymore. They ignored my full evaluation from Louisiana from a licensed, PhD. psychologist. Year after year I was never told of my options or given a copy of the Parent’s guide to the ARD process. They delayed a full evaluation for 3.5 years while offering 10 extra minutes thru RTI. All of his paperwork from the beginning spoke of his slow processing speed and dyslexia. For 1.5 years the accommodations were not sufficient. They FAILED him his Junior year in AP Language even though he passed the AP test! This goes against their own district handbook which says you can’t fail a student with an IEP if the teacher did not accommodate him. His AP English teacher failed to give him his extended time his Junior year in English. He was grade on his “disability” not his “ability”. I appealed to ACT and he was granted “special testing” the last time he was to take the ACT. He scored a 34! That is the 99th percentile. The school ruined his gpa. At the end of junior year my son had a unweighted GPA of a 2.5 and was ranked 600 out of a class of 800. He is brilliant. When they did qualify him, after all those years, they would only qualify him under OHI for ADD. They don’t use the “D” word in Katy ISD. Much to his detriment, ADD doesn’t cover written output disorder problems which goes along with dyslexia. In 10th grade I had an argument with the diag who told me she could pull my son out of classes he was doping poorly in and test him for 2.5 days and he still wouldn’t qualify. I asked her how she could know that without testing him. I said, “look at his processing speed at the 58th percentile.” She said that’s just a typo.” I said, “it wasn’t a typo when it was at the 33rd percentile in 3rd grade!” It was a child find issue from the beginning when they never did the full evaluation. We word forced down to some academic classes and told that they would not support him at the AP level. He was denied FAPE. They used him to tutor other students in the academic classes.
      The district has spent 1.6 million dollars on legal fees for one year. All the while having an attorney attend my son and daughter’s ARD meetings. They built a $72 million dollar stadium that should have cost 40 million. They spend so much time and money doing the wrong thing. The same time and money could be used to do the right thing. I paid for my own children’s remediation – $12,000 total. All my children need is extended time which is free. They would rather ruin their futures. Dyslexia is the most common learning disability. One in 5students have it and researched based information has been around for 40 years! These children are smart, and made to feel STUPID by the very people who should be helping them.

      The demands of high school are such that my daughter, also dyslexic and gifted was having trouble completing her work freshman year. She was not formally diagnosed, but I I knew the testing was expensive and chose to put the money into her remediation in 3rd grade and paid for the expensive tutoring which obviously was working for my son. Katy ISD has denied that my daughter is gifted (and was in the gifted program in Louisiana) and denied that she is dyslexic. They said that she didn’t qualify for special education. High ability should not preclude a person from being identified, but once again, they don’t use the “D” word. They hired a corrupt psychologist from outside the district because all the diags were too busy and they were shorthanded. The psychologist said that she was not gifted and not dyslexic. I don’t know what happens when you cross the state line, but apparently that is a thing in Katy ISD. She is managing with 10 extra minutes thru RTI and many of her teachers unofficially give her more. RTI is not a permanent solution and that won’t help her on the PSAT where she may very well be a National Merit Scholar if given the time to demonstrate her knowledge. That won’t help her get extended time in college where she surely will need it. I now need to wait an entire year to have her retested on the WISC.

      I have exhausted every avenue for justice but it fell on deaf ears. I filed a complaint with the TEA, OCR and for mediation. The TEA turned a blind eye despite the volumes of supporting documents that I had compiled. This is a systemic problem that has been allowed to exist. The school has been party to this from the top down! I was a former paralegal and knew how to advocate for myself. I quickly learned that the school had more money and legal power than I could keep pace with. The school district has been blatantly out of compliance and the TEA said and did nothing. Between delay tactics, harassment and discriminatory practices of not providing test prep for those needing extended time, the school has been allowed to do whatever they want, unchecked. The principal smugly told me, “to do what ya gotta do, it will take years”. The OCR dismissed my case based on what the TEA did.

      My son is left to apply to colleges with the worst possible GPA and class rank, with a great test score, and a copy of the news article, “Denied, What Texas did to it’s Special Education Students. It’s January and no acceptance letters have come in the mail to a fantastic kid who has everything going for him, almost an Eagle Scout, musically talented on the piano and cello. I am so sorry we moved to Texas. I paid for his remediation to avoid academic failure! All we wanted and want for my daughter is extended time, and that is free. I know my children will go on to have a great future when they get to college. When I attended the listening session, I saw how tragic it is for so many. It is so shortsighted what the TEA and all the school districts are doing. Society will pay for these children who could be functional for their whole lives. To be in that room and listening, was one of the saddest days, and what has happened is nothing short of despicable.

  24. I am a mothere of a now 11 year old son who is in KISD district at the age of 5, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADHD ODD and an Anger explosive disorder. I had been trying to get him in sped but the process took forever, while waiting he racked up on referrals then when he got put in the pbs program he would have outburst and get suspended. He spent more time at home than at school, because he was missing most of the second half of the day from class which was math he struggles still to this day he is trying to play catch-up. It has been very hard and difficult for him. He has also been sent to alternative school at his ard they were trying to say his behavior was not linked to his disability he spent 6 months there , I fought it I showed up with character witnesses, stacks of medical forms and paper work diagnosis, but he was still sent. Just last year he had a couple of write ups and they again tried to send him to alternative, but I was better prepared and educated I also had an advocate this time around needless to say he didn’t go. They say this pbs class is there to help, but I think it genders him its not the same as being in out classes and learning from the original teacher, his pbs teacher would tell him sometimes that she didn’t understand his work. I fight everyday for my son it is a continuous battle having a child with special needs is enough in itself why do I have to fight 10 times harder for him to get the education he deserves, and you always hear oh we care and we want to help, but when is the help going to arrive? When will my son and other special needs children and parents have to fight so hard to get their education?

  25. We took our daughter; who has Down syndrome out of the Arlington ISD because they would not give us an ARD or reevaluate her IEP meeting as we requested. We asked for the teacher to have an aide in her class for part of the day because she had to many students to provide the extra care needed for our high functioning daughter. The teach ended up being in my opinion abusive to my daughter. She would put her in a corner alone or take her with her to other students evals and make her sit in the corner as she conducted the evaluations with other parents. She also would send pages of notes for every 10 min that my daughter did something that she did not like. Once I requested an IEP the district was involved and they said there was no reason to have any help or aide. THe principal told us she couldn’t be moved to a different teacher so we took her out of public school. This was a consent fight to get her education and she was only in the 1st grade.

  26. PREDETERMINATION in HISD – Prior to our first year in public school in HISD, our zoned school called me from a “planning meeting” and proposed his placement in a PSI classroom. (I was unknowingly on speaker phone) We had not yet held an ARD for him at the school regarding placement. I would not agree. They called me back to ask me why and to say they had decided to reassess him “on his letters and numbers” ( another red flag as academic progress does not determine placement). They then pushed me to agree to get it done that week – by the end of the HISD 2014/15 school year – stating that otherwise we would have to wait until beginning of the next academic year. I would not be intimidated. I immediately hired an advocate and we started working on appropriate placement in his LRE.
    I was invited into the evaluation room with him and there was the SAME evaluator again who had done his previous testing. We spent almost 2 ½ hours going again through the Stanford-Binet testing – asking my non-verbal child to explain? act out? pictures of things he had never even seen/could not replicate (coach‘s whistle? scissors cuttting paper?) I finally told her we had had enough as she was not keeping his attention/ speaking in a low voice to a child with hearing loss and generally wasting our time on standardized testing. We had to shake some trees to even get an ARD meeting on the calendar prior to the beginning of his first year in school (2015/16). One of the supervisors we contacted in our quest seemed surprised he was not in a wheel chair? As if they had never read the file.
    After a 6 ½ hour ARD meeting at our Zoned School where we agreed to some Kindergarten IEP academic goals and included General Education inclusion time in Social Studies/Science and Reading as well as Ancillary. Recess and Lunch with his grade level… the committee seemed perplexed to discover that he was 7 years old. 6 ½ hours into the meeting and suddenly they said “they were not sure what to do about his age and whether they could place him in Kindergarten” They had NO ONE they knew to call to find out whether this was indeed a decision that could be made by an ARD committee? I was asked if I could come back WITHOUT my advocate at a later date so that they could figure this out. This was the Thursday before the first day of school that Monday. I indicated I would not go forward without my advocate and we decided to push on to finalize the IEP goals after an “indication” from the Special Education supervisor that there “was room” at our preferred school.
    The Special Education teacher from the nearby school where they send all of the “ Life Skills” students from our area was present at the entire meeting – he asked only one question. “ Does he have any food allergies?”Impressive.
    I was told, of course, when I went to pick up enrollment paperwork at the preferred school that “ due to overcrowding and the fact they had combined a Life Skills class from another school – there would not be a place for him and that I would have to look elsewhere – his actual grade level still undecided.
    A week later after visits to several schools, the Office of one of the Assistant Superintendents in HISD, the Office of School Choice at HISD, several attempts to speak with the Office of Special Education in HISD I finally was able to get a Principal’s Transfer for my son to a school we thought might be appropriate. When we arrived for his first day of school he was very excited to join the kids in the hall going to class but we were told we had to wait in the conference room to talk to the Principal. He informed us that Hans Graff – attorney for HISD had said our son had to enter either 1st or 2nd grade. No Kindergarten ? It was the second week of school – we were exhausted and tired of fighting and reluctantly agreed to 1st grade.
    LACK OF TRAINING FOR TEACHERS AND PARA PROFESSIONALS The 1st grade teacher he had for “ inclusion” completely ignored his presence> ( As told to me BY the Special Education Coordinator – who stated that she just “thought I should know” “ off the record” that she checked in on him and others in that class with IEPs and 504s and they were all “ being ignored” YET SHE DID NOTHING.
    I attempted several times to communicate with this First Grade teacher but she was not receptive. She consistently stated in ARD meetings that my son” was making absolutely no progress” in her classroom. She really had no idea why he was there. The Principal even apologized and told me later privately that he thought my son was making visible progress in school socially, at least, and he was sorry she didn’t see it – but she continued as his teacher. She is not at the school this year.
    This year – second grade – he had an amazing General Education teacher – who tried everything she could to help him. She was so positive and eagerly read everything I could find to help with inclusion and ways to help keep him on track. The students really enjoyed having him in class. But the SPECIAL EDUCATION teacher as well as the Coordinator did NOTHING to support him in her classroom. On the NINTH day of school I got a “notice for a Review ARD”. When I questioned “why?” they said it was to talk about behavior issues and to create a BSIP. There had been no mention or documentation of any issues – I was told that was “ out of compassion”. I asked if there had been a FBA done without my consent? Asked for an informal meeting to find out what was happening – it was not productive. After a few weeks of them “gently restraining him” and “pulling him from Gen Ed to send him back to Life Skills” each time they decided they had a problem I consented to the FBA – but to my surprise no behavior plan was created. The observation by the “Professional” consisted of one day – one 30 minute session in Gen Ed and 30 minutes in Life Skills. There were no education evidence based conclusions made – observations included “not sure” “emotionally overwhelmed”, “ like his brain “shorts out” when he is in Gen Ed” ? The Principal opened the meeting by saying the Behavior Assessment had been done…he recommended my son be completely removed from the Gen Ed classroom – with the exception of Lunch , Recess and Ancillary. The Special Education Coordinator seconded the recommendation. He has been removed from Gen Ed. Science/Social Studies/Reading and Calendar Time. We are currently preparing for a new ARD meeting as we have asked to see a Behavior plan but since according to them – he “ never has any issues in Life Skills” and he is no longer in the Gen Ed classroom this seems to be just paperwork.
    AUTOMATIC PROMOTION and FAILURE TO RETAIN
    My son received ridiculously good grades last year as they all came from his Special Education Teacher. She says “all of my kids do well”. He received two failing grades this year from his Gen Ed teacher (we had asked for true grades to be given) – mainly because they kept removing him from her classroom because they had no idea how to help him and he wasn’t there to participate and do the work. Even with those failing grades in his average – I am positive that a request to repeat this grade level will be denied.
    I am one of many who have struggled and continue to struggle in HISD. Some have moved their children into private special education , some have moved out of state, for others like myself – this is a daily struggle that affects our entire family – including his TWIN SISTER who goes to a wonderful school in HISD but just “ doesn’t have the resources” for my son. (Yet her school was just celebrated for being a shining example of inclusion in HISD)
    Please help these kids and their families. We are hiring tutors, private therapists, anyone we think can help promote academic achievement. We are determined that they will have a bright future in spite of our local and state education system shortcomings.

  27. Odem-Edroy ISD NEVER accepted my adopted son’s Autism diagnosis among other serious mental health diagnoses (that affected his education) that they refused to accept. They ONLY qualified him with ED. After years of refusing needed services & him being bullied by students, some teachers, & by some Admin AND his multiple restraints, seclusion, & exclusions, he went Alvin ISD & George West ISD. BOTH of these districts recognized, educationally diagnosed, & accepted his Autism AND other major mental health diagnoses as affecting his education. We should not have had to waste years of not receiving FAPE & being left with the last resort option of removing him from our home district due to Odem-Edroy ISD’s incompetencies & refusals.

  28. I worked as a school psychologist for 13 years in New Jersey before moving to Austin in 2012. I worked as a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) for Austin ISD for about 8 months before resigning. At AISD, I encountered too many instances of blatant disregard for IDEA mandates. When I questioned the “procedures” and how they were in opposition to IDEA, I was told “that’s how we do it here.” When I commented that it’s wrong, I was frequently told to stop complaining or I would never last in the district. For example,
    1- in pre-planning meetings we discussed what we would offer the parents, and if the district did not have the services, supports, finances, then we were told not to make the recommendation.
    2- if goals/objectives in the IEP called for assisstive technology or other “out of ordinary” service, then we had to get approval first, else not write it into the IEP.
    3- if we were going to be late in finishing the reports (60 days), then it was “suggested” that we meet with the caregivers, say the child was not eligible, have the parent sign a new evaluation form for other evals, and the clock would start over. That way we would be in compliance for timelines.

  29. If LEA could only learn to mind their p’s and q’s and play nice with the parents!

    The districts have learned to dot their i’s and cross their t’s with IEP Reports and other legal educational documents for purpose to be in MINIMAL compliance (avoid violation) with TEA according to IDEA Framework without actually practicing framework! The system is broken. LEA have mastered the “get over mentality.”

    IEP team has mastered inaccurately documenting parent’s, student’s, staff subject teachers (cheery picking) and other licensed professionals data to support developing an ineffective, Individual Educational Plan; thereby denying FAPE. Essential data required for efficient and accurate IEP is continuously overlooked related to student need for functional, adaptive, transitioning.
    IEP team has mastered skill to “CHERRY PICK”; thereby incorrectly , wrongly, inaccurately, and/or falsified reported data in IEP Documented as noted with overlooked, omitted, dismissed, inaccurately reported documentation by the IEP committee.
    • IEP falsely documents student academic and functional performance to be greater than what student actual is capable of doing or has done.
    • IEP committee wrongly develops IEP without consideration to research-based strategies related to disability of autism, student reported needs, parent report of concerns, in school subject teachers documentation, outside licensed professional reports; IEP team negligently documents IEP based on their opinions, interpretations, judgments, beliefs, and “cherry pick” to document IEP Report to meet TEA compliance.

    District school attorney’s should not be allowed to participate at IEP meetings unless a parent is offered the same EQUAL legal representation; otherwise it is a conflict of interest being the district attorney is unable to offer support to parent/student.

    I have two sons with autism and the most difficult part is battling the special education department. Next week I attend a Pre-hearing for Due Process!

    • PS. To Avoid False 911 Police Calls & CPS Visiting Your Home
      Do NOT upset the school director when advocating for your child’s educational needs according to IDEA…

      Two weeks following a letter of grievance sent TEA…
      The IEP committee had to excuse my son from recent ARD meeting for increased anxiety and ‘placing his head, face down on table’. At end of meeting, I was provided notice of need for two school Rx renewals for my son’s pain management for migraine and IBB. The following day, I sent a notice of absence for my son having a migraine with anxiety to Westlake Independent School District. WA made 911 Police Report alleging “Mental Abuse” and CPS for alleged, “Medical Abuse- Rx expired! CPS Investigator dismissed advising me to being new Rx to school. 🙁

      • Have you heard of this?
        https://www.justice.gov/crt/deprivation-rights-under-color-law
        More families need to write to the DOJ, and insist that they do something about this. I agree about the attorneys not attending the meetings. They did that with my child, even after we told her not to attend. When my child started crying I told them that the meeting was over with. She told me that if we left then they would decide the accommodations. That is exactly what they did. Now just how is that my child being apart of her own meeting, it is clearly not. Yet they did that to her.

  30. Our 13 year old son with diagnosis of Autism, ADHD, DMDD, and ED, enrolled in a north Texas school district, has been a battle with the school district from entering kindergarten. We had drained our bank account doing every therapy we could afford. We has therapist, advocates, BCBA’s come to the school, on our dime, to help train the staff. With all the training, BIP’s IEP were not followed. Documents were altered. After a long process and again being failed by the district, he was placed in a long term care facility. We received phone call after phone call to come and pick him up, which was a big no no. We requested from the district, for placement in a specialized autism school, as they could not provide an education for him. Of course, we were denied over and over. Fearing our son would be charged with assault by the district, we had no choice but to remove him from school.
    How is this providing a free and appropriate education. Like so many other families, our son was denied an education.
    When will the TEA see how their decisions affect families and not providing the necessary services for kids like my son.

  31. Iam a mother of a child that was in the cfbisd many years ago. Who was just sent through the special education school system. They did not tend to her needs as they should of. It was more like they babysat her instead of trying to find out how to teach her. I was able to work for cfbisd as a special education teacher aide many years after she was there. I worked with some very amazing teachers who believed all kids can learn,you just have to find out how to teach them and their strengths. That’s when i realize my daughter could of kearned. That so many schools just do as little as they have to by law to help our children. And no one is there at any of the ARD meetings to helpu or your child. They are there to give you what you want to hear,but to do as they should are not there.
    Now I have been back in the special education system with my grandson I have just adopted. He is in the LISD school district and I have been dealing with the district for several years now. He has several issues he is dealing with,ADHD, emotional disturb, PTSD. They school he attended last year was not helping with him,they were making it worse on him. Instead of trying to work with him and his disability they feed on him. He was suspended over 11 they called to I can not even say how many times to pick him up early, police called and threaten to take him to jail. He was 10. His therapist and I had meeting with them several times to talk about his needs and what he was going through. It took me to finally find a great advocate to get the help i needed to help him,get the help I have been asking for and I am still fighting that. They put a label on our children and once labeled they do not see past it. They do not even try to help the children the disability. They just try to meet their requirements and do as little as possible to get the child through the system. . If it was not for our advocate to help me get the true help my grandson needs and desserves through the school,he would be just going through the emotional rollercoaster and not getting anywhere. He would probably end up as so many others later in life struggling to work,be a respectable man, because the school system failed him, because they did not do what they should of been required to do for him. To teach him to find out the best way and to learn him. It is taking my advocate and I to make sure he gets the best out of his school,his teachers,the specialist and the laws that the advocate knows to get him the help he deserves to be a hard working successful young man later in his life he solely deserves. Do I believe the state is doing all they need or should he doing for our children that deserve just as much education as any other child,no I do not.

    • We know of a retired SRO that told us he was asked to provoke the kids in DAEP in front of all their peers until they did something to get them either arrested or thrown out. He refused to do so. He thought it was incredibly wrong, but he knew of others that would provoke the children. One boy that we know of was both ADHD and Bi-Polar. Once the kids are arrested or thrown out, they then go after them for truancy. Provoking students in front of their peers only to be labeled a “problem”, creates more instability and more mental health issues, but then the school doesn’t have to provide any services. Instead he/she receives new “labels”.

  32. The IDEA is a vital and living legislation that needs to be preserved, upheld and only revised to increase rights, services and protection of special needs students. School districts need to be held accountable for the policies or lack of policies that don’t abide by IDEA. We need tge services of advocates and attorneys to ensure IDEA is being implemented for each and every special needs students. There should be grants made available for families seeking justice for their special needs child, because districts have unlimited resources with the use of OUR tax dollars. And they will FIGHT against providing much needed services just to save money, time and effort. Our kids suffer because of their blatant neglect and out right disregard of their responsibility to the students. Politicians need to know and be made aware that special needs education and the IDEA MUST be fully funded and loopholes discovered by districts to shirk their responsibilities must be closed.
    WE WILL NOT GO BACKWARD! WE MUST GO FORWARD and be a VOICE for those who cannot speak for themselves!

  33. My son attends Killeen isd, he has ADHD and struggled from 5th grade up until his current senior year although from 6th-9th grade he had always failed multiple classes, I repeatedly attended teacher conferences and emailed corresponding was often and we were told he needed to attend tutoring which he did after school and sometime Sat. classes to pass state tests, also told he needed medicine changes as well which cost us psych. visits. He continued to fail which resulted in him attending summer school. He attended school for 3 consecutive years just about year round and was still struggling and failing. He became depressed his 9th grade year. A great THANK YOU to his advocate, during 10 grade, who suggested we sue the shool district to get the testing I had been asking for (I knew something else was wrong). Yes! I had to sue to get testing and we did…all this time he as had SEVERAL LEARNING DISABILITIES which was greatly limiting his academic progress. He will graduate this year but unfortunately has no desire to attend college…he tells me “I am not taking another school test as long as I live.” I greatly feel his misery and other students like him could have been prevented if the teachers and district would have listened to us in the beginning. Seeing you child put forth effort and still failing was only a wake up call for me but not the faculty…”he needs to attend tutoring” is all we heard for 4-5 years!

    • I have heard this story SPECIFICALLY in KISD SO MANY TIMES that it makes me sick. I am so sorry to hear your son went through this, Sue Ann, but he sure as heck sounds like a fighter!

      Please find our group– Fort Hood parents of special needs children on facebook. Non-military special needs moms in the area like yourself are welcomed to join!

  34. December 8, 2016
    To Whom It May Concern:
    Here is a brief history of my daughter’s school history as it relates to her reading and spelling issues. She had a great kindergarten teacher who really stressed phonics. The only problems she encountered was with the nightly sight word cards. It took her longer to learn them than it should have especially the ones like “who”. She would say, “That’s just wrong.”
    In first grade, she made A’s in everything except for a B in reading for the last six week’s grade. At the end of the first grade, her teacher said she was reading on grade level, and the only thing she was worried about was her reading fluency. I was also concerned about her spelling when she tried to write anything. She did fine on weekly spelling tests because she studied at home.
    Mid second grade, Her reading fluency and spelling were not progressing at the same rate as her math and listening comprehension. She had an excellent verbal vocabulary. If her math and listening comprehension were above grade level, why was her reading fluency and spelling below grade level. I requested that the school test Her for dyslexia. I agree with the scores they reported on the evaluation that they did, but I do not agree with the school’s interpretation of those scores. I think that the scores clearly show and unexpectedness because she scored in the way above average range with 139 on the listening comprehension and above average on the phonemic awareness with 120 and then has an 85 on reading rate. This indicates a problem which is going to start affecting her as she progresses to higher grades with much heavier reading loads. Her spelling on this assessment was a 90 which is barely in the average range. I contend that this score is also unexpected in relation to her higher scores.
    Throughout the third grade, She continued to do well in school. We continued to make her read at home and listen to books at home. Her teacher said she was a leader in the classroom. She did not memorize her multiplication facts this year, but she learned songs that helped her skip count to the answers. She scored advanced on both the STARR Reading and Math tests. She did ask her teacher to read every question to her on the math test. This is not allowed in fourth grade.
    This year so far in fourth grade, She is doing well, and the teachers don’t really see a problem. The teachers say that she is the student they use to help other students understand concepts because she is so quick at grasping new things and can easily explain them to others. At home, I see that she gets frustrated with herself because she can’t spell words that she thinks she should be able to spell. Last night on math homework, she needed to use the word people to label something. She said, “I have never learned how to spell people.” On that same homework, she spelled bake backe. In the one little paragraph example enclosed, she spelled want three different ways and none are correct. It seems to me that someone who scores advanced on the STAAR reading and math tests is above average and should be able to spell want, and read at a faster rate than she does.
    In conclusion, I am concerned that She will not reach her full potential as school becomes harder and contains longer reading and writing assignments. She is what called twice exceptional, meaning she is highly intelligent and gifted but at the same time has a specific disability. I believe that the testing clearly shows this, but because she makes good grades right now rhe school doesn’t want to identify her. Dyslexia under 504 needs to be federally funded just like SPED so that schools can afford to hire enough teachers for dyslexia students. Then they could supply services to the ones who are not way below grade level before they do start functioning below grade level and start developing anxiety issues. You see, I had a hard time learning to read in first grade. Luckily my mom was an elementary teacher who helped me with phonics at home. She and my first-grade teacher worked extra time with me. I did learn to read and was usually on grade level with reading, however I also read at a much slower rate. In high school, I was always the last person in my class to finish the state tests. Fortunately, they were not timed then. With a lot of hard work, I graduated in the top ten percent of my senior class. However, I could never score very high on the timed ACT test. I couldn’t spell either, but when I was in third grade our school started a phonics program called Johnny Can Spell. That’s when I finally learned to spell. When I was attending RN school I couldn’t pass the timed tests so I went to a doctor and got diagnosed with ADD. Then the college allowed me extra time. Without that extra time, I would never have passed any of those tests. This is why I want my daughter identified now and help us get her the help she needs so that she can reach her full potential.
    Sincerely,
    Chera Chavedo

  35. The Special Education in Texas needs a sever overhaul. Even in “good” schools it is very hard to get any services. We have a kid with sever ADAH and could not operate in a normal class room. He would be OK for the first part of the year, but by the end of the school year he would spend more time in in-school detention than in a classroom where he need help. And this is for an elementary school. We have had to go to outside specialist for diagnosis to bring to ARD meeting just to get the little bit of help we did get.
    The school said that he could not get any additional assistance till he was 2 years behind acedemicaly. He is in second grade and could not read or write how much more does he need to get behind.
    We ended up having to pull our kid out of school and home school, also we have a lot of friend who have had to do this for the simple fact that we could not get any help from the school for special needs.

    • The Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD has been taught to call parents over and over for every minor infraction an ADHD child has in order to get them back on the stimulants that made them suicidal. The phone calls were as such throughout the parents day working etc.”: “Your child has dropped his papers in class and we think it was on purpose. Your child cannot sit still during testing (accommodations would have such child removed from the large group testing). Your child continually poked himself in the eye in order to leave and go to the nurse (rather than get in trouble in class for not being able to focus).” We know of many many families that have been denied services in HEBISD. One mother was a principal in a neighboring school district, but her son attended in the HEBISD district. She tried for years to get him services for ADHD and they refused. One family reported that they asked for services in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD and were told that they didn’t have any and that they HAD to medicate their child and then went on to say they didn’t believe he had ADHD AFTER they asked him to medicate him. As soon as they ask for services, they say that they have to wait six weeks to evaluate the child in the school environment, but rather than evaluate – they start writing the children up and throwing them in ISS etc. The goal is to get the families to take their children out and leave. One family in Bedford had an autistic daughter that they were forced to have one parent quit their job in order to stay home and homeschool her. They were run out of Bedford Junior High. Families are being destroyed and children are coming out of these schools with more mental health issues prior to enrolling in Texas public schools.

    • I have two children that are in special education, but getting them there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I have a son that’s on the autism spectrum, but before I got a diagnosis from a doctor I asked the school to do it. They refused , even after his pediatrician called and asked diagnostician to do it. After I got an advocate involved the testing was done and the school agreed my son Asperger syndrome. So much wasted time. My son should have gotten help much sooner. This is unacceptable. I also have a daughter that has learning disabilities Kama again when I asked for her to be tested I got a letter of refusal. I got an advocate involved and my daughter was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia , dysgraphia and a learning disability in math. This diagnosis did not need to wait until her last year of elementary school , again so much time wasted. My daughter is in high school and still in resource math. I do believe the high school needs to offer more help for kids with dyslexia all the way through school. The help ends after Junior High, there’s is no longer a class for kids that have
      dyslexia. No parent should have to go through hell to get their child help.

  36. I am the mother of a daughter who suffers from Duane syndrome Type 3.

    Duane syndrome is an eye movement disorder present at birth (congenital), characterized by horizontal movement limitation (a limited ability to move the eye inward toward the nose, outward toward the ear, or in both directions). In addition, when the affected eye(s) moves inward toward the nose, the eyeball retracts (pulls in) and the eye opening narrows. In some cases, when the eye attempts to look inward, it moves upward or downward. To compensate for the decrease in eye movement, people with Duane syndrome turn their heads to maintain binocular vision. This can cause confusion, loss of position in space, loss of place while reading or working a math problem. Close work causes the eyes to pull inward, which causes the individual to have headaches.

    My daughter was diagnosed with this disorder at the age of six months, but it was not until she reached her high school years that I came to understand the extent of challenges that this disability presented to her in the classroom and in her schoolwork. These challenges became more apparent as the workload became far greater than in other years. Work was and is significantly more difficult for her than for other students. The major challenges she faces are as follows:

    * She has severely reduced eye tracking ability – whereas most of us are able to read a full page without turning our head from side to side, she has range of motion of only one inch to her left and one inch to her right.
    * She has a reduced ability to focus.
    * She often suffers from severe visual fatigue and horrible headaches. Much like a migraine.
    * She labors to read assignments that take twice as long to complete.

    After several months of frustrating meetings with the CCISD 504 committee in League City, Texas, made up of teachers, department heads, counselors, assistant principals and special education leaders, my daughter was denied accommodations. Instead they requested that she step down from her AP classes and to withdrawal from the band program. These were the same AP classes they had previously encouraged her to take. These CCISD leaders/educators spent their time working against us rather than educating themselves of this disorder. They refused to find ways to help her maintain the level of learning she was capable of and of which she desired. In our meetings they admitted that they knew nothing of Duane syndrome and had never heard of it. Ignoring all of the doctors reports they referred to the “internet” for their support and comments. In one meeting the assistant principal referred to her disorder as a “disease”. In that same meeting the 504 department head asked why I had not allowed my daughter to have surgery to correct the disorder. When asked if she had read the eye doctor’s report, with no hesitation she said, “NO”. This was the same report that indicated there was no surgery to correct her disorder. My daughter was in that meeting. They were brutal with their comments in an effort to intimidate me and insult my daughter. It was at this time I hired an attorney that specialized in 504 accommodations. Even then they fought me. Again several months of meetings came to past. After a total of nine months (end of the school year), of going back and forth, a hearing was held. Our attorney presented our case before the Judge, (a Judge selected and paid by CCISD). We had over 250 exhibits to present. Witnesses included myself, my daughter’s eye doctor and my daughter. CCISD was represented as well with an attorney and special education leader. The Judge requested a recess before all the exhibits and witnesses were presented. When we reconvened our hearing became a mediation. Accommodations were finally put in place for her senior year at CCISD. But I had to agree to drop the 504 complaint filed at the Texas-State level before they would put them in place.

    It is a shame that CCISD’s resources (time and money) were not used in a productive way. But worst of all their lack of effort to put forth the very best the district had to offer. ALL at the expense of my daughter’s education. SHAME ON YOU – CCISD!

    I am forever grateful for the knowledge and skill of our attorney and the wisdom of the Judge to seek what was best for my child when our educators could not.

    My daughter is happily attending college with accommodations and doing well.

  37. I am a journalist who reported on special education in Texas just before the eye-opening Houston Chronicle investigation kicked off. I started work in Killeen, Texas, in July of 2015. Within my first week, during my very first school board meeting, it came to light that the Texas Education Agency conducted an investigation of the school district, Killeen ISD, for special education non-compliance.

    The TEA investigation found special education problems in Killeen ISD dating back seven years. Killeen’s special education director and the special education compliance director “retired” shortly after.

    After my first special education article hit the streets the flood gates opened. I received call after call from parents of special needs children in Killeen ISD. Parents that were frustrated. Many of whom broke into tears re-telling his or her struggle to attain appropriate services for a special needs child.

    Many of these parents have been fighting for years. Lots of them are still fighting. They have filed grievances in-district, Texas Education Agency complaints, Office of Civil Rights complaints and privately sued to gain the necessary services for their little ones.

    One important thing to note: Killeen is far different than most communities in Texas. Killeen ISD is adjacent to, and economically dependent upon, one of the largest U.S. Army bases in the nation, Fort Hood.

    Oddly enough, Fort Hood is a base that is designated as an appropriate EFMP assignment for soldiers with special needs children. However numerous military parents have said that is simply not the case.

    These military parents know better. Parents told me countless times that this wasn’t how it was in Colorado, North Carolina, Alaska, Washington, Maryland… the list goes on. These parents knew they received more educational services, without a legal fight, in other states and that something was awry in the supposedly friendly Lone Star State.

    More than one Fort Hood soldier & family were granted compassionate reassignments, and thus uprooted, due to the district’s unwillingness to appropriately address the educational concerns of military affiliated special education children.

    One special education teacher in Killeen ISD explained to me that moving to Killeen from Washington state was like turning back the clock and returning to the “dark ages” in regards to the level of education for special education students.

    I could go on and on. A couple of themes stood out from the flood of calls though.

    A common story I heard from at least a dozen different Killeen ISD parents was that of the medically diagnosed autistic child who was denied services because the child’s autism diagnosis did not equal an “educational” need for services.

    So what happened to those children? These kids would have meltdowns daily before school, some ran away, others would cling to the sides of his/her parent’s car in a desperate attempt to not be left behind. A high volume of special needs children receive disciplinary placements, ISS and OSS, in Killeen ISD. Austin non profit Texas Appleseed listed Killeen ISD as one of the top five offenders for disproportionate disciplinary placements of special needs students.
    Parents would tell stories of special needs children who came home with unexplained bruises or injuries. A few years back, a special education Killeen ISD student, and foster child, died at school of asphyxiation from a failed “restraint.” The teacher involved moved on and now teaches in another state.

    One story that will stick with me forever is that of a highly autistic non-verbal child who came home saying the phrase “I’m bad, I’m bad, I’m bad,” repeatedly, leading his parents to take him to the doctor and a subsequent CPS child abuse investigation filed on one particular Killeen ISD middle school.

    I don’t think ending the cap will put an end to the problem with special education in Texas, but it’s a start. This seems to be a much larger moral issue. Killeen ISD boasts that they are above the 8.5 cap, but in reality they are still far behind the national average. Look at the drop out rates. Look at all the Gibson Consulting audits conducted throughout Texas on the taxpayer’s dime. Look at the rise of the district’s legal fees budget. Talk to the independent therapists in the area. Give a call to Oak Creek, the private school that popped up to fill the need for appropriate special education in the area.

    I look forward to seeing a resolution as many souls are relying upon the swift action of the government to ensure each and every child’s right to a free appropriate public education.

    • Thank you for caring! Your reporting has been great also.

      The KISD Gibson Report encapsulates the systemic problems happening in most Texas ISDs.

    • I agree that this is a “much larger moral issue.” If there are more parents in a district speaking out in favor or sports and extra-curricular programs, and administrators desire to place funding into these areas rather than into educational resources for children with disabilities, then guess where the funding goes? At least in our district, sports are valued much more highly than educating students with delays. If only people would realize that these students have a LOT to offer to our communities! However, even many students without delays are not being valued and educated appropriately. I think it is obvious that there is too much federal government involvement and too little parental involvement. When parents are kept out of classrooms and kept out of the education process, the level of achievement diminishes. Schools need to encourage parental involvement and return responsibility to parents, with accountability provided at the local level. The ARD meeting process eliminates parental input and involvement when school employees have already determined what will be done before the parents even arrive at the meeting.

    • I work in sped in tx. I am so sorry to hear of the horrors of the district that you speak of. I agree lifting the cap will not fix the problem. in my opinion they need to hire more people and provide more support to the workers. Also the paperwork demands are nearly unattainable. When you place your workers in impossible situations and give them no support, it will fail. They blame budget. Is it true across the board? I don’t know. If I am to trust my department leads and agreed it’s budget then tx legislation needs to do something.

  38. My family belongs to the Killeen Independent School District and we have had several problems with the Special Education procedures. My wife and I have two boys who sadly both have had developmental delays age 10 and 7 now. The oldest delays have been the worst. When he entered 1st grade we knew it was going to be a struggle.
    I fear the issues we faced were systematic, from the bottom up. Our son was clearly behind but the teacher from the year before never mentioned it, never sent homework, and anytime we picked our son up never seemed to have control of the class room. When his 1st grade teacher noticed his inability to keep up or do the work she blamed it on his immaturity and when we asked her if his speech delay might be a symptom of a larger learning disability she used her experience to intimidate us into letting go of the notion that there was anything wrong with him other than his behavior. Why wouldn’t we trust someone with over two decades of teaching experience??? So we focused on his behavior and his school work, which meant that after his eight hours at school we would spend another four hours doing his homework. This homework was only supposed to be 30 minutes of work, we would spend it alternating between trying to get him to understand the symbols on the paper & their meanings and trying to get him to calm down, stop crying, as well as punishing him anytime he stopped engaging. Little did we know that he wasn’t being difficult or lazy or immature, he was being crushed by shame and confusion.
    Imagine sitting in a classroom where you see your peers easily participating in the lessons, doing the work and passing the tests while you can barely spell your own name. For eight hours you sit there trying to understand as much as you can but most of it becomes just noise. When you take a moment to let your mind rest and focus on something you can understand you are told to “stop and pay attention”, you are told to “stop being a disturbance” and “stop being immature”. It was a hard year for him, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But he did the work, he put in the time, he improved by leaps and bounds almost getting to level on everything except for reading,
    When we got to the Speech ARD at the end of the year we weren’t sure what to expect, we actually didn’t even know what and ARD was. I’m not sure any parent outside of the system could have any idea the scope of what it is. Sure they give you the paperwork and procedural safeguards but the clinical jargon and the 50 pages of legalese seems more like a fog to prevent you from seeing what’s going on. The ARD was held a week or two before the final grades were to be turned in, so we asked the teacher if he was going to pass the response was it was unlikely and we would have to wait and see. The school year ended and we still had no idea, the summer ended and we still had no idea, it was the first day of the next school year and that’s when we found out that he wasn’t going into second grade, he had been retained.
    Instead of being rewarded for all his hard work once again he was told he wasn’t good enough. Going from 0 – 65 in reading is not failure. We trusted the educators to do the right thing, they didn’t. Not once were we told he was going to be held back. Not once were we told how we might remedy this. Not once were we told we had the power at the ARD to veto the retention. We knew our son was different but not one of the educators he had wanted to listen.
    Thanks to his doctor and our sons bed wetting, which at this point we attributed to stress, he was able to see a psychologist over that summer. After a long day of paper work and tests we felt like things might finally get clearer. A couple weeks later we receive the results and it is made clear that our son falls under the Autism Spectrum. We finally had proof that he indeed needed extra help. We turn it into his 2nd first grade teacher, mind you she only knows him as the smartest kid in her class but clearly sees he is different, who is glad to make copies and happy we have something to show he needs attention. We wait to hear from the administration……we get nothing.
    We trust that the system will do the right thing and we wait patiently. Months go by and we receive a letter in notifying us his ARD, we think, Thank God we are finally going to get some answers about what the school can do for him. Turns out the Administrator didn’t even send it to the Special Education coordinator, and this meeting was about some alterations in his speech goals. So we made a copy and gave it to them right then and there. Months go by and once again we hear nothing. Our sons yearly ARD rolls around and its the last week of school. We sit there and listen to what they all have to say once again not really understanding the clinical terms and statistics they are using to describe his performance, then they ask us if we agree so that we can sign paper work and wrap things up. We ask what about his Autism diagnosis? Everyone around the table except his teacher looks dumbfounded. They once again lost track of his paper work.
    The coordinator hadn’t lost the paper work they just refused to look at it, how do we know because at the very same ARD she had the copy we made her six months ago. She looked it up and down like she never seen it before but clearly she had it. This ARD had nothing productive to add to our sons education it was purely procedural. Our son had repeated the first grade and passed with straight A’s, a mostly wasted year except that it helped wash away the shame he felt at the beginning of the year when his peers from the year before went on to the second grade. We were done waiting for people to do the right thing.
    The summer passed and the new school year began our son was finally in second grade but when we asked his teacher if anyone had informed her that he was Autistic we got a no. By this time we had met with an advocate who let us know exactly what we had to do. We, as his parents, called an ARD which prior to meeting with the advocate we had no idea we could do. At this ARD we demanded that his diagnosis be taken into consideration, and it wasn’t until then that we were told that outside diagnosis were ineligible. Thanks to the our advocate we were able to demand the district testing for Autism.
    So instead of offering us testing for our son to qualify him for services at school, they sat on our outside diagnosis for 18 months and it wasn’t until we threatened legal arbitration that they started to listen to us.
    The District has the legal obligation to find students with learning disabilities not just on their campus’ but in their area. How can they possibly be performing this task if even in one of their schools a student sits who’s parents push for testing but are met with teachers who don’t notice or push back against it. Administrators don’t send paper work or follow up on said paper work. Special education coordinators who hide in the fog of procedure and withhold information. What we need is cooperation not confrontation.

  39. I have noticed a systemic problem in the Katy ISD system. Since my child was in 1st grade I have been bringing my child’s disability to the attention of the district which is noted in ARDs, parent-teacher conferences, 504 and the like. The distrcit routinely tries to push my child into the RTI processes which is rarely implemented with fidelity. The district has required me to jump through burnsome hoops, such as telling me I need to take my child to the doctor and/or medicate him “so its easier” to get the accomodations he needs. I have heard this from multiple personnel at his elementary school and junior high even though their own multiple testing shows he has a disability. When I hear the exact same statement from multiple staff members at multiple schools this tells me their is a systemic problem. At various school they’ve acknowledged he had a disability and needs accomodations but its not “significant enough” so we are continually rerouted into an RTI process that isn’t monitored nor transitions between grades and schools; and I have a medical diagnosis!! As a result he is in a continual cycle of struggling to learn, failure, then intervention so the process starts over again. This wouldn’t happen if in 1st grade when he meet 6 of the 10 criteria for a disability he would have been identified and accommodations would have been put in place and monitored. he would have received an educational foundational monitored by goals so its clear if its working. The system has failed him. our family has spent enourmous funds to hire tutors and advocates to stay on top of the district as they bungle at every turn which is a full-time job. I can’t imagine what a less informed family would do. Clearly this district has system problems with staff training, process for idenitfication, transition and monitoring. the state has failed to ensure districts are trained in revised legislation and how to identify. As a parent, i shouldnt be expected to be the expert in Special Ed.

  40. I am a mother of one hard of hearing daughter, who has a 504 plan, and one Deaf daughter, who has an IEP. They are enrolled in the Houston Independent School District. I am concerned about my Deaf daughter’s placement for 6th grade. Right now, she is enrolled as a fifth grader at a magnet school with full time interpreters.

    I have consulted ___ ____ _____ for advice since she resides in Houston and she completed her dissertation, titled “An Examination of Parental Experiences in the IEPs of Deaf Children: A Qualitative Study.” However, she advised me to contact you since you coordinates the ERCOD. _____ mentioned to me that there is an educational specialist who coordinates the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program in Houston area. However, _____said that she would be happy to sit with me when I meet with you via video so she can help guide me through the process to convince the Houston ISD to provide the academic and socio-emotional needs for _______, my Deaf daughter. I am also considering to transfer different ISD for my deaf daughter.

    Thank you,

  41. In Texas, a discrepancy model is used to determine if a student has a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). In order to qualify as SLD, the student must have an average IQ that includes a discrete cognitive weakness such as memory. This cognitive weakness must correlate to academic weaknesses.

    This method prevents students with below average IQ’s, say 75 to 85, from being identified as SLD. These “slow learners” are denied special education services. Years ago, Texas allowed a “Method 2” to be used to determine SLD. It gave diagnosticians and ARD committees the freedom to use professional judgement and determine a student to be SLD even if his IQ and achievement did not have a significant discrepancy.

    In Iowa, a discrepancy model is also used. However, the discrepancy must be between expectations (grade level curriculum) and achievement. If a discrepancy exists, a student is labeled an “entitled Individual” and receives special education services.

    Maybe Texas students are under-identified because students with below average IQs are denied special education services because they are not “smart enough”. They are too low to be identified as SLD and too high to be identified as Intellectually Disabled.

    Please, please, please either bring back “Method 2” or follow Iowa’s lead!!! The slow learners really need special education services.

  42. from a concerned teacher … if you would maybe provide adequate funding for special ed supports and services more students could be serviced and not denied… its a funding problem 1st…

      • Other states are able to provide appropriate services based on the same amount of funding from the federal government.

  43. A comment on a blog is defiantly not enough space to explain the torture my child has been put through. I recently withdrew my child who has a diagnosis of Apraxia and Autisim because – well simply put- the school fought with me on everything. I needed my child diagnosed…. They refused to pay for the special test it took to diagnose an apraxic child despite their therapist’s request; they refused to fully evaluate my child after I requested it be done; my child was medically diagnosed with autism and the diagnostician who met with my son for less than three hours didn’t ‘see the symptoms’ and ‘didn’t believe he was autistic’.
    The question is why? Why fight parents who are looking for services to help their children. Unless, you simply don’t want more kids in special education. When I asked our superintendent that very same question she told me about the cap that was placed on the schools; the magic number everyone had to fit.
    I blame the ideology that was created by this lie, this percentage everyone was told they needed to mold their schools to fit. But also let’s look at rules that encourage administrators, diagnosticians to play God. For example, eligibility is based off of the school’s evaluations. They can take into consideration outside sources like doctor’s diagnosis but don’t have to if their opinions don’t match up?! Yes, I can protest the situation and bring in a third party but that takes time and what do you think is happening in the classroom meanwhile??? This is where the state of Texas failed my child. My suggestion– Move away from this concept that opinions of doctors and properly trained professions don’t matter or fall second to the school’s evaluations. Accept doctors’ and private therapists’ diagnosis and start implimenting the change that best suits the child. Why? Because Texas, your faculty and staff is tainted. They have been turning down kids in order to fit under a cap for so long that horrible habits have formed. The worst habit of all- they write not eligible across the opportunity for our children to experience success.

  44. I am the parent of a 21 year old daughter with high functioning autism (PDD-NOS), ADD, and dyslexia. She attended elementary, middle, and high school in Texas, Leander ISD public schools. She went through the system as 504 for dyslexia. Her diagnosis of high functioning autism did not come until her sophomore year of public high school.

    Our story begins when my daughter finished second grade, when there had been a “gag order” on first grade on the teachers. They were not allowed to identify students as dyslexic, because at that time, there was no program for them. My daughter was granted 504 accommodations in second grade for dyslexia, but only after I had her tested privately myself and put my foot down. She was tested by the school, but it took months and months for the school to get her tested. Her school did put her into their reading pull-out program prior to the school’s testing results because it took so long to get her tested by the school, and I supplied the test results that we paid for privately. Once identified, her school had only one program for struggling readers, both for slow readers and dyslexic readers.

    The public school down the street had two different programs: one for slow readers and another special program for dsylexics. Around the time I threatened to pull her to the school with two programs, her school got approval to add a special program for dyslexics. Nevertheless, when implementing the special program for dsylexics, the school diluted the program with too many students and too little teachers for it to be effective. She was pulled out for her special reading program during math instruction. Her benchmarks suffered as a result of the diluted reading pull-out program in our district, so before Spring break 3rd grade, we transferred our daughter to a special school for dyslexic children. What a life saver that very expensive move was for our whole family! Only in her private school did anyone notice she had sensory integration problems. My heart ached and continues to hurt for her dyslexic peers without the means to attend such a fine school.

    The disparity between dyslexia remediation programs between districts was really sad. I was a student teacher in AISD, and that district, at that time, only had one program for both struggling readers and dsylexics—all lumped into the same pull-out program, whereas some schools in Eanes ISD as well as Lake Travis ISD had separate, evidenced based programs, best practice– with good outcomes for students with dyslexia in place.
    She returned to public school in middle school. After Middle School, her 504 was expanded to include “anxiety.” A lot of phenomenal teachers and a great principal got her through Canyon Ridge middle school making Junior National Honor Society. I wish I could hug every one of them. Then came

    The great chasm of high school:

    Her first five weeks of high school went without any accommodations because the teachers had still not gotten her paperwork. In Texas, a 504 is in effect what I call a DECORATIVE ACCESSORY. There is not enough real accountabllity with a 504. I had an AP high school English teacher call her up to the board to correct spelling errors in front of the rest of the classroom, another AP high school English teacher tossed the 504 back at me and told me she could not possibly give her “all those accommodations, and I should pick one.” That teacher was gone the following year.

    Her ADD was simply ignored. When I asked for special programs that might help her with organization and sequencing issues, the high school counselor told me they, “ had nothing and I could make a whole lot of money if I did one. “ Not once, in all her years in public school, did any school staff breathe one word about special education for my daughter. High functioning autistic girls are harder to identify, so they often do not get identified. They get bullied. And there’s no access for them in resource rooms, no safe haven on campus for them to hide nor access to educators especially trained about autism and ADD, who understand and their educational special needs. It got so tough on her, we had to pick her up at lunch time, get her off campus just to give her a breather. The school turned a blind eye to our taking her off campus, instead of mentioning SPED. Having to retrieve her so that she could reboot and function at school meant I had to be available during the day, so I could not hold onto a full time job. It was a part time job to advocate for her educational needs, class by class, teacher by teacher, day by day.

    My meetings with the school, all the emails and phone calls were humiliating to me. I felt like I’d been given the badge of Helicopter Mom (shame). With a post bacc in bilingual education, I had no desire to bother already stressed teachers and administrators about my daughter. I know how tough their jobs are! It was a lose lose for both sides of the parent teacher connection. And not just for me: Her last 504 meeting, at the high school level, she cried. She cried the entire meeting, and they just pressed on to finish the meeting. It was brutal!

    Ultimately, she was transferred to a special, little known high school in the district where she could complete her high school work online, but had to drop out of her extracurricular activities to attend there.

    There tends to be comorbidities with dyslexia. One way I believe that the districts suppress special education services is to keep dyslexics on a 504 instead of an IEP. That works well for the school, but not so well for the student and their family. Trust me when I say, it almost killed her. With the school having little accountability given that they considered the 504 decorative, my husband and I spent enormous amounts of time advocating for her in public school. I did not have the time nor the emotional strength to sue the school. I hurt for families whose parents have to work multiple jobs and are not in a position to spend so much time advocating for their children’s special needs.

    My daughter is finally excelling academically, at the University level, where she is valued by her professors and will create new knowledge — because she thinks so far out of the box. Oh but what a slog it was for her to get to University given the great chasm of high school!

    Currently she lives away from home (on campus) and is getting straight A’s, at a Texas university. She is the spokesperson for her student organization for students on the autism spectrum at her university and has collaborated with university personnel as the university continues to fine-tune its resources for students on the spectrum.

    Great outcome! The weird thing is that she gets better treatment from her teachers and the administration at the University level than she got in a Texas public schools leading up to university. One has to wonder why and how many, many brilliant children have fallen through the cracks created by inadequate teacher training programs in the mainstream classroom, and mainstream classroom teachers so overwhelmed, under supported, limits being placed on special education services, and dyslexics stuck with only a 504 to scaffold them (that ends up getting ignored).

    Thank you that you are listening. I am confident and relieved that things will be better for students like my daughter in the future because of your listening and the truth coming to light. God bless each and every one of you who personally came to Texas to hear us right before the holidays. Wish I could have been there!

  45. I attended the Austin forum but did not get to speak.

    Thank you to OSER for holding the listening sessions and for creating this forum for online comments. This is exactly what TEA should have done, but transparent and stakeholder-involved service is not part of the agency’s ethos. The same can be said about many Texas local districts, where board policy is set by the Texas Association of School Boards, and elected trustees are actively constrained from representing constituents by acting as a “team of one” with the superintendent.

    I hope that you have noticed patterns in the stories you have heard: Child Find passivity, delays, denials, triangulation of parents and teachers against each other, retaliation against families and teachers and other educators who champion students, bullying of students and parents, and most significantly, the branding of special education as a “stigma” instead of as a civil right, as if somehow disability will go away if we don’t admit it exists. This is an orchestrated system abetted or quite possibly perpetrated by Texas law firms funded by education money to mitigate civil rights in order to “save” money for schools, regardless of the costs to children and families and the long-term costs to the common good. Even the Texas students provided with IEPs have been up against a systematic, publicly funded, institutional denial of special education for a decade.

    At about the time that this covert cap was instituted, the then special education director in my district shared a report about the growing numbers of children with disabilities moving into our district, which was considered the best in the region. “Can’t we do something about that?” the school board president at the time asked. And that’s when things started to get very ugly.

    Though I was an experienced certified Texas teacher, i found the experience of advocating for my child from that time to graduation daunting. My child did have an IEP, but monitoring and advocating for implementation of the laws Congress passed to benefit my child was like having a grueling unpaid time- and energy-consuming second job. Even our well-intentioned teachers, service providers and campus administrators often seemed to have their hands tied. Here is a partial list of the battles we had to fight in a “good” Texas school district for a grade-level academic performing child with CP:

    Years of delay to agreeing to fact of vision disability
    Sporadic (and seemingly “voluntary”) IEP compliance with no accountability (special ed directors have no authority over teachers and IEP compliance is not included in teacher evaluations)
    Denial of district obligations to provide wheelchair facility access including claims of being “grandfathered” from the ADA and an excuse that “other families want things for their children”
    Lack of policy regarding participation of children with disabilities in field trips and parent-organized activities
    Denial that recess is a program
    Placement in a low expectations math track based on disability rather than academics at the elementary level without telling us this was occurring
    District denial of its obligation to hold a program contractor accountable for discrimination based on disability the contractor claimed had been sanctioned by the then superintendent
    Failure to provide assistive technology
    Bullying and exclusion
    Denial of obligations to provide opportunities for social and extracurricular participation
    Burden on student and family to monitor and enforce IEP implementation

    And that is just a partial list. I did all of my child’s transition planning. On more than one occasion I held meetings during which I had to ask if the IEP was worth the paper on which it was written. I still can’t believe I had to work and fight so hard against the very entity funded and entrusted to help me prepare this child – who loved learning, who worked hard, who never caused a behavior problem, who changed the lives of so many around her– for her future. How can I ever express the heartbreak of hearing my child tell me, so many times, that she didn’t feel welcomed at her school? How can I ever express the emotional and financial toll this constant battle took on my family?

    The West Texas District Attorney was absolutely spot on when he testified at the Austin hearing that what we have is a systematic per se denial of the civil rights of Texas children, and that an independent investigator needs to be appointed to look into the tactics that are being used to achieve this. That investigation should include real work into where the special education money is going. How can LEA budgets be the same (or larger) even though the numbers of children served, and the services they are being provided, have declined? Are Texas districts supplanting state and local obligations with federal dollars? Are IDEA dollars offsetting Texas legislative failures to fund general education? And – OSER should take a very close look at the role of the “Law Dawg” (who was shouted down in the Austin hearing). There is very good reason for the parents’ emotional reaction to him. Ask TEA to investigate and report the amount of money his firm and others are paid annually to develop the patterned tactics LEAs are using to deny children. United States and Texas taxpayers deserve to know how much of the money they believe is intended to educate kids is actually being spent on lawyers who fight children with special needs and train educational leaders how to do it.

    Most of all, every superintendent, special education director, principal and school board member in Texas should be required to participate in disability rights training conducted by an outside, child-focused advocacy organization, which includes reminders of the mission and purpose of IDEA, Section 504, the ADA, the Texas Educator Code of Ethics, and the research-based data that justifies fidelity to these laws as a common good.

    Please help stop the egregious injustice happening to children, families, and well intentioned front-line educators in this state. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your eloquent comment! I’m just a nobody who commented right before you, but I was touched, almost healed, by your comment, “how can I ever express the heartbreak?” That’s it! Inexpressible heartbreak.

  46. I am a private practice ALT (Academic Language Therapist). I see all the kids that slipped through the cracks. On a weekly basis I turn away students that have been denied services by Texas public schools. Many of these children clearly have severe reading difficulties or dyslexia. The 8.5% was definitely seen as a cap versus a suggestion by many administrators; this isn’t just one or two that didn’t understand. I have received requests for services from parents in roughly 20 different school districts in and around Austin. This isn’t just a few districts, but a state culture of deny, deny, deny. Parents of special needs students are desperate to get their children help, because Texas public schools are not providing an appropriate education for them.

    In an attempt to limit the number of students that receive an IEP, Dyslexia students only receive a 504, despite IDEA listing Dyslexia as a Specific Learning Disability. This allows schools too much leeway with these students. It also means, many of these students that are also gifted are not getting the support and services they need in their GT classrooms, because these teachers have not received training for instructing 2e students.

    On a personal level, we fought for dyslexia services for my daughter from kindergarten until third grade. In third grade we moved to a new school district where a school administrator immediately recognized our daughters problems. We were blessed to meet a school administrator that believed the child’s needs came before the 8.5% cap and pressure from TEA. This is not true of the entire district, as I have met many parents throughout the district still fighting for services for their child.

    As a member of TENT – Twice Exceptional Network of Texas, I regularly meet with parents that have spent years fighting for sped services (spectrum disorders, OWL, dyslexia, and many more). Many of them have told stories of ARD meetings being entirely focused on how to exit a student from services once they are performing at grade level (even if they are gifted and should be performing well above grade level). In many cases the services being provided by SPED are the very reason the child is finally succeeding. Removal of the services would ensure the child’s descent back to failing. Despite knowing this, the only people at the ARD focusing on how to continue the child’s success are the parents, everyone from the school is focused on exiting them from SPED services.

    • As a former Austin ISD occupational therapist, I was informed that the unwritten and followed policy is to provide consultative service exclusively for all students receiving OT. This policy allows case loads to be large with one therapist “servicing” 65-75 students at 8 different schools, because no actual time-consuming, direct treatment was ever provided. When parents fight for their child to receive OT, and OT is subsequently written into the IEP, the parent has no idea that their child is not actually getting hands-on treatment as one might logically think. No matter the disability and level of need, consultative service delivery is the AISD unwritten policy across the board. There is no individualization of service delivery as the federal law requires. Furthermore, children who should have clearly been identified as receiving OT were not. When I questioned this, I was repeatedly told that I did not comprehend the school-based model. At the time, I had 15 years of school-based OT experience out of state. Austin ISD has no intent of following federal guidelines.

    • The reason that dyslexia is not immediately tracked into the SPED or IDEA system in Texas is that many children with dyslexia would rarely meet criteria for SLD. It’s a three pronged criteria that includes the receipt of adequate instruction, academic struggle, and cognitive weaknesses. Kids with dyslexia are bright, and were being under identified when SPED was the sole system for identification. This is why we have a state dyslexia law, the State Dyslexia Handbook, 2014. The procedures for identification are laid out in that resource, and districts should follow them, including a referral to SPED if there are indicators. SPED is a different rubric for instruction and mastery as well for our students with dyslexia. Because all students should be served in the least restrictive environment, providing an Orton-Gillingham based program that meets the descriptors of the handbook can take place through regular education — thus preventing the admission to SPED later through failure. Early dyslexia identification and remediation through proper instruction by qualified teachers prevents failure, and helps to minimize the use of SPED if not needed — as it is not needed for every child with dyslexia.
      Twice exceptionality is indeed a big issue – but children with 2E can be served through GT programs combined with other services, if done effectively and well….
      In some ways we are not where we should be in identifying, serving, following and meeting the educational needs of students. But the dyslexia law in Texas is an exemplar of how it can work in some districts – there are success stories. Just, sadly, not everywhere. There’s still a lot of work to do to ensure that students have the tool they need to be successful and that teachers have the knowledge and technology needed to help students….

  47. I have seen children repeatedly denied Special Education services in the Forney independent school district. By the TEA reports, in 2006 Special Education was provided to 11% of students and by 2015 it was cut to 7.7%. When you look at the elementary schools individually, the percentage based on student population equals 38 to 40 students per campus indicating there is a cap on each school on the number of students that can receive special education services. One parent repeatedly requested her child to be tested for a learning disability but since the district did not have the appropriate staff for LD testing he was placed in speech therapy to satisfy the parents request for additional support services needed for an OHI. The child had no indication of needing speech services when tested by 2 separate Speech Therapist not affiliated with the district. It is a strong indication that Forney ISD is not appropriately testing nor classifying primary disabilities when you compare Special Education Services with other districts on Primary Disability reports.
    This decline, non-testing for Learning Disabilities and Special Education Services provided to Forney ISD students may be due to budget cuts in 2011 after the Forney ISD was required to repay the state $13.6 million, when student population was overestimated for several years by the school district officials. Forney ISD and TEA had to agree on a repayment plan that satisfied both parties. Forney ISD took TEA advisement to budget cuts which clearly effected Special Education Services. In the meantime, the students are the ones who have paid the price.

  48. My three sons, who are black males, have consistently been denied access to testing in Killeen ISD for many years even though they have multiple handicapping conditions. Killeen Independent School District detests informed parental input and involvement in the education of their children: they will respond with hostility as they consider such involvement by parents as a trespass/intrusion. I have advocated for my children without the protection I’m entitled to on their behalf. As a result, the untouchable Killeen ISD been able torment me and family for many years as of result of filing false charges against me. Killeen ISD has held a trespass in place against me for numerous consecutive years stemming from the false charges filed against me. Killeen ISD has called CPS against more than once. Killeen ISD has called the city police on me during an ARD to stop my meaningful participation in the decision making process or worse. Still my children have nothing more than the consolation prize of a one-size fits all general Section 504 plan for which Killeen ISD changes nothing and conducts no reevaluation or additional testing. Recently, I was excluded from attendance in my children’s Section 504 meetings unless I participated under duress to deter my participation or worse. This is just a synopsis of the adverse actions Killeen ISD has taken against me for the advocacy of special needs children in their district. I’m aghast that this permitted to happen. My children have suffered substantially and discriminatorily because they are black males with disabilities. Justice has disregarded black males with disabilities.

  49. I have witnessed the destructive aftermath, the secondary victimization, and the heartbreaking retaliation that a sexual assault survivor experience from Angleton ISD. Angleton ISD denied services to a student that was sexually assaulted (raped) during band class at Angleton High School. The student was not able to return to school due to physical impairment from an autonomic dysfunction and her mental state that resulted from the sexual assault. The student was diagnosed with major depression disorder, anxiety, and PTSD. The following school district officials ignored multiple requests for services/assistance including a suicide attempt: Title IX Coordinator/Assistant Superintendent and District Superintendent. Both of these individuals were also informed of the continued victimization and retaliation of the victim by the Angleton High School Principal, the Angleton ISD PD Investigator, the Angleton ISD PD Sargent, and the Angleton ISD PD Chief of Police. The school board including the school board president were informed and made aware of the entire incident including the sexual harassment that the victim experienced by the Angleton High School Principal, the retaliation from the administrators, district police, the victim’s needs, and the districts refusal and inaction to provide the victim a Free Appropriate Public Education. To this day nothing has been done, the sexual assaults at Angleton ISD continue, the victims are denied special education services, and an education free from sexual harassment.
    https://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/14/citCh7.pdf
    https://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/15/citCh7.pdf

  50. I am an occupational therapist who has worked in an exemplary school district with a strong occupational therapy department. We were presented the issue of the press to reduce student numbers in special education as an issue related to legal requirements for least restrictive environment and concerns regarding disproportional representation of minority students in special education. Our department took the opportunity to increase our school-wide support and Response to Intervention efforts. We developed processes to allow quick referral by teachers and response by our staff within a week or two. We put supports in place and tracked progress which frequently prevented the need for a special education and/or “related service” occupational therapy intake, and where a special education referral was still needed, beginning with RtI provided support during the evaluation process which otherwise has long waits built into the process. Early intervening also enabled my increasing support for student mental health and wellness.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act has the potential for increased use of specialized service providers such as occupational therapy within multi-tiered systems of supports. Occupational therapy in school based practice is intended to support student success within the classroom rather than follow a clinical model. It is a good idea to increase opportunities for occupational therapists to support teachers and students within a workload model (available to the whole school, rather than a few students) rather than a caseload model (tends to encourage pulling students out of class for “remediation” which is more restrictive and often less effective than providing support in class where demands occur naturally). I am also a family advocate and have heard stories of districts who have labeled efforts to withhold skilled specialized service supports to students as RtI. I know that our district was able to use the press to decrease referrals to special education as leverage to increase universal/school-wide, and targeted supports for students who would have otherwise had to experience a lot more trauma and failure before accessing our support. I worry with the increase in local and state control under ESSA, we will see an increase in the gap between progressive school districts and those who are just getting by.

  51. I am an occupational therapist who has worked in an exemplary school district with a strong occupational therapy department. We were presented the issue of the press to reduce student numbers in special education as an issue related to legal requirements for least restrictive environment and concerns regarding disproportional representation of minority students in special education. Our department took the opportunity to increase our school-wide support and Response to Intervention efforts. We developed processes to allow quick referral by teachers and response by our staff within a week or two. We put supports in place and tracked progress which frequently prevented the need for a special education and/or “related service” occupational therapy intake, and where a special education referral was still needed, beginning with RtI provided support during the evaluation process which otherwise has long waits built into the process. Early intervening also enabled my increasing support for student mental health and wellness.

    The Every Student Succeeds Act has the potential for increased use of specialized service providers such as occupational therapy within multi-tiered systems of supports. Occupational therapy in school based practice is intended to support student success within the classroom rather than follow a clinical model. It is a good idea to increase opportunities for occupational therapists to support teachers and students within a workload model (available to the whole school, rather than a few students) rather than a caseload model (tends to encourage pulling students out of class for “remediation” which is more restrictive and often less effective than providing support in class where demands occur naturally). I am also a family advocate and have heard stories of districts who have labeled efforts to withhold skilled specialized service supports to students as RtI. I know that our district was able to use the press to decrease referrals to special education as leverage to increase universal/school-wide, and targeted supports for students who would have otherwise had to experience a lot more trauma and failure before accessing our support. I worry with the increase in local and state control under ESSA, we will see an increase in the gap between progressive school districts and those who are just getting by.

  52. As a former special education teacher and administrator, parent and advocate in Texas this cap does not surprise me. We were told to reduce our numbers 12 years ago because we had too many students receiving special education services. I have assisted hundreds of families throughout the state who have been affected by this reduction in numbers. The only ones who are hurt by this are our children. If we don’t identify and serve them properly they will not be successful in life. I have so many former students who did not receive the services they were entitled to under IDEA and are now living on their parent’s couches because the system failed them. There should never be a cap on services for our children. I am aware that the states are working with only 20% of the federal funds that were once promised but failing to identify students with special needs is not the answer. I hope and pray that USDOE puts a stop to Texas and it’s 8.5% rule.

  53. We are the parents of a nine-year old legally blind child with limited peripheral vision and a nystagmus. Our daughter was born prematurely and as a micro-preemie had many medical issues from the start. We received some ECI services and when our daughter turned three these services ceased. Our daughter was evaluated by Houston ISD and was placed in PPCD at age three. The school district noted her disability as visually impaired. Although the school district ignored these well-documented facts, our daughter also had limited verbal skills, was on a feeding tube and struggled to eat by mouth, had depth perception and visual problems, had limited social skills and poor fine and gross motor skills. At her ARD, she was denied all services. She was placed in a PPCD class with one teacher and a one aide. The teacher left the classroom every morning to take her own child to another school. As I brought my daughter to school, the teacher would either be leaving or I would get to the classroom and only the aide would be present. The aide was an elderly woman that was retiring at the end of that school year. There was one child in the class that was much taller and larger than all the other students. It was mentioned that he had aged out of PPCD but I do not know if that was true. This student was very aggressive and prone to violent outbursts. The aide spent most of her time with this student leaving all other children to themselves. It was not uncommon at pick up or drop off for the aide to be in the classroom bathroom with this child or standing outside the closed bathroom door with him inside. The teacher was not always in the class. I was often told the aide needed to stay by the door to make sure the other student did not hurt himself and I could collect my child and her belongings on my own. Typically my daughter would be playing by herself unattended, as would the other students. Our daughter was not eating well by mouth and was still on a feeding tube. I asked for an evaluation through the school district, but was told it would not likely happen until the end of the school year. It never happened. Any time I expressed a concern or asked a question about our daughter’s progress, the answer was always the same, “Don’t worry, Mom, everything will be okay. You worry too much.”

    It was not uncommon for children to come to school sick. We told the school repeatedly that we would come and get our daughter if sick children were in class because a respiratory illness would be serious for her. They told us they would let us know, but this also never happened. She caught the flu from a classmate and we re-iterated our concern. We were told many parents worked and could not come and get their children from class so they had to keep sick children. But the school did not say why the students were left in class and not sent to the school nurse. Our daughter contracted H1N1 from a classmate and ended up in ICU. We notified the school and during our daughter’s two weeks in the hospital, the school called us and told us they would file truancy charges if we did not return her to school. We met with a Disability Rights attorney and were told our options were either to sue the school district (at great personal expense) and even if we won it would take a year and a lot of money and we would put our daughter in an environment that was being forced to carry out services begrudgingly OR we could put her in private school. We had spent the previous three years fighting for our daughter’s life and well-being and grieving her twin sister’s death in the process. We decided we wanted to focus on our daughter’s well being and we wanted to find a support system that would help us figure out what she needed and how to provide that help rather than having to constantly fight the school district and have nothing to show for it. We were watching the small fraction of progress we had fought for slip away in just a few months of PPCD placement. At that point, we moved her to private pre-school where she received speech therapy and occupational therapy, she learned to eat by mouth, speak, and she learned social skills that enabled her to build friendships. From there, our daughter moved into a private school for children with learning differences. There are no private schools where we live that provide vision services or orientation and mobility services. All along the way, we visited more doctors and low vision clinics in Texas and Boston, trying to figure out how to help our daughter. We pieced things together on our own and struggled to buy equipment ourselves while also paying private school tuition.

    We were told that the school district did not have to help children in private schools. We were told we could hire and pay HISD TVI’s and O&M specialists privately to help our daughter after school hours! It is ironic that the school district can deny ALL services to a child with a disability thus forcing the parents to send the child to private school and then say, “the child is in parentally placed private school so we don’t have to provide services.” In 2016, we learned that a parent in a private school could request an evaluation through the school district. We requested the evaluation in February 2016 and our daughter was evaluated by HISD in April 2016. It is worth noting that the evaluations did not meet the legal requirements and disregarded stacks of medical and professional documentation over a six year period. Again, Houston ISD denied services, but also this time noted “no disability.” It was also stated by HISD at our ARD that because we were at a parentally placed private school, even if we did qualify for services we would likely not qualify for more than 30 minutes of services per semester.

    It is important to note that for visually impaired children in the state of Texas, many other resources are closed off to a child when the school district determines that child does not qualify for services. For example, without a disability designation and a TVI, a student does not qualify for programs at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Also, without a designation of disability and a TVI, we did not have access to Region 4”s Educational Service Center nor the Assistive Technology lab. Nor can a student have access to American Printing House for the Blind and large print school material. Our family had to fly to another state to have our daughter tested at a Low Vision Clinic and to have access to their Assistive Technology Lab. We were concerned because at school our daughter was falling, tripping, bumping into things and getting injured. She was having serious facial recognition issues and challenges keeping up with class work without adequate Assistive Technology.

    That clinic put us in touch with TSBVI and strongly urged that our daughter have an orientation and mobility evaluation and a vision evaluation. We first reached out to TSBVI over two years ago and were told to try to work with our school district. We were told because our daughter was at a private school we would not likely get services. This Spring, I contacted TSBVI again and talked to new people there. It was then that we began to make some progress. TSBVI came to our daughter’s private school this Fall to observe her and make suggestions regarding our daughter’s needs. HISD was invited to be a part of these observations. After a day of observations, TSBVI facilitated a meeting with us, HISD, and our daughter’s new private school. We noted our same concerns, we noted the list of injuries our daughter had sustained at her new school as a result of her severe visual impairment, and brought stacks of medical recommendations from numerous doctors and two low vision clinics noting our daughter’s severe visual impairment and stating that our daughter needed assistance. Yet, at this meeting in September 2016, three HISD employees (one TVI and two COMS) reiterated their position that our daughter did not qualify for services. TSBVI shared their professional observations and helped us get an Assistive Technology evaluation. At this meeting, it was agreed that several types of AT would be introduced to our daughter to see what would work the best for her and that she would receive adequate training on a device. Instead only one device was later brought for her to try and only limited training was given. We were told after a few weeks that the school district was taking the device back and TSBVI helped secure one for our daughter to borrow in the classroom. Even this one step of having an adequate magnification device has made a positive difference for our daughter. For the first time in her six years of being in school, our daughter can see the board and is able to do her work quicker, with less eye strain and fatigue, and can better stay on pace with the class. If one considers the time and energy it took just to have this one thing happen, it becomes readily apparent why many children with special needs are not getting the services they need and deserve. Few families have the time, energy, or resources to devote on this scale. It took me over two years, an ARD, countless hours of phone conversations and meetings, doctor’s appointments, an out-of-state trip to a low vision clinic, and tireless networking to find just one person who was willing to help to make this ONE thing happen.

    In October 2016, HISD finally agreed to register our daughter as a student with a visual impairment. The school district stated that she qualifies for vision services. Yet, after over a month of asking numerous people what those proposed services might be, I still have no answer. The Orientation and Mobility specialists re-evaluated our daughter in October 2016 in a somewhat unfamiliar environment (part of it was the same familiar environment as the initial evaluation). During that evaluation, my daughter and I were both told by the COMS that he would come to her private school and do a presentation for the school to help the students better understand her visual impairment. He also stated that he would come to her school and work with her. When we got the evaluation report, it did not note any of this. It noted the positive things our daughter did during the evaluation but did not accurately reflect the difficulties and challenges. The new report said orientation and mobility services are not recommended at this time.

    The overall theme with HISD evaluations is that they are set up to get a certain outcome. Much of what is documented in our daughter’s evaluations is either incorrect or performed in an ideal situation that would produce an unrealistic outcome not replicable in a classroom environment. The evaluations wholly ignore documented medical and professional educational evidence and recommendations and parent input. As well, the TVI report and the O&M report contradict each other. The tactic seems to be to cause as many barriers to services as possible and to delay as long as possible. Meanwhile, the child suffers.

  54. When my son was almost three, we had him evaluated by Clara’s Center because he wasn’t talking. Since it was so close to his third birthday, they evaluated him, determined that he needed speech therapy, and transitioned him into the school system for special education- speech therapy services. One day, I walked into the school to pick him up from therapy and I could hear him down the hall, around the corner and behind a closed door screaming. I asked the therapist what was wrong with my son? After some hesitance, she replied that she thought he may have autism. Over the next two years, I took my son to his regular pediatrician, a developmental pediatrician, a neurologist at Cook Children’s and a child psychologist. All of them said that he exhibited the signs of autism. The neurologist told me that it’s a behavioral disorder, so a psychologist would have to make the diagnosis, and after that, the child psychologist did. By the time the diagnosis came, my son had made huge improvements in his speech and was being removed from sp-ed services. I had FOUR doctors telling me my son had autism and a diagnosis, and they took him out of services. They did an evaluation and told me that my son had a medical diagnosis, which is not the same thing as an “educational label”. My son is now in high school, and he has never had services beyond the speech therapy which ended when he was five, despite my multiple efforts and requests for re-evaluation. He has struggled, especially socially, to connect with his teachers, understand what they expect, get his work done on time, stay focused. The teachers think he’s a troublemaker, when it’s not his fault that he gets angry because other students make too much noise. I’ve asked for simple accommodations like, let him put a cardboard trifold around his desk so that he’s not distracted by other students, but apparently, this is too much to ask for. I wish that I could home school him, but that’s just not an option. I would like to see legislators actually work with parents and teachers together. Unless you are a parent of a child with autism, or a teacher in the classroom, you would have no idea of how to make this system better.

    • On April 11, 2012 I met with administrative principal and team at Elgin Independent school district to discuss progress my child has had in education. I verbally requested that my child be tested for special education services and was verbally denied. I wrote a letter to the administration on 4-16-2012 stating all that I just said requesting it be put in writing why he was not a recommended candidate to be tested. On April 17, 2016 I wrote and delivered Title 1, Part A
      School Wide Components:
      9. Activities to ensure that students who experience difficulty mastering the proficient or advanced levels of academic achievement standards required by section 111( b) (1) shall be provided with effective, timely additional assistance which shall include measures to ensure that student difficulties are identified on a timely basis and to provide sufficient information on which to base effective assistance. In my opinion all school year is not timely nor effective nor monitored for an unsuccessful school year for my child. On April 20, 2012 I received a letter from Administration that stated my child was in the second tier of RTI . The committee stated that because of his progress he would remain in his current tier and not advance to tier 111 where testing for special education is considered. On April 16, 2012 I wrote a letter with my concern to Elgin ISD special education department. I expressed I felt like the panel who had their mind made up no matter what I said or laws that are put into place under Child find the answer was still no. On April 19, 2012 I talked to the head of special education in the Elgin ISD and still got the same response. On May 7, 2012 I emailed the superintendent with my concerns to receive the same response. On May 10, 2012 I filed a completed complaint with TEA. TEA said that were within the right to decline my child to be tested for special education. So I took my child to his pediatrician told her of my childs developmental disabilities and I payed for testing. My child was 504 under dyslexia and ADHD on Jan 24, 2013. Progress was slow still and my child was held back in the second grade and I was promised in doing so they would test him for special education for the following year. My child qualified for special education and is receiving service. My child is suppose to be in the 6th grade and is currently on a 3rd grade level in the 5th grade and I am still fighting this system to get him the proper services he needs.

  55. Thank you for the opportunity to post here. I am a teacher who is appalled at the cap on special education. I was in Cy-Fair ISD when the announcement came. I was in a staff meeting and the principal told us that we had too many kids in special education programs. I remember turning to the staff member next to me and saying something like, “How can they put a cap on special ed students? If they need the help, they need it. There is no set percentage of students that have a need for special ed services, so how can they say that we can only refer so many?” We were told that we were “over-referring” students to the special ed program and we were above the state set limit. It was implied that we were over-referring because we just didn’t want to deal with problems we were having with the children. I am so glad that this is being looked into. Thank you.

  56. I lived at Fort Hood, TX that is in the Killeen School District from 2009 to 2015. I was shocked at the stories I was told concerning the consistent negligence of children with disabilities. I volunteered at a local school in the Kileen School District and witnessed children being denied much needed services, teachers discussing their frustration due to lack of training and how the administration would ignore their pleas for help. I would ask teachers why children would be allowed to sit at their desk for hours and nap and it was due to the schools delaying testing in order to avoid providing appropriate services. I was told numerous times by parents that my child, who has autism, would NEVER be allowed to have a para because the school district would never allow it even it was truly the best placement for him.

    I was told by many parents whose children were currently enrolled in KISD that if I enrolled my son, he would NEVER receive a FAPE. I lived next to numerous families in my neighborhood that chose to homeschool because KISD would not provide services. I also knew of military parents that were trying to leave Fort Hood because their children were not receiving an appropriate education.

    My husband and I made a choice to keep BOTH of our children out of KISD. My youngest, who has autism, went to a private school for children with disabilities. This is a NEW school that was created due to Texas public schools not doing their job. His school was more expensive than the private school for our typically developing son, but we knew this would be the ONLY school that would work with us and provide services that he needed.

    I feel for families who are permant homesteaders in the state of Texas and feel torn because they have family roots there, but I feel awful for military families who are told they HAVE to be stationed there to only find out that Texas Education Agency is denying so many children services they deserve and desperately need.

    My extended family live in Texas and we are considering retiring SOMEWHERE ELSE because Texas does NOT take care of their children. Texas Education Agency needs federal intervention now.

  57. My now 9-year-old son was emotionally traumatized his first grade year in Austin ISD. The classroom was poorly managed. There was bullying. The school put him in group anger management therapy with the school counselor. He showed academic regression by the middle of the year. He started avoiding work and was frequently not allowed recess time for not completing his work (which is now illegal). He spent many, many days sitting in the principles office to “finish his work.”

    In second grade he had to complete a behavior chart all year but rarely had a “good” days. Outbursts were more and more frequently triggered by writing assignments. During STARR testing he had an explosive episode in which he declared he wanted to kill himself. Finally toward the end of second grade, we took him to a private OT who indicated he had dysgraphia.

    The school agreed to implement 504 accommodations for 3rd grade. None of them worked. Within a month, I was asked to a meeting with the teacher, principal and counselor where the teacher informed me he was the most rebellious student she had ever had. My son had tried to stab her hand with a pencil when she pushed a work sheet in front of him. She stated point blank, “We don’t know what to do with him.” And proceeded to ask me what to do about getting him to complete his work.

    Despite the clear evidence of his struggles at school, NOT ONCE in his time as a public school student did a teacher, principal or counselor suggest getting him evaluated or tested for learning disabilities. All of their suggestions revolved around us hiring outside help–tutors, therapies, nutritionists, etc… My interactions with administration consistently left me feeling as if his behavior was a result of his home life. Ultimately, they left us with no alternative to pulling him out of school by implying that they could no longer manage him as a student. He was clearly going to be a student who would need special ed services.

    So, we pulled him out of public school the following week. Independent testing revealed that his IQ is very high and he was diagnosed with severe ADHD, dysgraphia and depression.

    The school did not make any effort to identify his learning disabilities. Additionally, the behavior monitoring he was subjected to emotionally traumatized him to the point that he can no longer function in academic environments. It will take significant amounts of psychotherapy and special ed to get him caught up to his peers academically.

  58. My son first began struggling in school in 2nd grade. I had no idea at the time he was struggling because there had been no concerns expressed by the kindergarten teacher or the 1st grade teacher. In second grade his teacher informed me she was concerned and he went through the RTI process. After a few months of RTI the school tested him. He only qualified for speech therapy for pragmatic language. Great! We are two years behind in reading and he gets no help. The speech therapist said that they could work on some reading during her sessions with him but that was it – the school pulled him from the intervention reading he had been in. He continued struggling and in 3rd grade I started asking for a meeting with the teacher (mid-November) and was told that the VPrincipal was working on something for him. In January, I asked again and was the teacher told me she had not heard anything and then asked if my child had ADD. I told her that I did not think he did but that I was going to take everything the school did to my son’s pediatrician, which I did. So, I asked the teacher again and was told that my son’s file had been sent to the schools central office. ARD meeting was held on 2/24/14 and I expressed my concerns about my son being behind in reading by 2 years. During just about every meeting comments were made concerning his handwriting, yet when I asked about an AT evaluation I was told no, it was a related service. The reading program that they had my son in was Read Well Level 1 and was very basic. Instead of trying something different, they just continued using the same program. Too basic for what he needed. His spelling has always been phonetically and so he was given a modified list which did not help with his spelling. He also struggled with math memorization and word problems in math. If you read the problem to him, he could tell you what to do. It was during this meeting that I asked about his reading struggles again and was told by the counselor, “we know he struggles but we have no documented proof” with hand quotes. Are you not an educational institution? Are you not there to teach my child to read?

    I received a letter in the mail from the school stating they wanted to retain my child in the third grade. He was making A’s and B’s. I had been to see the developmental pediatrician who stated my son had MERLD. Her suggestion was that retaining him would only harm him. I received a similar letter from his pediatrician. I had one doctor left to see at the end of May. After talking to all three physicians, I would make my decision on whether or not to retain my son. So, I went in one day and the teacher asked me if I had received the letter about retaining my son. I told that I had received it but was not making a decision yet. She said that it would be good for him. That she would request that he be in her class the following year. She said he will be at the top of the class next year instead of the bottom. I said he’s making all passing grades, are you telling me that those are because you are sitting with him helping him and she said yes. Hmm…. Inflated grades or you are reading it to my child and he gets it? So, after the third physician appointment we had decided to not retain my son and move him forward.

    Fourth grade I started asking questions again and the SPED director at our central office joined the ARD meeting. She decided that he needed to be retested and she wanted the full dyslexia assessment done. I mentioned that his developmental pediatrician said he may have dysgraphia as well and a few people in the office shook their head no. The SPED director looked at a sample of his handwriting and asked the teacher if it was the writing of a 4th grader and she shook her head no. Exactly! What have I been telling you? It’s as if a parent does not know their own child and my words went in one ear and out the other. I felt as if I had no real voice.

    Testing was completed in 4th grade and the diagnostician called me in to go over testing. He testing showed: dyslexia, math calculations disability, processing speed, retrieval fluency, decision speed, written expression disability. The diagnostician told me about Take Flight which is great for dyslexic kids. She said that program was not at the school my son attended but was at his home school. I told her we were not moving schools that it would be too traumatic for my child at his point. The day of the ARD I saw the principal prior to the meeting and she mentioned that this program was at my son’s home school. She said we would need to go there if I wanted that program for my son because her school “doesn’t have some of the resources these other schools have.” My son attended one of the best schools in Lubbock. I told her no, we would stay. During the meeting we went over the report and the school said they wanted to try Read Well Level 3 because it covered more of the comprehension that my son struggled with. We asked about another program if RW didn’t work and the VP said they would be willing to try it. The school psychologist said “the ARD committee doesn’t make curriculum decisions.” Seriously!

    So, I called the SPED director at the central office and she set it up to have my son receive Take Flight Instruction. By the end of the first year he was considered on grade level by the instructor.

    The right program works! Please quit putting our kids through unnecessary programs that prolong the services they need.

    • Under Texas law, a program for dyslexia instruction and remediation is required to be at every campus. The descriptors for these programs are in the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, 2014. I hope the DOE will obtain a copy and use it as an example for its work in the area of dyslexia across the country. Right on that you asked for Take Flight! There is no need to go to another campus – the teacher should be able to come to your child. Good luck. Your story is an example of how the Dyslexia handbook guidelines can work within SPED as well. Though there is more room within IDEA to apply curriculum and make modifications, dyslexia is dyslexia – and tried and true approaches should be utilized first…depending on the characteristics and needs of the students. The right instruction and the right teacher can work together in the area of a students weakness using Take Flight, or another, appropriate dyslexia program.

  59. My son started school in pre-k 4. They have a class for pre k 3 but my son was denied that because he would not potty train, I knew there was something wrong but did not know what. As he has been in speech, occupational, and physical therapy since he was 2 and also wears braces on his legs due to toe walking. So when school started for pre k 4 they told me he still could not come to school because he still was not potty trained. I said so if he is 16 years old and still not potty trained you are still going to deny him school. I told them I lived less than a mile away and I could come and change his pants.
    I told them he needed to be tested for special ed. So they did testing and he qualified for special ed because he has Mild Intellectual disabilities. I told them I wanted him to be put in life skills and they refused. they put him in resource for 30 minutes a day.
    Then in Kindergarten they tried to put him in 504 and I told them no. I also found out that they were only putting him in resource for 30 minutes a week. By the end of Kindergarten my son still could not count. Did not recognize numbers, or the alphabet.
    so First grade started TPRI testing level 1. He was way below grade level. I asked them to do Autism testing and they refused they said he did not have autism. So I finally found a Dr. that would test him for that. And it came back that he had Autism. Which I had been asking for this testing since he started school at 4 years old. The school told me they don’t accept Dr.s testing. They had to do their own testing. They told me that the were not going to do it. So I had two behavioral therapist and a MHMR case worker and my aunt go to the next Ard meeting. They finally told me they would test him for autism but assured me he did not have it. Then they started causing all kinds of problems telling me that he could not wear his braces to school without a Dr. note in case they had to take them off him and they broke them. So I told the Dr. that he could not give them a note for this and the school called CPS on me for that. So I took him out of school. This was in October,2015. I had to put him back in school In January of 2016 because home schooling was not working for him either. They finally did the autism testing and got back with me in May 2016 at the end of the school year. They said the test said he was autistic and that he would be in life skills 190 minutes a day, resource 90 minutes a day, Speech therapy 30 minutes 8 times a 6 weeks and occupational therapy 30 minutes a week. But that would not start till the first part of second grade.
    at the end of his first grade year he could only count to 10 still could not recognize numbers, could not do the alphabet cant read or anything.
    Tpri testing was still a 1
    So he started second grade He is in life skills and all that I had been asking for 3 years. He is now counting to 100 by 1’s , 5’s, and 10’s, starting to be able to tell time. Knows the alphabet, still not reading yet but working on that …
    Just wonder how far my son would be if they had done this when I asked for it. He still is not on grade level but have high hopes for him.

    Shame on you Texas or school districts or who ever is responsible for all of this

  60. I am a PhD, LSSP, currently doing work in several districts, public and charter, through a contracting agency. I have seen absolutely apalling violations of IDEA in several charters. Apalling. Many of the parents are unaware of their rights, or afraid to demand them for various reasons (including immigration status, and fear of losing their spot at the charter) and do not hold the schools accountable. Students who need services don’t get them, while other students (whose parents appear to have enrolled their children in charters so that they could manipulate the clearly uninformed staff) receive unneeded services that take them out of instruction. TEA does nothing. I have literally lost count of the number of violations I have personally witnessed — and I am not counting the accidental things — like having an unsigned report, or being a day or two past timelines. Very few charters actually provide the services needed by students with special needs, much less correctly identify them in the first place. It is a travesty that these organizations are operating on taxpayer dollars, while continuing to violate the laws that are meant to protect the students they claim to serve.

  61. I have 15 years experience working with children and adults with disabilities. I also have personal experience with my 21 year old, advocating for her in schools where I was also employed in the Special Education Department. We were a military family and prior to coming to Texas we were told by Texas certified teachers that the special education services were be sub-standard. It seemed that everyone just knew and accepted this fact. Once moving to the Fort Hood/Copperas Cove/Killeen area the first thing that occurred after my child was enrolled is the school attempting to remove the IEP. I had enough experience to advocate for them to do the proper assessment that showed why this would be appropriate which they could not and did not provide. In the 8 years that I have lived here and worked with developmentally/intellectually delayed children and adults, I hear stories of military families coming into the area and losing their IEP as the school told them it was not necessary. Documentation from families with clinicians who diagnosed students with Autism, Dyslexia and other diagnoses that would make the child eligible for services which were denied services by the schools. The schools work off the knowledge that most parents really do not know their child or their rights. Parents are threatened that child services will be involved if they do not comply to what is unethical and unlawful practices. They are bullied as are the students enrolled in schools.

    Worse, is students with disabilities like my daughter who have behaviors ranging from mild to severe were disciplined disproportionately and no consideration for their behaviors having direct connection to their diagnosis. I see families impacted by their student with disabilities being sent home daily or worse sent to alternative school, suspended and given detention. Most of these students do not understand their consequences and are only responding in the only way they can to meet their own needs. Many of those have little to no functional communication. The schools are quick to resist any outside services from local authorities who have the resources to assist with behaviors; training and develop plans. The schools are also not utilizing their resources by providing proper FBA’s and Behavior Support Plans that would better support the student and help them stay in the instructional environment. In addition, these same students with behaviors are losing significant instruction hours which are never made up.

    The schools refuse to address behaviors in the schools and become dependent on parents to pick up the students who are displaying behaviors is becoming common practice. This impacts family incomes, increases stress and the effects exacerbate the high stress that we know is already present with families who have a child with special needs. Some parents choose to pull their children out of the schools but do not have the money for private school. Our military families are also impacted unnecessarily as they already endure stress from deployments and one parent households for most of the year. Our military families may not have many choices other than to relocate the dependent family out of state from the service member just to seek appropriate school based services. This impacts the family unit needlessly.

    I’ve worked in many schools and had my children enrolled in schools in New England (where I am from), Department Defense Overseas Schools, Georgia and Texas. Texas (Central Texas) is by far the worst that I have ever seen personally and professionally in terms of special education services, lack of regard for the well being of the student and their families.

    I could go into detail of incidences from personal and professional experience that include racist remarks from administration and teachers. Bullying by teachers in the classroom to manage a student’s behavior, the teachers and administration who demonstrate disdain toward the student and families as a result of the frustration of dealing with what they perceive as “bad behavior”. The number of times a student with Autism or other disability have been fined for certain behaviors, hundreds of dollars and countless disciplinary actions where the time out of school and the financial impact on the family caused a breakdown within the family unit. The ripple effect of the school’s refusal to provide the proper services to the student(s) reaches out to the inevitable impact on our communities.

    In other states and districts that I have worked or had my children enrolled used the school counselors for behavioral supports along with academics. In Texas it seems that school counselors are not involved in the students day to day. As a person with a background in counseling and behavior analysis, I think that the school counselor would be a perfect on campus resource for students with or without disabilities to assist in assessing the student’s overall emotional health and assist in identifying the needs of the student to increase attendance and develop a healthy love for education. As someone who has worked with truant students I see that we teach them to hate school when sometimes school is their only access to healthy models of behavior, nutrition and knowledge. Texas schools have more community police officers than counselors who focus more on incarceration than rehabilitation for disabled and non-disabled (or not identified as having a disability) students. Texas schools need to change their priorities and approach.

  62. As a former child advocate and educator I have seen the pros and cons from both sides of the Special Education issue. Two items that may help are:
    1. Work on changing the “Us vs. Them” attitude taken by the school administration on one side and the parent on the other. When the conversation starts and ends adversarially it is hard to reach an agreement much less consensus.
    2. Ultimately what is the goal of Special Education? Is it to get as many services as possible for your student each year or is it to teach them to develop strategies and procedures that will help them once they leave the educational environment. I don’t think school districts, special ed coordinators or TEA does a great job at laying out what exactly is the ultimate goal of special education. As a consequence, many parents are left to figure it out on their own or left simply to flounder.

    There is plenty of blame to go around, but no amount of blame will fix this problem. Systemically, this is a program that needs a fundamental cultural change, it needs to more transparent and less adversarial and finally proper training (in all aspects of the special education process & procedures) for all staff and faculty should be fully funded by the state, yearly.

  63. I am a 19-year-old who graduated in 2016 from Eanes ISD. I have a mobility disability and cortical vision impairment. I always had an IEP but I think that is mostly because my mother had been a teacher and was a strong advocate for me. Just because I had an IEP, though, it doesn’t mean it was implemented.

    My struggles started in elementary school when the district did not want to assess my vision. I always had photophobia and a hard time seeing the board and small print and cluttered assignments. My occupational therapist had focused on vision for years and I had had eye surgery but the school delayed evaluating me for vision impairment until middle school even though my mother constantly pushed for it. Even then, I didn’t really have VI services until I was a sophomore in high school when the district hired a really good VI (but she only stayed for one year). She was the first and only teacher to assess the effect my vision impairment had on my reading. That year was also the first time I had any good orientation and mobility with a decent teacher. The district fought me and my parents for a long time on night O&M which I really needed, and even tried to dismiss me from O&M when I was in middle school. Thankfully my mother refused to agree to that.

    The biggest problem was the constant fight with the regular teachers who did not want to comply with my IEP, especially when I took Advanced Placement courses but even sometimes when I took collaborative classes! The burden was so many times on me to constantly ask for my accommodations such as larger print, having my math homework printed correctly, etc. Many times it was difficult to get someone to provide oral testing, which was one of my accommodations, and my senior year they put the entire responsibility of scheduling staff to do this on me! I was supposed to email around to find someone who could administer my tests and lots of times no one would even answer me. It was like they wanted me to be a testing coordinator even though I was just a student!

    Even the services that were supposed to help me fought me sometimes. For example, instead of teaching the teachers how to make vision accommodations, they wanted me to come up with alternative ways to access the materials. It seemed like the focus was always on how to make things easier for teachers than it was on how to get me the materials I needed in the way I needed it. It seemed like I was going to battle every day just so that I could learn.

    Also, my school district did not want to provide wheelchair accessibility and my parents had to file a lawsuit for that. Even then I had so many struggles. My senior year I had to fight for an entire semester just to be able to have reasonable access to my own mobility device!

    I was bullied by kids and even by some teachers from elementary school on, including one teacher who told me I had a choice of being disabled, several who told me I shouldn’t be in their classes, and teachers who made me feel guilty for needing accommodations, and this happened almost every day. When teachers model this, the other kids see it, and the kids also notice when teachers stand by quietly while others are bullying kids with disabilities. Sometimes it happened every day. I would do everything I was told to do as a self advocate and still I wouldn’t get anywhere and my mom would have meetings all the time and really, almost everyday there was a problem and that is not an exaggeration. I had to fight to be educated, and it was tiring and it made me hate my school, but I have goals and I’m determined to reach them so I fought on. There were a sprinkling few teachers and administrators that supported me and tried to help me but they didn’t seem to have any power either, so my fight to be educated was a fight I had to fight every single day from the time I was little to the day I graduated. It’s so ironic that college is so much better at making accommodations and asking me how they can help me. They actually WANT to help me. You don’t have to go in there with legal documents or lawyers. They want me to succeed. That’s the difference.

    I know many friends who have disabilities whose parents are not as assertive as mine and they have not been placed in their least restrictive environments or brought to their full potential. The school district doesn’t fight for the kids. The parents and the kids have to lead the way or else fall right through the cracks. I don’t understand why people work in education if they don’t want to strive to help kids be successful. It seemed to me like a lot of the good special education people my district had didn’t stay. Maybe that’s because they were frustrated too, even though it was supposed to be the best.

    During my public school years I felt like they came at me, my mom and my dad from every angle they could to cut my accommodations, limit my accommodations or services or to make us fight. I hope this situation will change so that the little kids growing up now have a better experience and more support than I did. People with disabilities are no different from those who don’t have disabilities. We just need a little more support to achieve our potential.

  64. TEA has a Division of IDEA Support. This department revises and makes recommendations for all special education rules and policies impacting special education students in Texas.

    TEA’s Division of IDEA Support was involved in 2004 when the special education representation indicator in the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS) set the 8.5% enrollment target for special education students in Texas public school districts.

    TEA Division of IDEA Support has provided zero documentation of the research to justify TEA decision to set the 8.5% PBMAS.

    TEA Division of IDEA Support was also involved in the final unconstitutional, discriminatory wording approved in August 2016 on TEA Commissioner Ruling, 19 TAC §103.1301. This is the TEA ruling to Texas Education Code (TEC) Sec 29.022, VIDEO SURVEILLANCE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION SETTINGS.

    TEA Commissioner, Director of Board of Education and IDEA Division Director were informed. IDEA Support Director answered saying TEA had filed a new revised version of 19 TAC §103.1301. This new version will take effect until February 2017.

    For 6 months, our most at-need special education students in Texas have been discriminated upon by school districts like Clear Creek ISD using our own TEA’s unconstitutional, discriminatory ruling.

    For 12 years, the 8.5% PBMAS indicator from TEA has been used to deny our Texas students needing special education their right to free appropriate education (FAPE), along with their constitutional right to an equal opportunity in public education.

    To solve a problem, we must look at the source of it. The source of both problems is found in TEA’s Division of IDEA Support Department.

    Special education students and their families have a right to have a TEA Division of IDEA Support Department capable of doing their job, which consists of: Revising all rules, policies and regulations for special education students in Texas and ensuring they are constitutional, follow all civil rights US Laws and decisions taken by TEA are supported by documentation and scientific research.

    TEA mission is to improve outcomes for ALL public-school students in Texas. The word ALL includes students with disabilities.

  65. I am in a small town of 10,000 people. While I had an incredible experience with the special education team during my child’s Kindergarten year (the LSSP and principal both had special needs children which I think made a difference), we had to move to a different campus in the same district for first grade and started with a completely different team that gutted his IEP, disagreed with the Kinder team’s assessment, and has done everything to remove him from services because he makes good grades. And what has all this done? It has put him at risk for expulsion given that he exhibits extreme behaviors if not provided with the appropriate modified instruction or supports. My son has ADHD, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and sensory processing disorder. I did have an Asperger’s diagnosis at one point but never pursued it – which I now regret. Without the right supports, he can become physically aggressive with students and teachers, can throw chairs, pencils, etc., mimics behavior (so when one student threatened to pull a gun on him in the morning, he turned around and did that same thing that afternoon), lacks social skills and is called crazy and weird to his face (and in front of me) by his classmates. So why does the school want to remove him from the special education program? Because he makes good grades and his IQ scores are too high. Their attorney now runs the meetings despite the fact that the attorney is a resource on the law but not on my child. The only reason why they did not get rid of the IEP (though it is practically worthless at this point), is because I sent around the US Dept of Ed Dear Colleague Letter on Behavior and IDEA and cited relevant parts of IDEA and case law and threatened my own attorney. But did they provide my child with any of the behavioral supports suggested by the dear colleague letter or by me? No they did not. And he has already been in In School Suspension this year. I have asked for FBA’s and the last one did not take into account the behavior that the school reported to me or what I observed. And when I observe, the teachers blame his behavior on my presence (and I have been observing in the classroom a min of 2x/year for 5 years plus I volunteer). The school has found no evidence of dysgraphia because he is “too young.” Yet we have been in private OT for dysgraphia for 5 years and he remains in the bottom 10% of handwriting for his age level. His first grade teacher claimed that his handwriting was the best in the class (and when I observed him writing in her class, she would stand over him reminding him to slow down and hold his pencil correctly) yet what he did at home was hard to read and his second grade teacher has told me that he needs a lot of work. Their OT evaluation claimed that he could tie shoes and perform a variety of exercises and write at or above age group, but private OT’s find differently. The school OT claims he has no sensory issues, but even the school’s LSSP claims otherwise. The school OT and LSSP have also said that because he complains about looking different by being pulled out of the classroom or using a special pencil grip or pencil, that he shouldn’t have to do it. When does a 6, 7, or 8 year old dictate what they need??? The superintendent told me that it is my fault that the school brought in an attorney and that “I need to listen to the experts.” I have calculated that the school has already expended more money on legal fees than they would have providing the few modified instructions/supports I requested. Basically the school is doing everything it can to get me and my child out – by saying my kid is too smart for an IEP and putting him in a position to be expelled even though his behavior is caused by his ADHD, SPD, etc. and by denouncing the very data they provide me and having teachers and evaluators contradict each other.

    That is one child.

    We are currently in the middle of an IEE for another child. Again, a very smart child, so the school says he does not qualify for services.

    Then there is one friend who withdrew her son with aspergers from the school as they would not provide services – she has been homeschooling him.

    And what about the child born without knuckles that the school has refused the use of a tablet for typing or dictation (family was willing to provide the tablet if the school could not afford to)? They have been insisting that he use a pencil, despite NOT having any knuckles.

    Or the child who had already had cataract surgeries, permanent contacts, and was still almost legally blind, was struggling behaviorally and academically, but was being told he did not qualify for an IEP?

    Or the child with a spectrum diagnosis who is failing that the school convinced the parent to agree to a 504 instead of an IEP?

    Or what about when I was moved from tutoring math students to reading out loud to groups of students when I gave the teacher my written observations about each student, including flipping letters or numbers, reading numbers right to left instead of left to write, being able to solve math correctly in ones head but feeling like a failure since the student can’t get it on paper and is failing? The teacher did admit, prior to reassigning me, that “it can be very difficult for a teacher in this district to refer a student for evaluation.”

    Our district did move the needle from @12-13% of student body in sped in 2004 to below 8.5% two years ago. So what changed? How did a small , rural school like ours with a 60% economically disadvantaged demographic in K-5 make that happen? With ADHD. mental health, and autism diagnoses growing exponentially, how were they able to reduce services? Our superintendent scoffed at the TEA benchmark and said that the district doesn’t pay attention to that. If that is the case then why were they able to reduce services and why are they trying to eliminate my child’s IEP when his behavior is screaming for help? Why are they trying to reduce or eliminate services for other kids who clearly qualify?

    Please help, we are drowning.

  66. As a teacher I can state with high confidence that the only way to effectively reform the system is to not have the current powers-that-be enabled to project the politics currently associated with the situation into the solution. In looking at the several Special Education scandals around the state, including the most recent one in Killeen last year, it is clear to see that politics has been the driving force, and not the children, as it should be. Get the politics out, and both the children and the teachers AND many principals will applaud you.

  67. My son started out in KISD at Maxdale Elementary in their PPCD program. He is nonverbal. I was absolutely appalled at the lack of communication with parents of nonverbal children. A smiley face on the calendar print out is not enough to tell what he did at school. I was expected to “bridge the gap at home.” How could I do that with no communication? OT services were severely delayed despite his ECI case coordinator sending the district his paperwork for Speech, PT, and OT services. His initial evaluation for entrance/services into KISD was in July of 2015. The OT didn’t show up to the evaluation or the ARD meeting (held in September). His OT evaluation did not get done until late October. His ARD meeting to add OT services did not happen until the week before Thanksgiving break 2015. We withdrew him and moved to Copperas Cove at the end of the term due to unnecessary amounts of phone calls to me to come pick up my son because he was having a meltdown. At one point I told them that the calls were becoming excessive and teaching my son to scream and cry to get out of school. Copperas Cove ISD is, in my opinion, a little bit better, but not by much. My husband and I feel that we’ve been let down by the state of Texas. The things that I have dealt with here ever since enrolling my son in the PPCD program make me glad that we are leaving in a few months. My son has a great teacher, but I fear the district is so worried about that 8.5% cap and the budget that they are losing sight of what is truly important. The cap needs to be done away with. The TEA ought to be ashamed of themselves.

  68. I could not attend a hearing – thank you for the opportunity to post here. With the greatest desire for a properly funded public education system, and respect for the many persons who do their best within its current constraints…….this note gives insight into how districts have been able to implement the cuts on the front end (the “sneaky methods” referred to by the Doctor above). The restrictions on numbers of children accessing special education in Texas have had far reaching consequences. They affected our son because although his disabilities including autism are severe enough that he was never denied entry into special education, his progress has been negatively affected by the restrictive practices of the school district on related services. As a consequence of the policy of limiting numbers who can receive special education, Districts have a diminished number of specialized related service personnel on campuses and at the District level. In fact, they routinely deny services and leave it to the families to fight to retain even a de minimus level of services to students. Whereas a related service provider licensed by the State of Texas may make a recommendation for an hour or more of therapy per week for the student, that level of service is impossible to find within the school system. Instead, the same provider within a school setting, although bound by the same ethical code by the State of Texas, is likely to recommend 20-30 minutes a handful of times throughout the entire school year at the behest of the school district.

    Specifically we have experienced the following:

    1 Lack of access to direct services for occupational therapy (“OT”) and physical therapy (“PT”)

    2 Over-reliance on Adaptive PE program which is generally designed for all students, not individualized.

    3 Reliance on indirect (consult) methods with the result that responsibility for the specialist area is transferred to the specialized support teacher (but with no evidence of training in physical development such as would be expected with a physical or occupational therapist).

    4 Being assured skill areas would be worked on “informally” or were practiced “all the time” in the classroom so there would not be an IEP goal for them. Then, the related service provider would try to drop services saying there was no goal for them to attach to or for the student to work on in their skill area.

    5 District supervisors trying to justify a therapist’s attempts to cut service support by saying they were addressing the “lowest hanging branch” (ie the most developmentally delayed area, instead of offering support in all developmentally delayed areas-all areas of need).

    6 Not permitting or encouraging the ARD committee to make decisions on related services according to the stated purpose of IDEA – namely whether such services will build progress which would ultimately “meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living” – skill areas which would benefit from related services now, during formative stages of development, in order to reach more independence (like self-help) are not considered.

    7 Cutbacks and lack of individualization in Extended School Year services, as well as a reliance on only one method to determine ESY services, namely regression and recoupment which must be critical and the child must fail in order to be considered. Parents are routinely informed that they don’t want their children in ESY because it isn’t meant for their child or that they don’t want their children in with children with severe disabilities, rather than ESY being individualized for the child per IDEA.
    8 Attempts, year after year, to dismiss from VI services, in direct contradiction to the published Guidelines and Standards for Educating Students with Visual Impairments in Texas, which are comprehensive, which reiterate the importance of the VI teacher to the IEP team, and which note how the VI needs are expected to fluctuate over time.

    ARD PROCEDURES

    When we commissioned an Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE”) the results of the IEE were not read out to the ARD committee; instead the district therapist, whose original report was the one being challenged by our request for an the independent evaluation, would do a one page “interpretation” ignoring the bulk of the new report. Even when the report directly contradicts the school evaluation, this is glossed over or ignored and the rest of the committee does not even get a copy of the report. Nobody questioned this. Written minutes of ARD meetings are consistently biased as they barely record any concerns the parents have, and we were forced to submit parent statements and hire an advocate. Imagine if your opinions and requests are typed up, characterized, and provided by an opposing party, how differently they would appear.

    During the time that the 8.5% cap has been in place our district is understood to have done the following:

    – eliminated specialized summer training on potty skills (autism parents desperately need support for this)

    – disbanded the specialized ASSET team for autism support (this team was a highly professional team of speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and school psychologists) – defying the statistics showing the increase in the prevalence of autism.

    The one time we took a private PT specialist to the ARD meeting she was completely ignored. The “culture of avoidance” referred to in a previous post is so ingrained within Texas that therapists in private practice say they would simply not want to be a part of it.

    THE SOLUTIONS

    1 In cases where there is a medical diagnosis of autism there should be a presumption of educational need– the IEP meeting should take place to determine the needs flowing from that but the eligibility should not be open to question (this may also be appropriate for other disabilities; it should certainly be discussed)

    2 There should be an examination of how parents access procedural safeguards and consideration should be given to making these Assurances to be read at the conclusion of the IEP meeting. The Office of Special Education should examine recorded outcomes in cases of dispute between school districts and parents (for example due process hearings); if there has been no change in outcomes even given the recorded drop in students accessing special education, this should be challenged and hearing officers given further training on a holistic approach, minimum standards and how cumulative actions can lead to an overall denial of FAPE. Plain language should be utilized in IEP meetings and school districts should offer support to parents to guide them through the process.

    3 There should be much easier access to facilitation, and in order to redress the previous imbalance in services, there should be automatic facilitation of any ARDs where eligibility for services is being considered or where an independent educational evaluation is being presented.

    4 There should be a whistleblowing procedure where teachers and service personnel can anonymously report concerns, especially concerning workload and bias concerns.

    5 There should be comparative studies with the aim of compiling best practices.

    6 There should be an investigation into how students access Extended School Year services in Texas, whether there has been a drop in access commensurate with the drop in enrolment in special education, and whether ESY can be used as a means to redress some of the injustices caused by the 8.5% cap.

    7 There should be at least some evaluation of how much time is spent by related service providers on providing direct services, versus indirect services, versus time spent in ARD meetings denying services.

    8 There should be a review or reminder of the relationship between professional licensing requirements to act in the best interests of the child, and what service providers should do when this conflicts with school policies, workload allocation, and the said 8.5% “cap”. It is inevitable that conflicts will have arisen here.

    9 There should be an investigation into billing practices for Medicaid reimbursement for related services. There is a paradox when you can turn up to an ARD with a prescription from a doctor of physical medicine for physical therapy and occupational therapy services (as we have done) but be denied direct weekly services, and then be asked to sign a form for reimbursement to Medicaid for such services as are delivered. (But Medicaid will not reimburse unless there is a prescription – how can a District be permitted to ignore the prescription on the one hand, yet rely on it in another?)

  69. Not all districts are like some of these horrifying stories. I am a special education director for a small rural community with about 2000 students in the district. We serve all kids to provide them with the best possible services we have available. Our current SPED population is at 10.8 percent but we don’t even worry about that number. It is about doing what is best for kids. I do find it ironic that the DOE is coming down on Texas about the 8.5 % in PBMAS. Yet the federal government still says that we can only have 1% of the most significantly disabled students by its standard. We are the largest town in our county and therefore attract these students because of the services we are able to provide. We actually have parents tell us that they move to our town because of that very reason. We are going to continue to serve these students just as we have in the past even though the Federal Government says we can only have 1% of our population as significantly disabled. This appears to be some type of double standard between Texas and Federal accountability. We will always do what is right for kids because some stuffed shirt in Washington or Austin can’t tell me what is best for my kids and I treat them all as if they were my kids. I want what is best for all kids and as educators that is what we should all be working toward.

  70. I am a teacher who refused to,”Shut up and play the game.” I continued to ask serious questions and advocate for my students after I was warned multiple times that if I insisted that there was a problem, I WOULD BECOME THE PROBLEM. I know the lengths that these corrupt and heartless administrators will go to when they want to get rid of the squeaky wheel. Teachers are not exaggerating when they say that they are terrified to come forward. I can not get answers about whistle blower laws that might protect me. I have asked the US dept. of ed., my state representative, my senator, and everyone else that I can think of. How can my story be vindicated if there is a non disparagement clause between the district and myself? This document should be null and void considering that I was under extreme duress when I signed it. I lost everything. I have no hope that this issue will ever be resolved. It sickens me that people with absolutely zero morals or ethics are in charge of our schools. Public schools in Texas are FORCING teachers out unless they suck up, shut up, smile, stroke their administrator’s egos, and PLAY THE NUMBERS GAME.

  71. I am in Killeen ISD and it is a nightmare. I want to thank Mr. Beinke with Cirkiel Law for speaking about how Fort Hood is effected by the unethical treatment in this district by our families with special needs children. I can’t believe no one is talking about it– Killeen ISD is also the district including good ol’ Fort Hood. Fort Hood is a base that is frequently and most commonly sent to families with children with disabilities. Many of the on post schools, in fact, are under the 8.5% cap! How is that possible if so many army families with kids with special needs are being sent here?! How can the army and the district keep saying this cap has nothing to do with our low special education numbers in our district?

    RTI is not practiced in Killeen ISD. It is rarely the school coming forward and saying “This child needs testing.” Instead, us parents have to ask and are continually denied, refused and our children are given the most minimal services. Do you know how many parents I know who have kids with autism but who are told they don’t need an IEP because autism isn’t effecting them academically? How is that possible?

    I have filed nearly countless complaints through the TEA and have learned that they are more likely to LOSE a complaint (How does that happen?) than they are willing to side with a parent. I mean, they have close working relationships with the districts and attorneys after-all.

    From 2014-2015 our district had a WHOPPING 30% increase in mental health referralls, meaning that kids weren’t allowed to come to school and were sent to places like Metroplex’s mental health facility, but no one is talking about that. At the school board meetings our board members talk about all of those “bad kids” in poverty. That doesn’t explain a 30% increase in these INAPPROPRIATE referrals from one school year to the next and no one seems to be tracking this or asking questions.

    No one is talking about the fact that hundreds (if not thousandths) of parents have sued, but that parents never seem to win court cases. I have continually heard that hearing officers are playing on their cell phones and make mistakes, but what’s a parent to do? What can we do when we can barely afford one attorney to make it to a due process case and our school district hires THREE against our one? I’m sorry, but in KISD special education funds are going towards employee salaries and attorneys.

    We had an IEE done this past year– It took 11 1/2 months to complete. I couldn’t receive help through any agencies like disability rights. During this IEE the school was only able to offer me one name from this area who could do the evaluation (they wouldn’t use the local company they usually contract with b/c thats the center my daughter goes to for therapy and they deemed that it was a conflict of interest). I used the only person they offered and the +30 page report clearly states my daughter has a new diagnosis of dysgraphia (keep in mind– she’s already a special education student due to speech impairment and “other health impairment of adhd– this had nothing to do with her qualification for special education.) The director of special education actually emailed me and said that the state doesn’t recognize dysgraphia (which it certainly does, as a related service or a learning disorder). Now they are saying we need ANOTHER evaluation specifically for dyslexia although an IEE for sensory which turned into sensory plus a full OT evaluation took them 11 1/2 months to complete.

    In addition, my daughter was diagnosed with SPD and they have said on audio recordings that there is proof that she has that “at home.” Apparently my daughter only has sensory processing disorder when shes not at school. *Insert eye roll*

    How long will this continue?
    Here at hood, there’s no alternative schools out of district to put them in and, unfortunately, we’re homeowners. My husband is on his EIGHTH overseas deployment and our family deserves better.

    We’re at a campus thats supposed to be one of the better ones in the district and this year they CANCELLED the PTA. They do not promote parent participation. It will take an act of congress to get an evaluation.

    There’s more to this than just the cap. The cap was an eye-opener for a lot of people, but its not the only thing wrong here. Erasing the cap wont just erase the problem.

  72. As an employee of a school district, I will tell you that the district policy is out of compliance with the federal law. Students are made to spend 6-9 weeks in RTI tiers before a teacher is allowed to refer the child for special education assessment. WFISD. Directors says the SPED numbers are too high-everyone is just trying to comply with Texas policy- kids suffer!

  73. In 2011 the state of Texas cut education funding. Northside ISD (San Antonio) balanced their budget by cutting over 100 special education positions. One of the cuts was a special education teacher at my son’s school. The position was eventually restored (3 months later) with a new teacher who had a criminal history that included DUI, Criminal Mischief and Public Intoxication. Within 2 months of his hire, that teacher broke my son’s arm in an incident that CPS ruled “Reason to Believe” was the result of physical abuse. There are real consequences to the actions of the state, the TEA and the school districts’ decisions. Had the state not cut the budget or had the district chosen other areas to focus their cuts, the experienced special education teacher at my son’s school would not have been reassigned leaving a newly certified person whose best experience in teaching behavior management was his own personal experience with aggression and anger management issues. Please look into how Federal funds are being spent on education in Texas. Charges need to be filed.

  74. After 3 years of increasing educational gap, our child was placed on Special Ed but denied testing for dyslexia; thus no dyslexia focus tutoring was provided. We submitted a private assessment to Spring Branch ISD indicating the child has many of the dyslexia signs/characteristics. Based on the school review which included two Spring Branch ISD specialist, school principal (which specialty is special ed), they communicated that while the child may meet the medical criteria for dyslexia, the child does not meet the Spring Branch district criteria. When asked, what is the criteria? The district specialists responded – coming across as an extrovert child in the classroom environment.

  75. Our son was diagnosed with a severe hearing loss at 2 and began receiving special educational resources and at 3 we developed his first iep. WE worked under this iep with adjustments through pre-k. We were transfered to a regional coop for kinder with an extensive iep to progress on many fronts. The original plan was for a gradual decrease in services as he progressed. Early in the process we were informed along with several other parents that the school wanted to move our son to a 504 and back to his home school. We presented extensive reports and testing at the iep that all recommended continuing the current iep, but as soon as we finished the special ed director stated: “Now let me tell you what we are going to do”. that was the tenor of the meeting! Our advocate, the 2 school district lawyers and some teachers proposed continuing but the director was adamant that he was out of special ed. THe same course was what happened for every child in my son’s class that was not failing. This we recently discovered coincided with the issuance of the goal for special education numbers issued by the State. I do not believe that had the State not issued the 8% guideline that my son would have been taken out of special ed at that time. We ended up deciding on private school because we felt and our advocate agreed that while we should ultimately prevail it would be disruptive on our son. Likewise the other parents in the class ( many left the State to get services). We were fortunate in finding a private solution but believe had the State not implemented that guideline such messages would not have been necessary.
    That guideline caused harm and disruption to many in this State that I am sure of.

  76. I am the parent of a child with multiple disabilities and health issues, who attended a public charter school in Houston, Texas for five years. My husband and I removed our child from the public school system in 2015 out of frustration and after years of fighting to get and to keep services.

    Though our son qualified as a student qualifying for special education services under intellectual disability, he had other disabilities that the school refused to acknowledge. The services that our son was able to get were spotty at best. I trusted that the professionals working with my son had the expertise to provide what he needed, but I was sorely mistaken. One year I discovered at the end of the year that the physical therapist had only come once, though according to his IEP he was supposed to receive bi-weekly services. Another year when I checked the sign-in sheets for the occupational therapist, I discovered she had falsely signed in stating that she worked with my son in March during Spring Break. I felt like I had to be the policeman checking every single day that he was getting what he needed, yet I started experiencing hostility every time I tried to hold the school accountable to the IEP. They made me feel like they were bending over backwards for providing what they were supposed to provide and what was agreed upon. In fact, I was told by the principal that she “bent over backwards” for my son. My husband and I also experienced retaliation by the school in overt and subtle ways. For example, each time we entered the school, we were followed by an administrator and were unable to speak with our child’s teacher without an administrator present. This was probably because we had begun to access the complain process via TEA. Let me state clearly that it is IMPOSSIBLE to prove a school’s retaliatory behavior because TEA requires written documentation that this is happening, and the school basically just denies it.

    The biggest disagreement we had was over my son’s visual impairment. My son’s teacher, paraprofessional, occupational therapist, and physical therapist all provided documentation as to my son’s vision difficulties in our ARD meetings. The principal refused to acknowledge these problems. When I requested an vision evaluation, I made the mistake of not asking for it in writing, so I was put off for about 1 ½ years. Finally I asked for it in writing, and the school said they “talked with Region 4 about it, but that he did not qualify.” At the time, I did not know that the school was supposed to respond in writing as to whether they would evaluate for his visual difficulties or not.

    We were finally forced to hire an educational advocate who helped us navigate the process to formally request a vision evaluation. Once we went through the lengthy process of going to an optometrist to fill out a state eye report (that reported poor vision even after correction), having an evaluation by a Certified Teacher for the Visually Impaired, and a COMS, it was determined that my son qualified as a student with a visual impairment. This whole process took about 6 months, and once we had an ARD to determine the need for services, the principal was resentful as was the CTVI. During this lengthy process of getting our son the help he needed visually, we were forced to file multiple complaints with the Texas Education Agency (mentioned above) as this seemed to get the school’s attention.

    During our five years of fighting for services for our son, we discovered three frustrating truths about the Texas Education Agency. First, the process for parents to file a complaint with TEA is overwhelmingly burdensome, requiring much knowledge and resources, secondly TEA’s investigators are not trained, and thirdly, TEA allows Texas charter schools to be excused from adhering to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. Many years ago if a parent was experiencing difficulty getting services for their disabled child, they could place a call to TEA asking it to investigate the school. Today that process requires a formal written complaint, complete with written documentation of problems, and an extensive knowledge of parental rights and responsibilities. Most families must hire an educational advocate or attorney to help them navigate this process. We exercised our rights via the TEA complaint process numerous times and expended much time, money, and knowledge of an advocate in order to do so. For most families in Texas this would be a burden and for those with limited English proficiency, nearly impossible. Despite our success in getting the school cited by TEA, little changed for our son and he did not get what he needed at school.

    The most pressing need is drastic reform of the Texas Education Agency. The reckless way in which a small group of people arbitrarily decided to cap the percentage of students who receive special education is morally wrong and many students have suffered and are suffering because of this decision.

    Our son, and ALL Texas children with disabilities, deserve to be educated!

  77. Testimony at Special Education Listening Sessions, OSERS and TEA, Region IV, December 13, 2016.

    My name is Eldo Bergman. I am a physician, a child neurologist by training and early faculty and clinical practice.

    Currently I run a 501(c)(3) non-profit – Family Literacy Network, also known by its original name, Texas Reading Institute. We provide independent assessment and, more importantly, training to a student and parent to help them work through a child’s reading difficulty, typically dyslexia, with or without attention deficit, spectrum disorder, language impairment, mental retardation, or English as second language.

    In 2000-2002 I planned and supervised the clinical assessment and intervention of students for the first studies that documented massive and specific changes in brain function as a child went through two months of reading instruction. Principal investigators of these brain imaging studies were Akis Simos, Andrew Papanicolaou, and Jack Fletcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. In the two month reading intervention, the students rose from severely impaired to reading within the average range.

    These studies formed part of the basis that led Reid Lyon of the National Institutes of Health to testify to Congress in 2001 that “early identification of children at risk for reading failure and the provision of comprehensive early reading intervention can reduce the percentage of children reading below the basic level in 4th grade (then 38 percent) to 6 percent or even less.”

    Where are we today?
    The National Assessment of Educational progress (NAEP, 2012) reports that 32% of US fourth graders read below basic.

    The first step in preventing chronic reading disability is early identification. I believe the TEA’s 8.5% goal directly led schools to use characteristic ways to delay or deny parent requests for assessment.

    When parents come to me for private assessment, they typically have been refused assessment by their school. They usually report one or more of the following:

    “We asked for assessment of our kindergarten son,” but school personnel said, “Boys start slower.”

    “We asked for assessment of our first grader,” but the school said, “Let’s wait a little longer to see if it gets better.”

    “We asked for assessment to see whether our first grader had a reading disability or dyslexia,” but the school said, “We can’t test for dyslexia until second grade.”

    Many times, while denying assessment, schools redirected parents to procedures with few safeguards for parental and student education rights:

    “When we asked for reading assessment, we were offered Response to Intervention (RTI),” but were not told that RTI is a method for measuring progress over time, not a reading intervention.

    “When we asked for reading assessment, we were told our child qualified for Section 504 services,” but we were not informed that Section 504 does not provide specific instruction tailored to a child’s needs.

    “When we asked for reading assessment, we were offered Dyslexia testing,” but were not told that assessment under the Texas dyslexia law does not determine eligibility for special education services.

    “When we asked about the ‘dyslexia instruction’ that the school offered, we were told it was “research-based,” but were not told that “research-based” may simply reflect what the publisher of the instruction advertises. The instruction may never have been evaluated against a valid control group, or assessed for effectiveness for the kind of (untested) reading problem that the child shows.

    When I read the September 11, 2016 Houston Chronical investigative report, Denied: How Texas Keep Tens of Thousands of Children Out of Special Education, it seemed immediately clear why most parents calling for assessment of their child were giving such similar and consistent histories.

    I suggest, as part of a proper remedy for the Texas Education Agency’s false information that led to these denials, that the US Department of Education require that the Texas Education Agency post for 12 years (equivalent to the 2004-2016 length of their false information) on their website three messages, with content and location on the website pre-approved by the US Department of Education:

    1) If you, the parent or guardian, is concerned whether your child may qualify for and benefit from special education services, you have the right for your child to receive a “full and individual educational assessment.”

    2) To initiate assessment, deliver to the principal this or similar written request:
    Dear (principal),
    I request that my child be assessed to determine whether he/she may qualify for or benefit from special education. I am particularly concerned about (include all the following that apply) basic reading (decoding, getting the words off the page), reading fluency or comprehension, math calculation, math reasoning, oral language, written language). I understand that my child must be assessed within 60 days of this written request, and if qualified, have in place within 90 days a plan for intervention for my child’s specific needs.

    3) If you, the parent or guardian, disagree with the school’s assessment, you have the right to request, at district expense, an “outside, independent” assessment, by a qualified professional of the parent’s sole choice. (An experienced advocate or professional can review the school evaluation and help you in identifying qualified professionals in the community.)

    • Dyslexia in Texas is not inclusive of Special Education. While districts vary in their sophistication, understanding and implementation of dyslexia guidelines under the Texas State Handbook in ways that can work to deny services or delay them, this is not necessarily due to a the same issues arising out of the 8,5% cap. Indeed, students provided with dyslexia services are served each and every day through regular education, using the guidelines in the handbook.
      So, I believe you have conflated two unrelated issues – at least not related in a deliberate way in general. SPED isn’t immediately evoked for dyslexia in Texas, but can be based on the needs of the child. The criteria for SPEd is different than that of dyslexia within the law, and not every student with dyslexia would require services under SPEd. Every student deserves a case by case, individual assessment. If there are signs that SPED may be the more appropriate venue, that should be considered by the committee, and SPED initiated.

  78. Our son did not seem to be “catching” on to reading in Kindergarten. He is our third child and so we were more aware of where he should be in learning the skills of reading and writing. In October of kindergarten I began asking his teacher if he was keeping up with his peers because I was concerned he did not know any letters, could not read any words,and could not identify his name. I was told he was fine. I continued to ask questions and by December requested he be evaluated for dyslexia and other learning differences. I was told that the campus reading specialist did not test children until 2nd grade. I did my own research and became convinced our son had a reading learning difference. During this time I also read and realized that the earlier the intervention the more successful the remediation will be. We continued to ask for evaluation of our son-to teachers, principals, vice principals. We were told not until 2nd grade. We sought outside diagnostic evaluations and support. By April of Kindergarten our son was evaluated privately and by August we had a diagnosis of dyslexia and dysgraphia( fine motor ). Prior to receiving the diagnosis we hired a CALT for private tutoring as our son could not read or write. We notified the school in August that our son had 2 learning differences and we requested an ARD immediately. The ARD did not occur until September of 1st grade. The director of Dyslexia Resources refused to establish a 504 for our son. We asked for multiple meetings to discuss this refusal. After a final 6 hour long meeting in December we left the meeting stating that all correspondence could be directed to our lawyer as we were done arguing with administrators that were breaking the state and federal law. During this time our son tested ZERO on his reading assessment by the school and failed his reading/writing class but the district still refused to accommodate his learning differences.
    When our son returned to school in January he was placed in a reading intervention group by himself without telling us. Our son came home to tell us he went by himself to the reading specialist. When we inquired about this class/intervention we were told they had no curriculum to teach a 6 year old child with these learning differences because NO CHILD HAD EVER had these issues at such a young age while attending our district.
    Prior to getting any access to a fair and equitable education for our son he began to show behavior issues in class. He cried all the time, hid, tore up his work, went to the bathroom, had temper tantrums, and became increasingly frustrated with his inability to keep up with his peers. During this time my child was punished. He missed recess, was repetitively sent to the principal. missed special activities, was not allowed to perform in school productions, and consistently was scolded in front of his classmates. He cried every night, begged not to go to school, and became a nervous, terrified shell of his prior preschool self.
    Eventually the district, because of a HUGE movement of activists, allowed my son ( and other children) a 504 plan.
    We continue to deal with the fall out from his first 2 years in the public school system when he was humiliated daily by a district that refused to acknowledge a diagnosis by a nationally acclaimed hospital that did a thorough and complete assessment of our child.
    Our son is extremely bright and articulate but continues to struggle in public school. It is a travesty the economic burden and psychological damage done to our family ( and many others) by the arbitrary rules and guidelines the TEA established that clearly violated federal and state law.
    Please make them answerable for their incompetence.
    We are now taking our son to counselling to cope with the stress and damage done by the lack of responsiveness.
    IF we could afford private school we would move him immediately and we continue to contemplate home schooling.

    • Your story is like mine. I fought to get services ( my evaluation was from a list of “preferred providers” the district provided- UNT which is a partner with TEA on programs!-). I used the “preferred provider- UNT” and they still refused to “accept” the test results. The staff was abusive to my child ( bad behavior- frustration was her fault/she “chose to fail spelling”) and my child suffered. Her self worth plummeted as she believed she was stupid and lazy , not an untreated dyslexic.

      Four years of counseling, two suicide attempts and long term hospitalization have “barely addressed” the damage of Texas public school. She was bullied by teachers and students. They convinced her she was stupid and worthless.

      Get out now- today. If I had not burned through my 401k, sold my house and moved my genius level IQ daughter would be dead or fast tracked for prison . Today, she stands a chance of making it as an adult.

      The hell you think your son is going through is much worse than you can imagine. If he stays the next move will be to have him arrested- expelled as the district is taught how to provoke kids to violence…it is cheaper for the school if he is in jail.

  79. I live in El Paso, Texas and have an 8 year old son with moderate-severe autism. He has never been enrolled in public school and I “choose” to homeschool him, although at this point I don’t consider that I have much of a choice because of the rampant abuse, neglect, and overall failure to educate children with autism in my local school district, EPISD. In the 6 years since my son was diagnosed and that I have been active in my local community, I have encountered countless parents whose children have been physically and/or sexually abused by school personnel, that have sustained injuries from accidents because they were unsupervised at school, that were forgotten on hot school buses in the summertime, dropped off by bus drivers at the wrong house, and the list goes on. Rarely is anyone held accountable and the parents of these children are often written off by the school districts as being “difficult” or overly dramatic. In addition if the child cannot make a “full verbal outcry” against their abuser, the district will use that as an excuse not to hold anyone accountable. Many children with autism have limited speech and therefore their abusers go unpunished. In addition to abuse and negligence, many of our kids with autism are not learning anything in school. Their IEPS are not being followed. I meet a lot of kids that can’t read, write, spell or do basic math. Some as old as 9 or 10 don’t even know their ABCs. There are 9 and 10 year olds still in diapers. What are the school’s doing for these kids? It appears no one is teaching them anything. They are just numbers on a line. Overall, I’m disgusted by what I’ve seen and heard about the treatment of children with autism in my school district and other Texas public school districts. You can’t silence parents forever! Unless I see significant improvements to the educational opportunities being offered children with autism, I will continue to homeschool as is my right under Texas law. I do wish, however, that I had more options. But unfortunately right now I don’t consider public school a safe or beneficial environment for my son. Many parents are opting to homeschool children with autism for similar reasons. Sad that many of us pay property taxes to support the school districts which then fail our children!

  80. We have had some horrific things happen to us including being physically threatened. We have critical information we need to share.

  81. I am a social worker and former employee of Dallas ISD in its Special Ed. department and believe this investigation is urgently needed. Below are some of the problems I observed while working for DISD:

    When I was at DISD, I suggested creating a simple form for parents to use to request special education services if they had a concern about their child. My suggestion was met with anger and a flat out refusal by the Director of Special Education Services. It appeared to me that DISD wanted to maintain obstacles to parents getting their kids into Special Ed. It certainly didn’t make sense me to me that I could fill out a simple form to have my child tested for the talented and gifted program but there was no analogous form to get an evaluation for Special Ed. Keep in mind also that many parents in the district are Spanish speaking and many are functionally illiterate, and so may not be capable of following up on a complex referral process. Though the school can perform an evaluation they use the RTI (Results to Intervention) process which is lengthy and a lot more work on the teacher–which makes it very much against the teacher’s interest to initiate such a process. If a parent makes a request then the school has 15 days to hold an ARD and get the process underway so it’s much faster.

    Timely evaluations and access to special education services are also a serious problem at DISD. Campuses routinely refuse to do evaluations more than every three years even though they are required by law to do them if a parent asks for a re-evaluation sooner. It is also common practice for schools to refuse to actually re-evaluate students in middle school and high school preferring instead to carry over the data from the last (years old) evaluation to create the appearance of a new evaluation.

    In addition, DISD has no mechanisms for transfers for students in contained classrooms. Even if the child is abused at school or an egregious incident occurs that prompts the parent to withdraw the child or request a new campus, no one can require the principal of another school to take the student, least of all the Special Education department. As a result, such children find themselves in limbo–unable to return to their old school for safety reasons but unwelcome at any new DISD school.

    Another common practice at DISD is holding ARDs without interpreters or having interpreters present who lack the knowledge and skill to interpret. One DISD attorney, Joni Jalloh, routinely tells campuses and the Special Ed. Department that parents cannot record ARDs even when they need to do so to aid their understanding of the process, despite the fact that she has personally been involved in cases where the court ruled that parents may record in order to facilitate their understanding of and participation in the process.

    Frequently DISD employees in ARD committees attempt to resolve disagreements by “putting it to an ARD committee vote” where it’s one parent against the ARD committee comprised of several members if the staff at the school. This practice violates both the spirit and the letter of applicable law. Also, for some reason unknown to me social workers were not allowed to be voting members of the ARD committee. When I worked as a DISD social worker, some schools even insisted that I sign I was in attendance as an interpreter.

    In all of the foregoing, my experience has been that higher level DISD administrators support their principals at whatever cost and refuse to acknowledge or address parent concerns or problems with their campuses. I am aware of District Special Ed social workers who have been banned from campuses because they “advocated” for the interests of parents and children in ARD meetings in disagreement with campus staff.

    It would not surprise me to discover that DISD bills Medicaid for speech and autism services based on what is planned to be delivered, when, in fact, such services are frequently not actually delivered as planned. Several parents of children I worked with reported getting letters from the District requesting information for billing Medicaid when their children were not receiving services. My attempts to confirm that Medicaid was only billed when the district could provide documentation that services were actually delivered were rebuffed on several occasions.

  82. I am a mother of a teen with Autsim, Significant Speech Impairment, ADHD and IDD. I am a also a substitute in CCISD and its mind boggling how thousands of students with special needs, starting at age 3-21, either it’s AA( self contained) classes or inclusion, are not being provided with what their desperate needs are in order to accomplish goals and walk out as successful grown ups on their graduation. Poor general Ed Teachers are so frustrated that how can they help when there is already so much load and they are not octopuses. Even if they want to they don’t have trained or qualified aides who can much help the teacher and that struggling student who has either drowned or is near drowning. There are so many absences of aides and resource teachers, and it creates a huge gap in learning. I am seeing multiple students including high schoolers fail and repeat grades as their reading is worse than 1st graders and poor students smart in head but they are baffled by the amount of assignments to be done when they are constantantly relying on being read to, not that they don’t understand but they can’t read or write or spell….. I witness daily that how every grade level kid is struggling…..

    My child is in self contained classes and being a very involved and hardworking mother, schools and district discriminate based on disability, and have AA students at bottom of their priority list. Their budgets fail to provide what these helpless students need. Our children do not have access to their daily lessons like typical students have. We parents cannot see their benchmarks, tests, or even review before they are tested. We do not have a system in place which can let us log on and see daily what our special child who cannot communicate , has learnt in school so we can review. We have begged schools since years but they say, “If we provide your child then we have to provide all other students too”. There is an excellent interactive system for educating SpEd students and it’s called Unique Learning System ULS, which was specifically designed for students in AA classes. Our children learn best this way, but after months of asking for equality, our superintendent said it cost 400$ for each student. It means that no they won’t spend that. Imagine how higher their learning would be if these kids got chance to review their lessons at home too, and we parents could review and generalize those learning opportunities. It is so so tragic. We parents filed a case to get equality in education, homework, lessons, and equal access to school libraries, but as I know and have seen, intermediate and high school AA kids don’t get to go to school libraries and select books and bring home. There is a bookshelf in class room with same books and that is it. I filed a case against Intermediate school in 2013, after begging for library books for a whole school year, so my child can stop feeling left out again. To cut story short, It turns out at the end that librarian and SpEd teacher decided they aren’t going to give access because books are not safe in hands of these kids. But as soon as they found out OCR is involved they started sending me books and Voila… It was considered “resolved”, case closed. Next year same thing started…. Unless you keep begging them every 2 week to please allow him time to run and pick a book/comic, my child won’t get it.

    SB507 Vdo Surveillance Cameras have been denied constantly in high schools, as students shuffle from one Self contained class to another, so they say they don’t qualify for 50% requirement to stay in a class, to receive this benefit of cameras. It’s insane how they twist everything just to minimize expenses on one of most needed populations and families. So We are at near our Level 4rth grievance hearing, just to be denied again, and waiting for 9th January 2017 when amendment will be made to the TEA commissioner’s wordings. Will see what excuse they will have then. School districts play gods, but we parents believe in power of Justice more! We never give up our Hope and hard work, because this is one thing they can’t own even if they play around with it.

    This is true that whoever brings name and honor to the school district, those are the high priority students. That’s where you will find the superintendent’s focus more.

    AA or Life skills students are least worked on, especially if they are less responsive, not because they are unable to, but the way of implementation of methods and way of connecting is severely damaged. I have seen some great teachers too, but their hands are tied by shortage of aides. These kids are put on most monotonous routines and activities and they have to pass whole 7.5 hours in boredom and when they give behaviors then it goes in record files as “student displays aggression”. It’s more like baby sitting than being educated. Mothers are trying and working hard on their children on their own and they excel but every year school fails to show progress, they don’t want that to go in IEP. They mess up so many times that our minds become numb and exhausted battling for one or other critical matter all year for our children who do not have voices, that we feel we are going crazy.. Schools and district are so excellent at covering up the truth, they all team up and I understand they have to keep up their jobs, so they sit in a robotic manner with straight faces and let the air of fakeness invade the room, with most silliest excuses and answers…. We are thankful for U.S Dept of Education to intervene. IT IS HIGH TIME TO GET DEEP INTO THE ROOTS OF WHAT HAS BEEN CAUSING SO MUCH UNDUE PAIN THAT IT IS RUINING FAMILIES… Thank you.
    12/31/16

  83. We struggled for many years to obtain services from Humble ISD for our twin sons with autism. Their disability was undeniable, and they began services in the district in 1992 when they turned three years old. We actually disenrolled them after the first year when we saw no progress through their ECI services. We placed them privately for a year before returning them the following year with part private/part public programming, primarily because we were paying with personal funds for their treatment back in the day before parents and professionals banded together to get ABA treatment for autism covered by insurance companies in Texas.
    The boys had shown such progress in private programming that we had some leverage in obtaining better services from the district. Nevertheless, it was a constant battle each year for appropriate placement and services to address their needs. They mastered no goals/objectives that we did not teach first at home. The struggle, including access to home training, got decidedly more difficult around 2004. By then, I was coaching other parents on obtaining services as well. But the rules seemed to be changing, and I wasn’t sure why. Every evaluation request was met with delays both for other families and our own sons. It took three years, for example, to get a music therapy evaluation for one of my sons. In his last year of school, the evaluation was finally completed showing that his spontaneous language skyrocketed when addressing this in a music setting…that was three months before graduation. We were frequently told that extra tutoring to address objectives in the IEP would first require RTI evaluation. By the time the evaluations were completed, the school year was always over. Moreover, data was never available to us on the teaching efforts, just “summary reports.”
    My sons have been out of school since 2012, and just last year I dumped the last of their school records, assuring myself that there was no purpose in keeping them.
    With Brian Rosenthal’s Pulitzer-worthy investigative report that reveals the hidden agenda in special education services in Texas, I wish I had kept those records of delay, denial and educational obstruction.
    My sons have been at the front edge of the autism epidemic. I have fought, screamed, helped get training for teachers, sat on state committees and worked to be sure that there was some purpose in my sons’ “guinea pig” education. I can only hope that things have improved and will now continue to improve as the “mission field” that is Texas special education gets examined under the harsh light of federal investigation and comparison to states that truly employ “best practices.”

    • Well stated. The only thing TEA has managed to do is to lock arms and play ‘red rover’ with special education parents trying to get FAPE for their kids. I”ve been in Maryland, where both of my children received early intervention services. I know that FAPE is done better in many locations, but not in Texas, and not in Killeen.

  84. I am a licensed elementary teacher myself and have a son with what is now called high functioning autism. We were a military family and moved to Texas in 2009. My son attended Nolanville Elementary In Killeen ISD from 2009-2012, and Moody Middle School in Moody Texas from 2013-2014. He was diagnosed previously by a psychologist in Idaho with ADHD and recommended testing for autism, as we were moving to our next duty station. He was then diagnosed with Asperger’s at Nolanville Elementary when he was 8-9 years old. However, KISD said there was no educational need for an IEP and only allowed him to have a 504. I asked for a second opinion, because he had severe attention difficulties, difficulty with taking notes, difficulty completing assignment, and major behavior challenges due to frustration and being overwhelmed from his Asperger’s. However, KISD then filed suit against me. Because I could not afford an attorney, we eventually settled out of court and did not have to go to trial. He continued to only be given accommodations under an IEP.

    I later found a psychologist outside of Killeen that did psychological testing and confirmed the ADHD and autism diagnosis’. We then were referred for applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy services. He started making progress at home, but continued to have melt downs at school. In fact, at one point, when he refused to take notes during a math review in 5th grade, his teacher called me, thought she had hung up the phone, but did not. I listened to his teacher punish him for turning his cup to red, an indication that he was upset and getting ready to have a melt down. This was the first time he had ever used the system in place to try to prevent a melt down before it happened. The teacher proceeded to tell him that if he was on red it was his own doing because he was refusing to take notes and she made him leave the room and not even benefit from an auditory review of the items for the math test. This is a child who is a strong auditory learner. When I spoke with her later, I told her that if he was on an IEP he would not be forced to leave the room for not taking notes, she agreed. However, he still was never protected under IEP services.

    My son was later referred by his primary care doctor to occupational therapy for handwriting difficulties and spend many months receiving therapy to improve his grip and pressure used when writing, as he was having difficulty with writing. He was also given a referral to physical therapy for coordination difficulties and to speech therapy for pragmatic difficulties. However, KISD never provided any services for him, nor did they put him on an IEP. After the red cup incident, I chose to pull him out of KISD and home school him.

    Later, we moved to Moody, Texas, and I returned to work. Therefore, my son began attending Moody middle school. While he was there, he continued to have difficulty with attention, completing assignments, taking notes, and having melt downs at school. He continued having ABA therapy the entire time we lived in Texas from 2009-1014. His ABA therapist said that the only times they had behavior problems at this point was centered around writing assignments, so he was learning typing, and we were trying to get accommodations for him to be able to type writing assignments. One day he had a melt down at school and the entire classroom had to be emptied because he was throwing things and could not calm down. He was not completing assignments, and his grades started declining. I was very worried for years that because he wasn’t being held accountable at school that it would be difficult for him to finish at all and that eventually his grades would fall, which they did. He was failing classes and struggling with subjects that he never struggled with before, because for years he was missing out on his education because none of his teachers could hold him accountable in the regular classroom. However, he still was not recommended for an IEP. After the classroom melt down and his grades kept falling, I asked the school for a re-evaluation for an IEP. I was discouraged, but the eventually had me sign papers to begin the process. At this point, we ended up having to move out of state due to a divorce, so Moody middle school did not ever re-evaluate him.

    However, when we arrived at the new school in Missouri, they were informed of his pending re-evaluation for an IEP and began the process. They told me they could not believe he was not already on an IEP. He continued having problems with note taking, hand writing, completing assignments, and behavioral challenges. When they finished the IEP evaluation process at the end of the school year, they recommended he be put on an IEP and put him on an IEP for next year.

    During the summer, we relocated back to our permanent home of Colorado. Colorado implemented his IEP and determined that the recommendations from the previous school were not enough and added additional recommendations and put him in their autism program. He started attending two special classes that helped his with assignment completion and organization. However, because he had been allowed to get away with not completing work in school for so many years, it was a very difficult transition for him once he was put in classes where they had educational aides that were putting pressure on him to complete his work. His ABA therapy at home was making sure he did not escape from demands, but school did not for many years. His entire 8th grade year was very difficult for him now that he was being required to do his work at school. His behaviors escalated. Eventually, by the end of the year, his grades were doing a little better and he was completing more of his assignments, but we were nowhere near where he needed to be. I was so concerned that so many years of not being held accountable in school was too much, and he was not going to be able to get on track.

    Fortunately, this year at the high school in Colorado he has the benefit of a strong autism program. It appears that he is finally getting back on track. He is completing the majority of his assignments and even has A’s and B’s in all of his core classes. This is the first time his grades have been this good since he was on A honor roll his first year in Killeen ISD. He is a very smart boy, but his academic skills and knowledge was deteriorating after years of simply not completing assignments at school and not being required to because he needed assistance from special education and an IEP. I am so thankful that we finally left Texas, and were finally able to get him the help he needed. Colorado could not believe that he had never been on an IEP. He desperately needed the additional help, but Texas refused to provide it.

    I pray that your investigation reveals the severity of the problem in Texas schools. I am an elementary teacher and now a middle school science teacher. I knew that if I was unable to get my son the help he needed in public school, I can only imagine how difficult it must be for parents that do not have the knowledge and understand of public schools and the IEP process. I knew that something was not right. It should not have been that difficult to get help for my son that had a qualifying disability and was having so many challenges in school. I was so glad to hear an investigation was occurring because we have been in two different states since we left Texas, and both of them put him on IEP’s.

    Thank you for your time and giving me the opportunity to share my story. We never plan to live in Texas again. My only reason for taking the time and submitting this information is to make sure this never happens to another child with a disability again. I truly hope the truth comes out and other parents with children with disabilities are able to get their child’s needs met in public school in Texas.

    Sincerely,
    Kim R.

  85. I am a Social Worker at a Developmental Pediatrics office in the Houston area and am a former Social Worker in HISD. As a social worker in HISD, I have witnessed the immense amount of children being denied special education services. HISD has many times denied services despite the child having a medical diagnosis from Developmental Pediatricians, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals highly qualified to determine if a child may benefit from special education services within the district. Parents have been told numerous of times that the school’s evaluations outweigh those evaluations of medical professionals. In addition, I have witnessed the struggles of teachers who are unable to effectively teach a class because a child with endless potential has not been given the tools he/she needs to succeed within a school setting. I have listened to teachers who do not feel empowered through the district to advocate for students who need special education services and often fear reprimand for even referring a child for evaluation. I have seen schools in more prominent areas employee 3-4 social service professionals to provide services to students while schools in lower income areas, where mental health issues are proven to be more prominent, only employee 1 for over 900 children.

    I have witnessed mothers and fathers weep at receiving their child’s diagnosis. I have witnessed the despair in the faces of parents who want to provide every opportunity for their child to succeed, only to be faced with the harsh reality that the services their child needs may be inaccessible. I have referred parents numerous of times to non-profit advocacy groups and have witnessed colleagues accompany parents to ARD meetings with hopes of advocating for better special education services for children within HISD. I have witnessed physicians providing DVDs and books to families with hopes that parents can train themselves to provide their children with services that they are unable to access at school.

    Private insurance companies do not fund many of the therapies and services that children with disabilities need to be successful. Medicaid in Texas covers even less of those services. Continuous reductions in funding for disability services in Texas makes it now more important than ever for school districts to provide the appropriate special education services to ALL children who need them. I hope this investigation opens the publics eyes to the gross injustices that many families in Texas face within the school district and inspires people to advocate for children who often times cannot advocate for themselves.

    • I have been teaching for 30 plus years and the current system is failing kids. I have witnessed students that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt denied. They are left in classrooms feeling frustrated and angry. Teachers are frustrated because there is only so much that they can do. On top of that having sped kids taking the regular STAAR test is humiliating and offensive. Help!

  86. It is sad how many people do not know that this is even going on. I have talked to teachers that had no idea!!!! One teacher said that she was too overwhelmed with her own life/problems to care! WTF! That could explain why more of these responses aren’t from teachers. Oh yes, teachers are also afraid of retaliation AND/OR losing their job. This problem is too big to solve. Especially, since administrators won’t admit to ANY wrongdoing. Also, I asked the USDOE about the non disparagement clause that the district had me sign while they were using and abusing me. I never have gotten an answer about that. Does my student deserve their story to be heard?????

  87. I can’t believe that TEA actually denies there is no “cap” or “target” of 8.5%… If you google “Killeen ISD Special Ed (internal) Report”, (link: https://www.killeenisd.org/frontPageV3/ser/KilleenISDSpecialEducationAudit.pdf) you can see the cap for your self & how it is expressed & explained on pages 31-32. RTI & many other special ed “mysteries” are also discussed. (It’s 110 pages long & a “must read” in my opinion.

    According to a news article on line:(http://kdhnews.com/news/education/killeen-isd-fights-to-keep-special-ed-report-private/article_ec783230-e0fc-11e5-9272-872294de5ef4.html) which lead me to find the report, TEA paid approx $85,000 for it from Gibson Consulting Firm here in Austin, TX). The article further states the cost of these reports was $485,000.

    The letter dated 5/19/2015-from Gibson to KISD ____ ____ _____ describing the audit & on pages 49-50-boasting that Gibson did audits for Leander ISD; Katy ISD; Tyler ISD & Comal ISD. (https://www.killeenisd.org/departmentDocs/c736/documents/TPIAResponse.pdf)

    I went on to find the Leander ISD Gibson report: “A Review fo the Special Education Program For the Leander Independent School District”
    (http://www.leanderisd.org/docs/1-GibsonReview0310.pdf)
    –Page 11 shows TEA cap & how Leander is close to the target already. It also documents LRE (least restrictive environment–less resource or pull out) “state targets” by age groups. Here is a quote from p 11 …”The state has set target rates for special education students by age grouping…”

    Manor ISD also has a Gibson report but it’s not specific to special Ed.
    It reviews RTI & its usage p38/ 211 (top of page) or report page 19 (on bottom). Is this quote from report p20 true? because we have experienced RTI as a “delay” to getting a special ed eval & an IEP with services. (Or is it a ‘training issue” for schools to learning RTI’s appropriateness?) Here’s the quote:

    …”The reauthorization of IDEA in 2004 also focused attention on RtI as a tool for assessing and working with struggling learners. This interest is a result of major changes made in the law:
    The law changes how students are identified with specific learning disabilities. Local educational agencies are no longer “… required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability…(P.L. 108-446, §614(b)(6)(A)). Rather, local educational agencies may use a process that determines how a student responds to research-based interventions. ..”

    -Appendix E is all about Special ed issues/ what to do about them (A good read)
    (https://d3jc3ahdjad7x7.cloudfront.net/c4YrYqIjWetl9VbQIteFgAbvUK0N4XomiT6wpat8qvhw4aup.pdf)

    Gibson Consulting Group’s website notes a “special ed review” for Katy ISD on their website: http://gibsonconsult.com/our-projects/
    -I couldn’t find this report to read but I know that it, & other special ed & school reports are there to read. Gibson Consulting also has TEA’s guidelines for these expensive & comprehensive reports.

    So who is “watching the farm” on this stuff? (Who is enforcing state/ federal education laws & program guidelines in the state of TX?) After 5 years of wondering who to go to, how to complain to, who could fix my childrens’ issues with the TX public school, I was finally told by TEA this month that they have no “legislative authority” for enforcing school compliance with state law & referred me to (RX Education Code) TEC 7.028. They said TX legislature has decided the School Boards have that authority & new legislation is needed if Texans want that to change.

    So I googled to see how I felt about this & found that other school boards that I read about in Houston–the 1.2 million dollar decision to change school names (http://www.khou.com/news/parents-and-teachers-join-lawsuit-against-hisd/294525962); El Paso ISD school board “ousted” (https://www.texastribune.org/2012/12/06/education-commissioner-replaces-el-paso-school-boa/) were interesting… TEA’s role is mentioned in the El Paso article…

    Ideas for improvement going forward:
    –Permanently remove the “target” or “cap” for all areas of special ed/ 504/ IDEA B.
    –Study successful school models & bring the best ideas back to TX to implement. Perhaps different districts can try different school models?
    –Ensure all who need these federal programs have access and are found & tested as described under federal law.
    –Training: There is so much diversity in special ed. Teachers need focused specific trainings on the population of students that they teach. General education teachers who have these children in inclusion classes need training as well as aides & special ed teachers. Training gen ed teachers on the student’s PLAAF only is not enough to understand the student’s learning style, needs, quirks & behaviors. Lecturing a student, telling them “not to do it again”, learn by your mistakes–these don’t work with my child & some other parents that I know but are going on in our schools.
    –ECS 13 in Austin said during that “Listening Session” that they have “great trainings” that are not well attended at all. Trainings need to be mandatory & teacher required to have so many hours of paid training in certain specific areas & a choice of other optional trainings.
    –Restructure ISD salaries: States like NY, have statewide salary structures for all public servants. Each position is described by duties, education, experience & achievement. Salary ranges are “capped” at a maximum with “increments” for longevity. Salaries are uniform state wide so small districts as well as large districts have the same opportunities for attracting & retaining qualified professionals. Differentials for higher cost of living available. This helps with budgets and funding & avoids “runaway” salaries.
    –There needs to be a “watchdog” agency in TX that interacts directly with Texans (Parents) about all school matters–Special ed/ IEP/ IDEA B, 504; Title 1, etc. That agency direct reports & is accountable to the US Dept of Education and takes reports, complaints, feedback, etc.
    -It sorts & forwards reported “issues” to the appropriate entity to be addressed for resolution. (Part of the issues I’ve dealt with is not knowing which agency deals with which problem (where to send a complaint); the choices of whom to make a complaint to such as TEA; OCR; OSEP, etc; the consequences of the choices–filing here prohibits taking further action there; or you have to wait for this process to find for your complaint before filing it with that other office.)
    -With multiple areas of complaint that fail within several different agencies jurisdiction, it’s difficult for a “layman” parent to sort all this & direct each part to each different place. (It’s also very time consuming & confusing.)
    –Immediate & well defined consequences for “not following state/federal rules of the program” especially when the program involves federally funded programs or grants.
    –Feedback for accountability from parents; testing for accountability from STAAR but also required assessments that are statewide. A “choice” for parents to have child tested at an independent center-(like SAT’s are held on a Saturday).

  88. My family’s story…Where do I start?… It’s been 5 years of this!!! We are in the Title 1 School in Lake Travis ISD. Almost 1/2 the school is ELL-English Language Learners & almost 1/2 the school is economically disadvantaged making the school a “schoolwide Title 1 school”. So I am a “Title 1 Parent” as told to me explicitly by LTE/ LTISD this year. Someone at the Austin “listening Sessions” said LTISD is far below the TEA cap & below 8.5% target for special ed (I think they said 7.7% or so??) There is NO Special Ed Parent Liason or anywhere to learn interactively about IEP from the school without reading about it & figuring it all out yourself. That is much of the problem. The LTISD SPecial Ed Director started a Special Ed Parent meetings (SEPAC) but there have been no meetings so far this year.

    My child was born with 2 uncurable, untreatable, systemic, progressive diseases with devastating side effects-such as seizures not controlled by medications and seizures that turn into medical emergencies that can result in coma, permanent brain damage & death. She went thru ECI-Early Childhood Intervention, Has private OT, PT, Speech, annual MRIs, and neuropsych evaluations, specialists.

    Before entering kindergarten, we met with the LTE/LTISD, including but not limited to the-504 counselor & LSSP & nurse. The flipped through the pages of the neuropsych report & the pile of medical documentation & therapy reports & said that kiddo “didn’t need anything”-thereby denying both 504 & Idea B & any evaluations.

    After Christmas, I emailed the kinder teacher about homework taking 5 hours for kiddo, about kiddo not being able to see 5 ants in a set–with 2 ants on top line & 3 ants on the bottom line in a circle (which indicates kiddo’s neuro-visual issues which were addressed in private therapy about 1.5 yrs ago. It would be nice for the school to be trained in recognizing these issues & providing resouirces or referral to the parent or at least suggesting the parent talk to kiddo’s dr about it) and asked for tutoring or some kind of help. Teacher (who was retiring) indicated 504 paperwork. I completed & returned & waited. I finally found out who was in charge of this paperwork & emailed the 504 counselor (who still works there). 504 Counselor emailed that she was “prioritizing” “potential” meetings ahead of kiddo’s 504. I was told at the end of kindergarten that kiddo got 504. Kiddo went to 1st grade & teacher had been named “teacher of the year” for the previous year. After much nagging (by me), in Oct of 1st grade-the teacher finally emailed that she read kiddo’s IEP & her IEP was implemented since the beginning of the year. WoW! Kiddo didn’t get an IEP until mid-April towards the end of 1st grade.

    I was told by the folder teacher that no one could know about kiddo’s seizures because it was a “violation of HIPPA”. I said-“I am the parent & kiddo needs to be safe. Everyone needs to know & be shown kiddos picture to look out for her for seizures.” I have emails from the nurse that LTE was told & trained. So in the FIE meeting/ report, the 1st grade teacher described kiddo’s seizures in her observations but never told us or “labelled” them as seizures in her written report of her observations. The LTISD Physical therapist observed kiddo standing in PE & a ball was thrown at her. She didn’t move or react. The ball hit her & bounced off of kiddo. We don’t know how many balls were thrown at our seizing child that day or any other time in PE class. We only heard of this at the FIE meeting & both parents said “she was having a seizure!” The LTISD PT lady said “Yes, I thought so too”. So much for telling us when kiddo was having a seizure or following kiddo’s seizure plan from her Dr that was given to LTE nurse & renewed every year since starting in kindergarten.

    Her seizures progressed into only emergency seizures & 911 was called. I came to LTE & was immediately told by 911 people that kiddo stopped breathing twice and that the school people carried kiddo from the gym to the nurse’s office at the other side of the school cutting off her airway twice. A teacher’s email confirmed that kiddo “turned blue”. I asked why they carried my seizing child around & why they didn’t follow her seizure plan. I was told that it was “dismissal time” & she seized in the gym where all the kids were so they decided to move my child.

    Kiddo also fell out of her chair at school–twice I was told.I asked if she hit her head & was told “no”. I was further told that another student saw my child on the floor & reported it to the teacher. I said-why don’t you get her a chair that she can’t fall out of-with arms? LTE said “Great idea!” So they got her a high school desk chair for tiny elementary school kid. It took about 4 months to get a proper sized appropriate chair for kiddo & the chair arrived when I came to school with an advocate.

    LTISD agreed to provide a nurse on the bus to administer seizure rescue medicine but it was months before a nurse was hired & showed up. There were many excuses for the delay: no one applied; they couldn’t find anyone suitable; someone was hired but never showed up… Their previous plan was that the bus people were going to just hand kiddo’s RX over to 911 & tell them to give it to her. I remember telling the LTISD attorney in the ARD that 911 doesn’t take direction from thier school & 911 has their own protocol.

    I can go on for days about how denying 504 or IDEA B/ IEP can impact the child’s health & safety at school. There have also been articles in the TX newspaper about it involving asthma, seizures, food allergies, etc.

    There have been MANY, MANY LONG ARDS. Some over 3-4 days for more than 12 hours total. ARDs discussing that parents are an EQUAL part of the committee; the PLAAF must be understandable & use data; grades are supposed to reflect “mastery of the TEKS”; getting pull-out for kiddo. While most parents complain kiddo needs “inclusion” it was equally difficult getting “resource” or “pull-out” for my kiddo.
    –I am a parent who actually likes STAAR or statewide independent assessments so we can know what kiddo is really doing. STAAR test achievement in TX is tied to ranking & rating of schools & ISD bonuses & TEA accountability. The problem is the pressure the teachers/ school/ ISD puts on these kiddos–all of them. My gifted child came home from 2nd grade worried about passing the 3rd grade STAAR. I’m like-“you’re not even taking it this year”.

    After years of all this, and more, things improved all around & we are in a better place. To what do I attribute this? Well, I have spent countless hours reading state & federal education laws, emailing, I hired an advocate, then an attorney, I do lots of research & reading on my own; come up with lots of ideas; spent countless hours at ARDs, now also pre-ARDs; finding services, looking for & suggesting solutions… Countless hours!!! I can’t imagine many if any, other Title 1 or ELL parents doing this.

    But nothing is “perfect”…
    I was told this month by the ARD that in the LTE Tittle 1/ Bilingual school of over 915 students, my child was the only child in her grade that needed pragmatic speech & social skills so she couldn’t have lunch bunch every week because it was difficult to find kids to participate in it with her. Also the LSSP said that the computer program that LTISD uses to determine which kids get tested for Specific Learning Disabilities said again this year that my child couldn’t get tested for a math disability. My child was diagnosed privately in 2013 with a math disability. I repeated this to the Director of Special Ed for her to look into this.

    I pray that “smart” change comes & that “people” are held accountable & that diversity programs start in schools that include teaching at the entry level and up about special needs and acceptance. A specific program is needed statewide that tells children that kiddo is different in some ways but very much the same in wanting to have friends, be included, be invited and be friended. Teaching materials should also include special needs characters and situations that provides insight & empathy.

  89. I am a parent with an autistic son in Austin ISD. I got to briefly speak at the Austin listening session but didn’t get to fully tell my son’s story. I first found out my son was autistic when he was in Pre-k. He started in PPCD for speech delay. During that time I thought everything was fine and he would receive the needed services. My son gets to kinder and I was doing alot of volunteering on the campus at the time and noticed how he would be looking around and not doing any classwork nor was he getting any constant support. When I raised this concern I was given a good talk and what i like to call hush me up services, just enough support for my son to hush me up. At that time when he was transitioning out of PPCD I would look over his IEP and notice all goals etc remained the same from previous years. I filed a complaint with TEA and a investigation was under way. You would think things got better but they got worse. The district had a behavior specialist to come and observe my son and he came on the first day of school for two minutes and then returned a few days later. When I asked for a report of his findings he told me he doesn’t write reports. When I started to ask the hard questions a doctored report was produced with alot of missing information. When I further questioned the behavior specialist on the validity of the report I received an email from a supervisor. So it went from hush me up services to any questions/ concerns I had for my child’s teacher even if it had to do with homework the teacher would include not only the principal but district officials downtown. By this time, 2nd grade my child was two years behind in math and his handwriting wasn’t close to being legible. The teacher at the time commented on my child’s report card that he wanted him to feel more apart of the classroom. Once again I complained about the lack of training so teacher’s can understand traits of students with autism but also know how to best teach them. My concerns fell on deaf ears. 3rd and 4th grade were spent on another campus but it was the same merry go round. When I met with administrators etc about the IEP, I previously had placed in my child’s IEP that staff be trained on researched based practices for students with Autism. I was assured that not only the Teacher, but the Teachers assistant and the resource teacher when going within a day or two for training. Believing that because my child was at another school he would somehow receive the services due but that wasn’t the case. On the surface it looked as if he was getting the services but my child’s grades started to reflect the lack of support he wasn’t receiving. On his speech goals it was stated he mastered a few goals at 80% in math but for two reporting periods he received an “F”. I never received any note regarding meeting to discuss concerns or any notice about tutoring. What I found was things that were put in place for my child’s support were optional for use and that was even stated in an email from my child’s previous teacher. When I emailed my concerns to the SpEd Director I was told that its a campus issue. I followed up with a number of letters and was told how the director was working closely with the school Administrator to address my concerns. I did an open records request and to my surprise (not) no one had taken any type of training. And the addressing of my concerns by the SpEd director was nothing more then her and the assistant director discussing how I spelled her name wrong. I filed a complaint with TEA and seems they (AISD) only received a pat on the hand. I will continue to advocate for my son and many others in my community. A quality education and proper support for students with disabilities isn’t a privilege it’s a right. I have emails and letters to support my statement.

  90. I resigned earlier this year as a Special Education teacher. I am proud of my work with all students, having been named Teacher of The Year in three different school districts. My most recent experience in Temple ISD was frustrating and disheartening. Since TISD was cited for disproportionately identifying African-American students, among other non-compliance issues, the pendulum swung far in the opposite direction. The lengthy, arduous intervention process established through child study teams prevented the identification of Special Education students. As a result, multi-funded learning centers were developed such as Grand Central Station to serve all struggling students versus identifying students with disabilities. Sadly, the district was understaffed at the middle school level and still pulling most identified students out of the general education setting at the elementary level. At the middle school level, inclusion students rarely saw instructional assistants since they’re routinely used as floating substitute teachers. Parents of Special Education students are supposed to receive IEP progress reports every three weeks, per district guidelines. It wasn’t happening. In fact, I came across IEP goals and objectives that hadn’t been updated in a year. Then, at the time of a scheduled ARD meeting, all goals and objectives were suddenly marked mastered. I voiced my concerns to the principal, who chose not to even respond. I do not feel these are isolated issues in Temple ISD, however the district has a history of non-compliance. Ironically, the superintendent is a former Special Education teacher. TEA has a great deal work to do!

    • I am a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician in the Houston area. For more than a decade, I have evaluated and cared for children who have developmental disabilities and behavior disorders. Research shows that 1 in 5 children in the US (and worldwide) have a developmental disability or behavior disorder. Therefore, approximately 20% of children will need some sort of academic or school intervention. Unfortunately, I have many patients who have been denied special education services they desperately need based upon my evaluations and results of the school evaluations.

      Parents have reported to me many times that they have reported their concerns to the child’s teacher and other school officials only to be told that it was not necessary to test the child or that the child should repeat a grade instead. Parents have written letters requesting special education testing and yet have been denied even having their child tested. I have patients who have repeated multiple grades within the same district without ever being evaluated for special education services. Parents have desperately sought help without success. Teachers have reported to me their frustration in that they are not even allowed to suggest a child be tested for services. I have witnessed many violations of the IDEA by schools in the Houston area.

      I am pleased the US Department of Education will be investigating this grave injustice to children.

      • I think this comes from a difference between the IDEA Disability Categories and medical diagnoses along with the difference in criteria. There are some disability areas that require a medical diagnosis and documentation from the MD or other medical specialists: Other Health Impairment (which includes but not limited to ADHD, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and other conditions for which ongoing treatment/follow up is needed), Auditory Impairments, Visual Impairments, Deaf-Blind, Orthopedic Impairments, and Traumatic Brain Injury. Other areas such as Specific Learning Disability, Autism, Intellectual Disability, Speech/Language Impairment, Emotional Disturbance, Noncategorical Early Childhood (only good brought child’s 6th bday in Texas and requires the suspicion of Autism, Emotional Disturbance, or Intellectual Disability), and Specific Learning Disability are determined based on the Full and Individual Evaluation: reviewing medical history and early childhood development are part of this evaluation. Often times, school’s receive a one page report with no data and notes that indicate 1 thirty minute visit that give a child a diagnosis. This is not acceptable for determining disability in the areas that do not require a medical diagnosis and input of the MD. Often, children are diagnosed with ADHD without considering their developmental age/level versus their chronological age. If they are functioning below their chronological age, then the expectations for them need to fall online with their developmental age. Many doctor’s do not refer for psycho educational testing, therefore have no idea where the child’s cognitive abilities lie. Sometimes these kids plateau cognitively and the gap between heir mental age and chronological age widens resulting in a disability condition of Intellectual Disability. Kids with medical diagnosis of Developmental Disabilities may we’ll meet criteria for one of the IDEA categories, but not all kids with delays do. Not all kids with motor or language delays present with an average or significantly subaverage IQ. This is where doctors and school personnel need to collaborate on what is going on. I know a handful of doctors that want the school’s evaluation report before making any medical diagnosis to get the info that they can’t get in an office visit such as IQ, adaptive behavior, multi setting observations, academic history and interventions. We have to also keep in mind that a delay does not equal a disability and special education is for students with disabilities per the IDEA categories and the educational categories. Further, determining the need for special education is a two fold process. Step one is determining if a disability condition per IDEA exists(assessment personnel which may include MD). The second is determining if the student who has a disability has a need for specialized instruction and special education services/supports. Example: a student might have an orthopedic Impairment and require accommodated seating and a wheelchair, but may not need special education to get those elements.

  91. Chris M. in Austin.

    As I was number 90 at the Austin listening session and did not have the opportunity to speak, I am submitting my comments online.

    I am a parent of a 7 year old child born with Down syndrome who is in 1st grade at Austin ISD (AISD). I am also a volunteer with the Texas Down Syndrome Advocacy Coalition. My son’s story is not as painful as many that I heard at the “Listening Session” as he has a visible disability and received a special education designation easily. However, I do understand the frustration, sense of betrayal and anger that many of the families expressed in their denial of services.

    Our family has experienced the anxiety and stress of not receiving adequate services and the constant chaos of staff turnover at our school. In addition, we have been pressured to transfer my son to another school and to place him in a life-skills setting rather than to be included in the general education classroom in order to receive more support. We have declined and therefore, my son is not achieving as much as he could with adequate support. Moving a child to a school that the district has referred to as a “preferred placement” so the school district can save money is nothing less than segregation and warehousing. Some schools have more than four times the number children with disabilities than others. And in many cases those children are bussed (sometimes for hours) to schools away from their friends and neighbors in order to save the district money. This is unacceptable. I suspect the number of children in special education who are not served by their homeschool is significant. General education students are not shifted around to save the school districts money. Why should special education students be?

    More worrying is the lack of consistency from school to school on how inclusion is implemented. Inclusion of children with disabilities in a general education setting appears to depend solely on the principal’s personal viewpoint. Some schools are fully included, and some still house children in portables away from the school. In 2016, inclusion should be a given, and not an individual administrator’s arbitrary decision. In a similar fashion, the dedication of resources at each school also relies on a principal’s choice and for some administrators – special education is simply not a priority. We need a consistently applied set of guidelines for districts (and for administrators) at each school to follow that begins with inclusion and provides the necessary structure and resources for our children to thrive.

    I see the delight and pride when our schools talk about their ratings or academic achievements, but I never hear a school talk about how successful they have been in providing special education services. Special education also needs quality standards that schools can be proud to attain.

    As sad as it has been to hear about other parents past struggles, in this testimony, I will focus on the future as I have grave concerns about what will happen when the enrollment cap is removed and a flood of newly identified students qualify for services and supports. 250,000 children will be a massive influx for our schools, and our schools simply do not have enough resources or the experienced staff to serve them all.

    We need an action plan on how the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and school districts will fix systemic problems and provide a quality education to all children with disabilities. The action plan must address how long it will take to restore support, or add those who have been totally denied, and identify what resources individual schools will need in additional staff and training.

    In addition, the plan must address the current lack of systemic transparency, limited accountability and nonexistent stakeholder input at all levels. Stakeholders are currently not meaningfully involved with project planning and implementation to provide their lived experience and concerns at any level in our school system. Stakeholder input can help administrators design and implement programs that can more efficiently serve everyone – without unintended consequences. Only those affected can truly understand how implementation may not achieve the goals of a particular program. Nothing about us without us is a constant and needed mantra for the disability community.

    TEA’s advisory committees and public notices are extremely difficult to access, cryptic and exclusionary for public input. And other special education advisory committees are (for many schools) a committee whose input is dismissed or not taken seriously. Parents and students must be involved going forward. The massive outcry, anger, and the sheer volume of comments and concerns during these “Listening Sessions” provide evidence that parents have previously not had or an opportunity for face-to-face stakeholder input or to express their dismay at the interactions they have had with school districts and decision-makers. The oral and written denials with limited explanation leave the parents with a feeling of disrespect, hopelessness and failure in advocating for their children to receive an equitable and quality education.

    Which brings me to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), for which TEA is drafting for a State Plan. This is a crucial opportunity to change Texas’ special education system for the better. This is the chance to use stakeholder input to help design a more efficient system. But, I can find no one who has had any input into helping draft the State Plan; even though stakeholder input is required in the new law. A short simple online survey is not meaningful stakeholder input. In addition I do not recall the online survey addressing special education. Parents should be involved in this process in order to draft a State Plan that is thoughtful, efficient and effective. ESSA provides an opportune vehicle to address the changes that need to occur to help solve our systemic special education problems, but without sufficient and meaningful stakeholder input, the local-control intent of the new law will not be achieved.

    One example of a crucial aspect of ESSA is in choosing an N-size (number of children represented in a subgroup). If Texas chooses a high N-size number, such as 30 students, individual schools that have less than that number of students enrolled in special education will be exempt from general education standard accountability and reporting requirements. We’ve seen what a cap on enrollment has done to our children. What might happen if there is no accountability or reporting? TEA should pick an appropriate N-size (based on all stakeholder input) that allows most schools to fall under the accountability and reporting requirements. With a high N-size number, many school districts will be able to shift children that receive special education services to other schools in the district to keep enrollment under the target; thereby exempting most of their schools in the district.

    For example, my son’s school has 19 children classified as receiving special education services. A nearby school has an extremely high enrollment (for AISD) of 63 children. A simple shift in preferred placement to two nearby low enrollment schools would eliminate crucial accountability and reporting requirements for multiple schools in our district. In some regions of Texas a high N-size number would effectively allow a special education subgroup to simply disappear. For small schools, like my son’s, TEA might never know if he is succeeding in special education or failing. Parents deserve equal accountability in all aspects of our schools.

    Many states have already chosen small N-size subgroup numbers (5-6) that ensure low enrollment schools are included in standard accountability and reporting while maintain each student’s privacy. Will TEA listen to a parent’s advice that accountability and reporting is important when deciding what N-size will be in the State Plan? Or will the plan be published, written comments given and ignored as a State Plan that has the maximum N-size of 30 is published as a final draft?

    This is one example of many within ESSA that could build a foundation of successful change to address many special education issues and failings. Parents deserve a seat at the table in drafting the State Plan to protect our special needs children.

    In closing, parents of children with special needs have never had an opportunity like the “Listening Sessions” to talk about and vent their frustrations at the systems supposedly built to educate our children. Every attendee at the “Listening Sessions” and all of those who have submitted written comments have never felt that they had an opportunity to be part of any programs or process at TEA or at the school districts that affects their children. They want to be partners (not adversaries) and share their problems and concerns while working towards efficient and effective solutions. Drafting a State Plan for ESSA provides TEA with a perfect vehicle for including parents to help create a better system. It is imperative that TEA (and each school district) include parents to help make special education in Texas something we can be proud of.

  92. I am a high school computer science teacher. I have a huge range of students from AP students to life skills students. I have one class of 27 students including 4 Autistic students, 3 students with various learning disabilities and 1 with emotional and behavior modifications. Others, I believe have learning disabilities but are not labeled. Specifically, one of my students in my class is so disruptive that it greatly impacts teaching the class. I have repeatedly asked for an aide in that class but was told there are not any available and they are unable move him to a more appropriate class for his abilities. Another teacher that has this student told me that she didn’t see how I did it without help. In all cases, the students are losing. It upsets me that I have so many students that in the correct environment and with the right number of aides these students could be successful. They are not hopeless but our system is failing these students. By the time I get many of these students with learning disabilities such as ADD, it is too late. The system has failed them and now their biggest problem isn’t their learning disabilities it is now that they are getting in serious trouble. They have given up on learning because they think they are stupid. I give the every ounce of my positive reinforcement but it just isn’t enough. I believe inclusion that was intended for good has been a complete failure. I have students that hate it. They don’t even try because they know that they can’t finish the assignment on time and they see others students are finished when they are only have done. They have tuned out in that all important moment and they don’t understand so they need repeated explanations. In the mean time the advanced students are finished and aggravated because they are ready to move on. Putting them in diversed groups doesn’t help these students because they sit back and let the advanced students complete the project. Ideally you would like the advanced student to teach the challenged students. Sometimes that works but the advanced students want to move on. Some resent teaching the struggling student. I would like to see students label appropriately, given the intervention early and more assistance and planning time to help these students. Those with ADD would greatly benefit because they want to learn. They just don’t know how. They need to be taught skills to control their ADD. I would be interested to see if the misbehavior problems decrease.

    • Yes! My son is ADD and the Texas Education Policies and egregious acts harmed my son after YEARS of non-identification, they then at 12 years old FALSELY railroaded him into the criminal system in order not to give him services. Its been a horrific nightmare.

    • ADHD- Inattentive Type (Previously ADD under the DSM IV) is not the same as a Specific Learning Disability. The the recommended accommodations and/or modifications and services/supports may be significantly different for the students based on what exactly is going on.

      We also have this population of students who have low to low average ability that have cognitive abilities above the intellectual disability (previous mental retardation) but are below the average ability range which is one of the criteria for a Specific Learning Disability per the Dual Discrepancy Consistency Model that most Texas districts now follow and have followed for the last decade or longer. These kids are in the gap meaning they don’t have a disability but they don’t have the cognitive skills to be successful without specialized instruction and supports. These kiddos may often be misdiagnosed as having a form of ADHD due to their immature behaviors and lower attention span that is truly the result of a lower IQ. We have to consider a child’s mental age or developmental age versus their chronological age when they have a below average IQ. These students are what we consider as a student with a general learning difficulty (previously referred to as a slow learner).

      Some key thoughts to consider in determining if a child needs an IEP are the following:

      The presence of a disability (per the 13 IDEA categories) plus the need for specialized instruction equals special education services/supports.

      The presence of a disability (per the 13 IDEA categories) plus the need for just instructional and/or behavioral accommodations equals a Section 504 plan.

      No disability present (per the 13 IDEA categories) or disability yet to be identified plus need for specialized instruction equals RTI.

  93. My son has Apraxia with a very high IQ. At the time the school staff did not have an understanding of his diagnosis. I felt that I had to get educated in order to teach them how to help him. In first grade his teacher told us it was unrealistic to expect him to be able to write anything. I was livid so I placed him in a private school intended for students with special needs. I fought insurance and managed to get him private OT 3 times a week. The school PT was offended that he made such progress in the private session than when he worked with her. The school granted him one hour and fifteen minutes a month. To my lack of understanding at the time I thought our goal was to remove the special education label so when we had improved greatly due to private therapy for OT and speech, I asked for his special education label to be removed but to keep his 504 status. At the end of his 7th grade year, the counselor told me that they were going to remove his 504 status because he was making good grades. I asked her why and she replied that they had too many and the state required them to reduce the number of students with 504 to 8.5%. The counselor said he didn’t need it since they removed his special education label in 2nd grade. I repeated told her that I had removed it. She never believed me. We had to hire an attorney to help us. He started failing. We had to pay for more testing at Texas Children’s Hospital which isn’t cheap. His doctor wrote in a letter to his school that it is ludicrous to take away his modifications. He added the analogy that it would be like saying a person in a wheelchair is getting around pretty good so let’s just snatch that wheelchair out from under them and let them walk. Now at this point my son is failing and is very stressed and shutting down which makes me frurious after all the work we had done to get him to relax and be able to produce written work. The counselor admitted that she was wrong and he did need the assistance put in place. Finally, after a huge battle and the observation of the impact it had in my son to remove his assistant his label for 504 was put back in place. Not only did we get 504 back but after all the new testing proved he needed his special education services reinstated. Families that have children with learning disabilities have enough on their plate to deal with. It is exhausting for all involved. They shouldn’t have to be fighting school to get services for their child.

  94. As an educator (teacher, department chair) in a Houston area public school, I am appalled at the lack of services and assistance that our special needs students receive. Our students’ needs are not being met. We are forced by the district to punish our students, rather than get them help for their special needs. We have meetings with administration and we beg for help. Our teachers are desperate for more staff to help, for appropriate therapy and services for our students, but our requests are denied. Parents come in to ARD meetings and are told that their child does not need the help. The children DO need the help – every parent is told the same story. Staff are told that the funds are not available to help the children with the services and therapy they need and to do the best we can.

    We have had numerous families chose to leave public schools due to the intense pressure and hostility from the public schools in our area. Parents of special needs children are forced to either homeschool, pay expensive private school, or watch their child suffer from neglect and given an inappropriate education each day. I have sat in countless ARD meetings and watched school staff bully parents into accepting sub-par educational placements.

    Teachers are not trained on special needs, IEPs, or how to help their students. I have been a teacher for over 11 years and have only had 1 training required by the school district. The training that we had to attend was how to prevent lawsuits – we were told to never put anything in emails or writing and to limit what we tell parents about their own children! That was the only special education training provided to us at the school district!

    As part of my job, I mentor new teachers. Our latest teacher we hired did not know what an IEP was – he has over 20 special needs students in his classes! He did not know he had to follow the IEP or even the most basic ways to help a special needs student. (He went through an alternative certification program). Every teacher that has a special needs student in their class needs in-depth training on special needs, IEPs, etc.

    I am also a mom to a special needs student that attends school in another district outside of Houston. We have been forced to spend thousands of dollars getting legal assistance after the school refused to provide even the most basic services to our disabled daughter. We have been told that schools don’t provide physical therapy (consult only), even after the school’s aide let our child fall over 60+ times. (Our daughter had surgery to learn how to walk at age 8.) We have been treated with hostility when we ask for even the most simple accommodations (like a vocabulary list). We sit in meetings and are told that our daughter is doing great and is on grade level, despite failing STAAR tests and benchmarks. She is only offered accommodations to help the teachers (shortened assignments) rather than provide her meaningful help and tutoring when she struggles on new material.

    The schools routinely break the law. Records requests are ignored (over 45 days, despite multiple ARD meetings) and there are no consequences. The school held an ARD meeting without a parent, despite our request to attend and our willingness to try and find a mutually agreeable time. We brought in an expert to speak at another ARD meeting and she was dismissed and they refused to listen to her. We had an IEE that was refused, because the school “only uses IEEs for informal purposes”. Every single proposal we made as parents, our expert made and our IEE suggested were dismissed and refused during the ARD meeting.

    We have begged that the school collaborate with us to provide an appropriate and safe education for our daughter. We have reached out, over and over, asking for help.

    The schools want the special needs children out of public schools and will do anything necessary to force us out. Even if it means endangering our children.

  95. It has taken more than 3 years to get our son the accommodations he needs to remain in the public school system. As you all know accommodations may need to change from year to year. When my son was in 2nd grade his teacher called me in to tell me she thought we had a “character issue”. My son is the kindest, gentlest spirit and always wants to please. We are lucky to not have behavioral issues as of yet. His teacher had it wrong! I decided to have my son tested at our expense. We noticed when he was 3 years old that things were not right. So it was not a surprise that his test results came back with the autism spectrum disorder (high functioning). I immediately wrote a letter to the school and called for a meeting. I gave them the results and they agreed to test him through the district. The district did not agree with the professional results. I then asked for an independent evaluation, which they agreed. My son was tested for a 3 time (as many of you know the anxiety and emotional stress this caused my son was un describable). The results of the IE also came back as autism spectrum disorder. The school district once again denied the results and was not willing to place him on an IEP. After several meetings with the school, out of complete frustration and not knowing how to work with the school; we hired an advocate. With the advocate the school district finally agreed to place him on an IEP. It is frustrating and hard to believe that a school district would not accept two professional diagnoses and provide the services a child needs. It is clear that the SPED programs are based on funding. It is truly unfortunate that funding is not provided as it is clearly needed. I am grateful that we were able to get him on an IEP and that we are able to adjust his accommodations every year, but no family, Child or Parent, should have to go through the heartache, frustration or stress this caused. Since he has received the services he needs; he no longer cries every morning before school because he does not want to go. We do encounter other struggles every year and will continue to make adjustments for them. We will continue to fight the system and advocate for our child, but there needs to be a change in the system. We have crossed the biggest hurdle (I think) and I hope no other family has to go through what we have all gone through. It is unnecessary. Children with disabilities can be successful, if they are provided the tools and help they need and deserve. I hope all of our voices will be heard.

  96. Being the parent of an autistic child in Texas I personally feel that the attention given to this matter is pathetic. I dealt with my son’s school district, in which I also am a secondary teacher, well over three years in trying to secure him special education services. The United States Department of Education informed me to contact my state education agency which happened to be The Texas Education Agency to resolve the matter. The Texas Education Agency directed me to my school district since they depend on “local control” to settle disputes. How or why would the school district that refused to listen to me in the first place even care to listen to me a second time. I had to spend over ten thousand dollars in hiring an attorney to get the school district to provide the proper support needed for my son. The problem with education in the United States is that it has become a bureaucracy in which to much emphasizes is given to “local control”. Why would TEA even listen to me when in fact this would point out that the lack of oversight led to problems where special needs are not met? The problem of depending on local control is that parents are at the mercy of local dictators to do as they want? On the other hand, when TEA decided to deal with this matter they dedicated two hours, between 6:00p.m. to 8:00p.m. in my region to listen to complaints. How is TEA suppose to listen to all the complaints in my region in two hours? Furthermore, the local school districts did not send out notices to the parents of TEA’s visit or did TEA dedicate enough time and resources to this problem. Why would TEA want to know the severity of this problem when it would prove that they dropped the ball to the U.S. Department of Education. Problems such as this will continue to happen until TEA listens to parent complaints instead of going by “local control”.

  97. I am a single mother with 4 boys and 3 of them have some form of educational disability. My oldest is 17 and is diagnosed with ADHD. The whole time he has been in school he has struggled to maintain passing grades but has never been a discipline problem. He is a star athlete and very involved in activities in an out of school. I though all along they were doing what they could for him and over the past year I believe differently. I also have a 13 yr old who is now in 7th grade. Last year he was struggling as he always had but it seemed to be worse and he seemed to be losing confidence. I requested all of hid documents from the school so that I could study over his work. At this time I found that the documents stating that my child needed intense reading instruction was forged by the school district to say that 4 days at the end of school was all the intense instruction he would need. These 4 days were fun days there was no instruction. When I met with the school officials I was told that the document was forged because they were running out of time and their backs were against the wall to get the forms to the state. I asked for an FIE to be completed. Once completed it showed that my son was Dyslexic and also had ADHD. They told me that he did not qualify for services because his IQ was average. In the 6th grade my son was on a 3rd grade level but according to the school did not qualify for anything!! At this time I was forced to file a due process which was settled quickly I am sure because of the forged documents. I finally feel like I am getting somewhere with putting services in place for my kid. This year my youngest is 11 and in the 5th grade. He is also diagnosed with dyslexia. He generally does pretty good with his school work but after evaluation noticed that he is 2 years behind but his IQ was average so they denied him as well. Not only did they deny him but I requested a FIE but when they scores came back I noticed that reading was the only area they tested in. When I asked why the Full and Individual Evaluation was not done, they stated that they tested him in the areas that they felt he was weak. I am giving them a few more weeks to complete yet another FIE, but this time a complete one before I will file my 2nd due process. I am the only source of income for my family yet I am constantly taking off from work to attend meetings to ensure that my child’s educational needs are met. I believe one of the biggest flaws in our school system is that if your child does not learn the same way that every other mainstream child learns then you are left behind. I believe a FAPE should be given to you in the way your are most capable of learning. For example last year my son was put in a dyslexia class with a Special ED teacher and an Aide. The Aide would help my son make vocabulary flash cards to study. These flash cards had no words but lots of colors and pictures. During the time she helped him he made nothing less than a 95. when the Aide left no one else picked this up to help my son. He did not pass another vocabulary test. I believe that someone needs to come in and ensure that every child is being education to the absolute best they can be. Not just the “normal” or gifted learners. There is a sophomore on our campus I have known him and his family for a very long time. He is a Star athlete as well and should be a junior but has already failed. He now wants to quit school because of the struggles he faces everyday with no services. We have got to quit loosing kids because we are trying to save a dime.

  98. My name is Alicia Markum, and I have a 5 year old son with autism. In April of 2014, my son was evaluated for special education services and was granted 4 hours, 5 days a week in the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) including 30 minutes of group speech services weekly. Still new to the diagnosis, we felt his needs would be better served that year in full-time private therapy rather than PPCD.

    In February of 2015, I called an Admission Review Dismissal (ARD) meeting as we wanted to enroll our son in PPCD for the 2015-2016 school year. I wanted to set new goals before the beginning of the school year as his current Individual Education Plan (IEP) was a year old. I was told we would have a temporary ARD in the first 5 days of the new school year to reinstate his current IEP, then another ARD would be called after the first 30 days of school to set new goals. Despite my insistence that an ARD be held before the beginning of the school year to set new goals based on his progress over a one year time period, my request was refused. The entire first month of school, I had no legally binding document holding the school accountable for appropriate goals.

    The second week of school, my son began exhibiting behavior challenges as expected in a new environment. On October 28th, I signed a consent form enabling the school to perform a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) which would inform his Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). The FBA and proposed BIP were sent to me on November 9th. In the FBA findings, it was discovered that in the course of 32 school days, our son had been “out of his assigned area” a total of 442 times. Essentially, he ran around or out of the classroom every day, all day. Due to extensive questions about the findings of the FBA and changes to the BIP by us and our son’s private behavior therapists, the school decided to pull in a district behavior specialist to observe our son in the classroom and review the BIP further. The ARD to finalize our son’s BIP took place on January 14th, 4 months after his first behavior. Half of the school year passed before our son had an appropriate plan in place that could not be followed because the teacher and aides did not have the appropriate behavior training (which should be mandated for any special education teacher and aide) nor the bandwidth to follow it. He made very little progress because most of the year was spent trying to learn basic ABA techniques so they could manage his behavior. His teacher had good intentions as do most teachers, but they are fighting mounds of paperwork, need more training and are bound by inconsistent, antiquated regulations that only serve the administration and not the children they are meant to protect.

    In April of 2016, I met the Special Education (SPED) teacher my son would have for his Kindergarten year and learned that he would be placed in a self-contained program. The elementary school we are zoned to lauds itself for being an inclusive school; however, this simply means they do the minimum of inclusion during PE, lunch and recess (some of the most anxiety-inducing and overwhelming periods of the day for a child with autism). His designated SPED teacher was most excited to show me how she teaches her students chores. This would NEVER be considered as part of the curriculum in a general education classroom. When I asked if any of her students progress to the next program, which is more academically challenging, and what she does to get them there, she looked at me quizzically and said, “It’s possible, but most of our students stay in this program until they graduate. I’m just trying to gage your acceptance of all of this.” A very young, inexperienced teacher decided the track of my son’s life at 5 years old and without knowing him, then had the audacity to claim I was in denial about what he is capable of. That was the moment I decided to withdraw him from public school because that is the culture that the TEA perpetuates; a culture of segregation and dismissiveness.

    We went ahead with his Kindergarten ARD in the event that unforeseen circumstances would force us to choose public school. He was denied a one-to-one aide despite his PPCD teacher’s recommendation for one. We requested inclusion time during centers in a general education setting and were told by the assistant principal that they “might be able to do that but they needed to give the general education students time to settle into their routine before adding my son to the class” as if he was a second rate citizen. The typical kids needed their needs met before they would even consider meeting my son’s needs. So the ARD, as expected, resulted in my son receiving the minimum services available in a classroom that is in no way tailored to individual needs but rather clumping a varied group of special needs students ranging from ages 5-10 in one classroom. This is not a Free Appropriate Public Education; however, the TEA has allowed it to masquerade as one.

    It should be noted that, according to what I have been told, Round Rock ISD has a blanket rule that parents are not allowed in a SPED classroom to observe or volunteer and private therapists are not allowed in the classroom to observe and offer help with students they work closely with. I have also come to understand that each principal interprets this rule however they see fit. My son’s Kindergarten SPED teacher told me her principal would allow a private therapist or parent in the classroom as long as the parent was on her side and wanted to work with her. There is no consistency in interpretation of the law or district rules and these interpretations never work in the favor of students.

    My son is currently enrolled in a private preschool where he attends a typical classroom with a full time ABA therapist as his aide. He is making tremendous progress socially, emotionally, academically and with his communication. When behavior challenges arise, they are typically resolved within two weeks, not four months. There are reams of research that prove inclusion is the best model for students with disabilities; however, the public schools refuse to acknowledge it.

    Texas has saved money on the backs of the most vulnerable students by either completely denying services or denying appropriate services once enrolled in the SPED program. Our story is the same as many families and not nearly as heartbreaking as many others. I am grateful we did not stay long enough to endure much heartache. My call to action is no different from any other family you’ve heard. Please hold those accountable who have hurt our children and dismissed their rights. Please overhaul the archaic and damaging education system currently in place in Texas. Please do not leave IDEA and FAPE up to interpretation but enforce our children’s rights as they were meant to be under these laws.

    • Such an articulate testimony of an experience that has played out over and over in schools across our state.

  99. We have a child who is being denied an IEP for ADHD/OHI. He does have a 504 plan for dyslexia, but the school has chosen to cherry pick from the pediatrician’s report. The report specifically indicates that he should have an IEP for ADHD. They used the very same pediatrician’s report to qualify him for dyslexia intervention. He was initially placed on a watch list when we suspected he most likely had dyslexia like his siblings. He was on the watch list from kindergarten until 2nd grade when we had outside testing done. He started to receive MTA classes in 3rd grade.

  100. I am working in Texas schools at the moment, and I am very disheartened by what I see happening in the schools and to my children whom I serve.

    One important reminder in all of this:
    Vital fact: In order for schools to provide services, they need ENOUGH staff to do so. So often, we are understaffed. This needs to change Especially if we are going to consider that more than 8.5 of the population may have a disability.

    There are “levels” of special education services (justifiably so). “Speech Only” is probably the “first/lowest level”. Speech Only should refer to the children who only require speech/language services in order to be successful.

    When a student is struggling to meet academic criteria and is basically falling apart in the classroom, they need more than a speech therapist (who is no qualified to teacher special education). They need a special education teacher. What I am seeing happening is that children are put into a general education program called “RtI”. This program’s purpose is to help the child get on track and avoid being “labeled” as a child with academic/behavioral special needs.

    I hear too often that a child is required to be at least 2 grade levels below in order to qualify or justify for testing for special education. Let me remind you that in the state of Tx (not sure if this is national) that Kindergarten and PK is not required. So If a child needs to be 2 grade levels below (and kinder is not even recognised as a valid grade level) then they are not really going to be considered for testing for eligibility for services until they are in 2-3 grade!!!! During these 3-4 years they are only receiving speech services. I am disheartened for these children I serve as well as the families that I watch advocate and loose sleep over this broken system.

    Children should not be left to fall apart in Kinder, 1st and 2nd. This is not acceptable in my opinion and I hope to see a change in the system. Please help these children. As a speech therapist, I see all too often children fall through the gaps.

    • I think more understanding of RTI is needed in general. Also, the two years behind statement is when we are considering if a child has a possible Specific Learning Disability and not other areas of Disability as outlined by IDEA. Also, if an Intellectual Disability is suspected, then we would expect to see a student 3 or more years behind developmentally along with Deficits in at least two areas of adaptive behavior.

      Another major issue is that the general public and many teachers, medical personnel, and even special education professionals use Learning Disability interchangeably with learning difficulties: they are two different things and a Learning Disability has Specific criteria which starts with overall average cognitive skills.

  101. facebook.com/TexasEducationAdvocacy
    DiannaPharr.com
    Dianna.Pharr@gmail.com

    Austin, Texas / Central Texas

    My name is Dianna Pharr and I am an Education Advocate.

    There are a lot of good people in our public schools who care about children and want to help. This is especially true of teachers whose jobs are at risk if they dare to speak up on behalf of a child; they are as powerless as parents and children. I have worked as an Education Advocate for children with disabilities for over a decade. I witness the failure to evaluate, identify and provide FAPE to children with disabilities every day. I know that this harm is widespread and intentional. Parents who dare to advocate for their children often face retaliation.

    Over 6 years ago, I testified to the Texas Senate Education Committee. I informed the committee that the special education enrollment of my district, Eanes ISD, had dropped from 11% to about 8%, well below the national average of approximately 13%. I was aware that many students with disabilities were being pushed out of the district, including mine. To fill the seats, the Eanes ISD then cherry-picked about 10% of its population via out of district transfer admissions using policies and practices that specifically excluded children with disabilities. To defend against possible OCR complaints, Eanes ISD claims “no room in the program” when denying children with disabilities from transferring in. However, there’s always room in the gifted program or the football program. The “easy-to-educate” students have public options; there is no choice for children with disabilities who are pushed out of their neighborhood school.

    Public schools SAY they accept every child who shows up at the front door but here’s one thing I know with certainty: that welcome mat recedes for children with disabilities. It’s the illusion of inclusion. And it’s intentional. I know one thing for sure: TEA is a significant part of this problem; the agency supports and protects the districts, not the children. I specifically recommend to my clients that they avoid the TEA IDEA complaint process at all costs. In my many years of experience with this agency, reaching out to TEA for help is actually harmful.

    Once children with disabilities are pushed out of public school, they are never tracked by either their public school districts or by the State Education Agency, TEA. Effectively, these children are invisible; they are no longer children with a right to a public education.

    I have clients in every public school district in Central Texas. The harm is not limited by zip code. However black and brown children, low SES and ESL children with disabilities are at particular risk in public school. They need exit options before age 10 when the schools call the police, press felony charges, and push them into the school to prison pipeline. I see the patterns when districts push out children with disabilities. Whether it’s the pipeline to prison treatment, truancy charges or years of RTI to delay and deny evaluations and FAPE. I’ve seen young children with autism isolated and completely alone in make-shift padded rooms where no one can hear them cry and scream. Right here in Central Texas and not just once. Currently I have 5 little clients already this year who have been bitten, choked, slapped and battered in their neighborhood public school “Lifeskills’ classrooms. Would this be acceptable in a general education class?

    Parents should not have to FIGHT SO HARD for a child’s rights. And the vast majority of parents do not have the funds, the ability or the emotional energy to fight. The districts count on this. Eventually parents are left with no choice; they must take their child and quietly leave. Better for the child to disappear than to continue to suffer harm. I lived this. I witness this every single day in the lives of my clients. I see the harm and I’m not just seeing it through the lens of a reporter or bystander. I know these children, I know their families and I know the source of this intentional harm. Please listen. Please help.

    facebook.com/TexasEducationAdvocacy

    DiannaPharr.com

    Dianna.Pharr@gmail.com

    Austin, Texas

  102. I’m a a parent aware of a situation in which a child was diagnosed with ADHD. While attempting to get 504 or special ed in place for ADHD accommodations child is diagnosed with dyslexia by outside provider. School refused to discuss dyslexia accommodations/plan until parent signed off that child didn’t need anything for ADHD. child is now attending private school 20+ miles from home that specializes in dyslexia.

  103. I am a Special Education Advocate in Round Rock. I’m also a mom: I have 2 children who qualify for IDEA services in Texas. My step-daughter, who is 16, has received services since she was 4, but has never been fully evaluated by her school district (Austin ISD). Her teachers have, for the most part, been her champions (during 2 years of middle school, with unsympathetic teachers, her academic abilities regressed considerably), but schools gave up on evaluating her academic possibilities because she is non-verbal. She needs physical help during every part of her day, yet the school OT is trying to retire her OT services. Nevertheless, her school experience has been smooth compared to my son’s experience; her current teachers believe in her and accommodate her needs. Most importantly, they now understand that behavior is communication, a fact my son’s schools seem not to understand.

    My son is twice-exceptional. He started school in a TN school district where he was suspended 10 times in kindergarten. The school refused to evaluate him until I presented a diagnosis, despite his clear behavioral struggles. So we, like many parents, were forced into medicalizing our son’s differences before we could get help from the school. The school only invested in him after they saw his IQ scores. Unsurprisingly, his behavioral challenges greatly dissipated once his accommodations for ADHD, SPD, and giftedness were in place.

    We moved to Texas a few years ago and deliberately chose a school district (Round Rock ISD) with robust gifted and SpEd services. Over the course of the year he had a triennial eval and we added Autism to his eligibilities. His gen ed teacher was truly amazing. But then we hit another wall: the gifted classroom teacher was completely unprepared to extend his SpEd accommodations into her classroom. The school was willing to add extra time, supported testing, and a BIP to his IEP, but his attention / EF needs were sorely unsupported. Without those accommodations, his behavior escalated, and we eventually had to pull him from Gifted placement because the school would not ensure that his services extended to all settings. He was allowed sensory support in a resource classroom, but not in his gen ed classroom. He was denied even simple stimmy toys like a rubber band on his wrist. By spring, the school gave up on him, and urged us to put him in a behavioral unit–a specialized classroom for SpEd students who need more behavioral supports (they call this ACHIEVE) at a non-neighborhood campus. We agonized over this decision, not knowing that the school had skipped several steps on the LRE continuum, or that it is Texas practice to segregate students onto just a few campuses in each district because of funding. (In my role as an Advocate, I’ve witnessed more examples of this segregation in several districts. It is a Texas practice, not a practice isolated to one district. Children are routinely moved to a more restrictive environment before exhausting the LRE continuum to save schools to expense of supporting kids on every campus.) We weren’t allowed to visit the new placement during school hours. There wasn’t much information to find: the school district has nothing on its actual website about ACHIEVE. We were able to determine that there are 3 ACHIEVE programs in our district, one at each of the schools where there is a PPCD program. And we met the teachers. Other than that, we had little to go on, but we–not knowing any better–bought into the school’s party line that his behavior had to be “extinguished” (their actual terminology) before he could get back to learning.

    So we agreed to the placement, and it was horrible from the very first day. I have 2 months of daily data, showing how his mental health declined and his behavior escalated. He was in an isolated classroom with ZERO access to non-disabled peers. My highly-gifted child was with 5 other kids in a single room that they only left for recess (unless they lost recess because of bad behavior) with no access to curriculum at his level of understanding. In the 8 weeks he was there, he never met the gifted teacher; she was never even consulted, had no input into his curriculum. He spent all day learning how to behave; 7 hours a day in a deficit-based learning environment. My son witnessed restraint and seclusion. He reported that kids regularly were denied lunch when they couldn’t behave. A police offer came to class one day and questioned kids without parental approval or presence. As we increasingly came to understand, the point of this program is to break a child’s will, to get them to accept authority so they will no longer question anything that happens in a classroom environment. This is what his home school meant by “extinguishing” behavior.

    We were struck by other surprises, too. The ACHIEVE program dismisses kids 10 minutes early to put them on busses. Undercutting instruction times for kids in SpEd classrooms seems to be the norm in this district. Since we lived far from the school, we requested transportation. In order to ride the bus to school, he had to be on the bus by 6:10 AM for a 7:45 start time, a 75 minute bus ride for a kid with serious attention problems. (I urge you to look into this: I’m confident his non-disabled peers do not spend this much time, on average, being bussed to school, which makes this practice discriminatory). We ended up driving him ourselves.

    I spent hours on the phone with the teachers, trying to figure out how to help my son, advocating for him but also still buying the party line that HE had to change, that his behavior was his fault, that he had to fix his behavior before he could learn. After 8 weeks of this placement we pulled him out (in October 2015) to homeschool him. The final straw for me was his own testimony: “at school, I feel broken.” By the time we pulled him, he was suicidal. It took months for his anxiety levels to come down, longer for him to stop believing that not succeeding in ACHIEVE was his fault.

    We know now what we should have / could have done. We could have called an IEP meeting after a week or two of the new placement. We could have refused or fought the ACHIEVE placement. But we didn’t know. While I have been homeschooling him, I’ve gone through training to become a Special Ed advocate, hoping that I would learn enough to be able to advocate for him should he choose to return to school. But what I’ve learned is that there is no place for him in Texas public schools: twice-exceptional children have no protection here. No legislation ensures that he can learn at his level. Zero tolerance policies mean that his anxiety-based outburst behavior will always draw more attention than his skills and strengths. And until there is (1) an enforceable mandate to build strengths-based IEPs, (2) an end to segregated placement, and (3) recognition that gifted learners learn differently and their learning needs to be protected, too, my son–and thousands of students like him–will find no place in Texas public schools.

    • Are you familiar with the TEA’S so-called twice exceptional program? This is the one that serves no purpose for which it was intended for. What a great misuse of funds. Yet nobody is talking about this. Why is that? The TEA has made a lot of mistakes! It will be interesting to see if the Department of Education finally does something about all of this. These things should have happened years ago. It’s a travesty that so many people had to suffer just because the Department of Education wouldn’t get involved.

  104. Can special education allow students to meaningfully inspire deafening and beating TEA’s cold, callous dealings to lower the number of students in special education? Houston Chronicle’s article, “Denied: How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education”, published September 11, 2016, systematically revealed what many of us as students have been through painfully. Now, I have nonverbal autism and it definitely tends to hinder my amazing intelligence and needed belief that every student is able and intelligent in their marvelous, amazing potential. Having belief in inspiring intelligence can break the barriers to having equal education in the general education setting or special education setting. Many special education students are not getting their services they need due to the defiant TEA’s mandate to meet money savings. Believing in amazing healing and to have support in learning education can bring happiness and meaning to students with disabilities.

    First, I have been through the public school system and I can attest to having heard teachers talk about meeting numbers to lower the number of students in their special education classes. The teachers believed we could not understand because of our autism. That insensitive belief has been hard to swallow. This is intolerable and wrong generating callous, insensitive denial to keep many students from accessing special education services. Therefore, casting aside our children has detrimental effects.

    Second, there are some who say having a disability is costing too much money having an impact on school budgets. I agree that education can incur higher costs for those who have disability but common sense behooves us to use better judgement in amending our way we see those with a disability. Therefore, I completely disagree with those who gregariously flock to that type of insensitive statement. We cannot put a price on education for all.

    Finally, there is financial loss to denying many students. Many great families are desperate and shamed into hiring legal services to fight for their child. Have we made learning a commodity to only typical students? This defies human decency and respect.

    In conclusion, I am living proof that Texas is being malicious in denying every tender student equal opportunity in services making cause to bring action to the forefront. Consequently, I was denied the use of my communication tool here in Texas and I was made to leave the public school system to now attend a healing private online school. We must take action now and needed belief in our civil rights. Great belief in equal services and education for all becomes amazing happiness. Write to your state representative today about this injustice.

    • I agree, but the problem is that the state representatives do not want to get involved. They should, and more parents need to encourage them to do this, for them to speak up for these children. That is the only way that things are going to change. We decided to homeschool, use a co-op. It was the best decision that we ever made. We only regret that we didn’t do this sooner. Maybe that is what they want. This state does have the highest number of homeschoolers. A lot of people have made major mistakes here, and funds have been misused. When you spend money that doesn’t belong to you any normal person would go to jail. So what’s going on here is clearly not normal.

  105. Both of my adult children with autism have above average IQ’s and were placed in self-contained classrooms throughout their time in Texas. They came from inclusion settings in Maryland in elementary school and were immediately placed in self-contained when we moved to Texas, and I had to fight for three years to get them to TRY inclusion for one or more subjects. Self contained was the way they wanted to do things. Later on, moving on to Middle School, I had to bring a sample of what work they were doing when my kids were in middle school to an ARD. I was also working in kindergarten at the same time. Kindergarten and the middle school self contained class were using the SAME worksheets for science. My kids with the normal IQs were doing kindergarten work. It was ‘appropriate.’ I think not.I also took handwriting samples from kindergarten to prove my son’s need for assistive technology. When I showed them a students best work from K5 and set it side by side with my son’s handwriting, (5 years next to 12 y.o. writing sample), they THEN gave my son an assistive technology evaluation. AT stayed with him through high school until the school district asked the teacher to sign for liability for a laptop-replacement cost…the computer. Unreasonable. NO WAY! I wouldn’t sign it either. He brought his own iPad from home and used what the school had in classrooms when he needed it. Education was a waste for them. In my son’s senior year in 2015, he had a vocational assessment done by DARS, which indicated that he had the skills with appropriate accommodations for his disability –to get an associates degree or perhaps even a bachelors. We got this information in March. Graduation was in May. They had not even prepared him for college. We talked about staying on another year for those college prep courses. They had NOTHING to prepare special education students who are intelligent enough to attend college. Transition services in Killeen Independent School District are a joke! My son was diagnosed with diabetes and other health issues the month after he graduated, so we have been spending time at doctors appointments and in a program geared at helping social skills of the adult high-functioning autistic through Central Counties Services/MHMR in Central Texas. Diplomas in Killeen ISD are what I call ‘passports to poverty.’ The classroom teachers are smarter than their administrators when it comes to what kids need.

    • It’s called twice exceptional, a 2e student. Are you familiar with this? It means that the student has disabilities and is intelligent. Yes they can be both. The TEA has a twice exceptional program. Just search TEA twice exceptional. However for whatever reason to this very day they have not helped a single student. It cost thousands of dollars to set up this so-called program. So who authorized this, and why isn’t anyone monitoring this now? More people need to speak out about this. It’s simply not okay to spend that kind of money, and then to never use the program for which it was intended for.

      • Above average is not the same as the gifted range; however, I do agree that often our student with giftedness who also have disabilities or are “twice exceptional” are the most challenging students teachers and administrators work with. They are often served under one of both of these programs: GT, 504, and/or Special Special Ed (note may not be in 504 and special education). Teachers who major in special education are taught to address the needs of these students through their studies; however, GT and general education teachers may not have those same instructional opportunities.

      • Thank you for highlighting this program that seems to be unavailable to anyone. TEA should be hung out to dry. I have never heard of it, and usually when things are hidden like this, accountability is nonexistent. It’s on paper and looks good there, but that’s all it is…on paper.

    • I taught for many years in the Northeast ISD in San Antonio Texas. We had a good system in identifying children for services and using both inclusion and pull out classes to address their IEPs. However for our own sons sp needs as a young child first years in school were a living hell and was not resolved until I contacted the dept of education at the federal level and they showed up and went to the school board and told them to change their ways are monies would stop and suits filed . That changed all sorts of services for the better. Our sons school district was not the district where I taught so it gave me the freedom to raise H–ll.

  106. Change Special Ed to Diabetes

    What if the headlines read “Insurance company on Texas Healthcare Exchange limits treatment of Diabetic children”

    Insurance company receiving federal money to provide services systemically cap and deny treatment to children with diabetes. Hundreds of parents showed up to “listening sessions” with proof of diabetes provided by independent physicians while insurance company physicians continued to deny/delay testing and withhold and/or flat out lie regarding correct diagnosis. Insurance company executives concluded “diabetic kids are already broken- no one will care if treatment is delayed to children who may not recover”. The wealthier and middle class children will receive treatment as parents drain 401k’s and/or mortgage and sell their homes to provide treatment legally entitled to. Executives data concluded cost will lower if: some die or become permanently disabled as treatment costs will shift to a different entity ( Medicaid) . Executives conclude they will “get away” with little or no recourse as no one really cares about diabetic (broken) children.

    TEA has committed these offenses which should be criminal. Denial- delays of services have resulted in permanent medical and mental disabilities to occur and increase. TEA lied and when caught claims in their letter that since no parent could guess the name of the secret acronym (PBMAS) they should “get away with it”:

    Has there been a systematic denial of special education services to children with
    disabilities?
    TEA reply- TEA has not received any formal or informal complaints
    demonstrating that specific school districts have engaged in such an effort to deny eligible
    students with disabilities the services they need based on the special education representation
    indicator in PBMAS.

    As a reminder- the TEA complaint form does not require the parent to identify the root cause of the denial, or name the program acronym which is causing denials. For TEA to claim “no denials exist” because no claims correctly identified the program TEA used to deny services is ludicrous and insulting. If this is the “best defense TEA has”, they are guilty.

    Criminal and civil charges should be leveled.

    • I am in Rhode Island and my Dyslexic child was not found under NCLB. The “Child Find” obligation is a farce. I have never heard of anyone having ‘been found” under Child Find. My 3rd grader read at kindergarten level, penmanship like monster writing and no mastering of Math. He was denied 12 times for Special Services and I had to go outside and privately pay. The school will tell you that they are not qualified to test for dyslexia. However when you bring back your outside educational evaluation from a qualified neurologist that has specific recommendations to be immediately implemented, they only consider… Which means nothing. They then say they need to do their own tests. Further delaying the process. Meanwhile your child cries at home and says they should have never been born and wants to die. This is all from an 8 year old.

      Then the experimentation begins on your child of makeshift programs that are inappropriate and you as the parent are left to make them stop. They are constantly quoting they can’t give you a draft IEP before your meeting when in fact they have it ready when you walk into your meeting. When a parent ask for the educational evaluation or any testing the school has done prior to meeting to discuss at an IEP meeting comma they refused and say it is not their District policy or state policy blah blah blah. Delay delay delay. Then your child after several years of this starch to show social and emotional behaviors because they are giving up and stop going to school in the 8th grade as their stomach is all twisted and they have migraines because of the class size of 26 children. If you have a child who needs a wheelchair you don’t hand them one wheel and expect them to cross the room with the wheel. It is Criminal and educational malpractice what is going on in the schools. The Department of Education and civil rights need to work together and have meetings and every single state. Grassroots organizations like the coating dyslexia have formed just as the autism organizations formed before they got what they needed. The torment, harm is inconceivable.

      The data and science have been there for years and teachers are afraid to step up and speak out. I was brought up if you are in a room where wrongdoing is being done you are just as guilty as all the other parties.

      My child is in 9th grade and we have out of school placement on the table but we are being delayed, we don’t get copies of meeting records and we certainly are not made to feel like a meaningful IEP team member.

      Children across the US are graduating with a second grade 3rd grade xcetera literacy and math level. We have cut back on our technical schools and children are doomed. We need charter schools that specifically Target 20% of the kids that are dyslexic. The disability Law Center and legal aid are inundated with cases and only take so many. You should also work with their offices to get their opinions. It is not only educational malpractice that is happening it is Criminal because the parties that are exposed should be obligated to ensure compliance is being met, but instead lie after lies being told and the parents are exhausted and a child is lost. Mental health problems have increased and children and it’s no wonder when they are tormented and harmed at school during the day.

      They’re only a few educational lawyers in my state, and they are too costly for single moms like me to afford. The school’s know that they can delay.

      The transparency in Texas is what is happening all around and we need you to be accountable to these atrocities. Many of us don’t have time to file complaints because we are so busy fighting to maintain and keep both ground, not to mention we have pstd from this whole situation and I know cry at the drop of a dime when I think too hard about what is happening.

      I have made my story very on the front page and will continue to be in active in advocating for children that can benefit… Unlike my son.

      The schools are now telling my child for the sake of saying something positive to him that he will of course go to college. He knows that he won’t. This gives him more anxiety. I called him out on it and they did not after being on tape saying we didn’t mean it that way. But the harm is done and exist you must hear our voices.

      Thank you to these parents in Texas who are sharing their RAW stories to try and change a broken system.

      I beg you to have meetings and every single state and you will see the outpouring of devastation, lost and broken families who feel no hope.

      Note: just because we passed a law doesn’t mean in any way that they are following it, nor even understand how to follow it.

      • You are right Suzanne! The same is going on in Ohio too! I’ve tried for 3 yrs to get the school to evaluate my child for sped and related services. We were denied any evaluation. The school stated each time that my child didn’t show characteristics of a suspected disability. I had outside testing done. The school would not acknowledge the reports, which showed his writing was 3 years behind peers, he was a fall risk, sensory processing problems, processing speed, working memory and executive functioning not within normal limits as same age peers. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood, and Dyspraxia Diagnoses. The reports came from many different medical professionals along with their recommendations for an IEP, OT/PT, and social skills intervention. The school received copies. The school was aware my child was receiving OT/PT outside the school, but due to my insurance, he did not get all recommended visits needed. It is my understanding that these are “related services”. It is my understanding that “writing” is a form of communication/language and is covered under IDEA.

        School retaliated against me and both my children in the school district on several occasions. My son was punished for manifestations of his disability: not being able to keep up in class, difficulty with concentration and finishing assignments on time, trouble with writing, lack of executive functioning skills, made fun of by staff for flapping his hand as it is due to a sensory regulation, often sent to the hallway or missing much needed recess, or being sent to the principal’s office to finish work. Bullied and harassed by staff, Tardy slips for being only seconds late to class, in which he received lunch detentions frequently, as he struggles to navigate the stairs at school due to Dyspraxia. Punished for getting too close to peers and poking at them, as he tried to make social connections. These punishments only added to my child’s frustration, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness. He used to get good grades. My child fell at apart often after returning home from school, not wanting to go back to school. Some teachers were concerned about the need for an evaluation, but someone was shutting them up! My child had no behavioral issues, but was often the target of peer bullying, in which the school did not protect him, after school was made aware many times. I had to call the sheriff to get it stopped. A couple years later, he was given his first after school detention for trying to defend himself after another boy started physically assaulting him.

        I went to Disability Rights Ohio and was denied any type of assistance. Every where I went, I was referred to Legal Aid or my regional parent mentor agency. The parent mentor agency helped me in the start of this process, showing me that I needed to put my request in writing. However, the woman at the agency left and another heartless woman replaced her. She told me I would have to let my child fail and she offered no other information or help. Someone seriously gets paid to say this to parents? Legal Aid stated they did not have the resources to help me, after sending a request for an evaluation for my child and it still being denied (I’d already sent requests 3 times before this!). It is my understanding that Legal Aid and Disability Rights Ohio is for those that need legal assistance that otherwise, would not have access to an attorney. It’s a sad day in America when you have to pay to prove you have rights, or basically you have NONE!

        I had an advocate take my money, just to read over outside testing reports. She did not contact the school or try to help, but told me I should get an attorney. I later find that Ohio has no certification or licensure for these advocates! I had to hire an attorney to send a demand letter requesting an evaluation at the school. That should not have cost me a dime! Then the lawyer wanted more money to proceed. I had no more funds to fight and my emotional energy was spent!

        By the way, the school did not produce an unbiased eval and did not test in all areas of disability. I find this odd..how can the school’s PT and OT find that my child has no problems?

        Outside OT/PT testing showed only one year before school’s eval: He was 3 yrs behind in all areas of writing and trouble using utensils. (OT/PT from the same agency the school used, by the way). School OT stated he has no problems. Does a child gain 3 yrs worth of writing growth in only a year with out supports?

        Outside PT stated he is a fall risk! School PT stated that she had him walk down three steps at school holding only a piece of paper in front of him (not books!). She said, he lost his balance, but caught himself and reports he has no problems.

        Then why has my child fallen and hit his head so many times at school and elsewhere and why was he left at school with complaints of a headache and dizziness only to be refused to see school nurse and go back to class (with many times, no incident report)? Why was my child given tardy slips for being only a few seconds late to class as he navigates the stairs (not just three steps by the way), in which he was given lunch detention each time!? Why does he feel he has to hold onto the railing?

        There were some tests agreed upon, in which the school did not test. Also, at the post evaluation meeting, I would ask a question to someone who was speaking, the special ed director would interrupt and speak for that person. I basically didn’t get my questions answered. The school eval report was not sent to me prior to post meeting. The reports were read too fast that I could not process the information during the meeting. I had asked them to please slow down as they read, but I was then told, “Oh, you’ll get a copy of this after the meeting”. I don’t feel that I was given the opportunity to fully participate in this meeting.

        Previously, during my attempts to get my child the supports he needed over these years, I had sent two complaints to the Ohio Dept of Ed. They should be held accountable. They are a waste of my time and efforts. I did not know that I could receive a copy of the reply the school was sending to the ODE before the ODE gave their findings! This would have allowed me to present my case further! They claim the school was not in violation of child find. The school also counterclaimed that they had no knowledge of my son’s struggles with the stairs. That is a bold faced lie, as they have the reports and I have explained to them many times of his difficulty and I asked that they would give him more time, when he had to use the stairs. Of course, though they prove after the fact, they are now aware, they still denied him extra time!! This struggle relates to his Dyspraxia.

        Someone has to make sure that parents have what they need so they can navigate the procedures. LAWS MUST BE FOLLOWED BY ALL AND ENFORCED! Have we forgotten that sometimes a disability can run in families and perhaps parents struggle to communicate effectively with their words whether written or spoken, when they are forced to have to state their cases to so many agencies or people?

        He was denied a 504 and/or an IEP at Tri Valley School District, despite the evidence from outside evaluations and recommendations! I felt I had no choice but to send my child to a different public school, before this fight took more of a toll on him or our family. He now has a 504 plan in place at the new school and is currently receiving RTI.

        I have after requesting his records, an email from his old school from last year, a teacher sent an email to the principal. She states in the email to principal (before replying back to me as I emailed some concerns about my son’s progress): she was not surprised to get my email and that she had concerns about him as well. She then suggested to the principal that perhaps he should have a 504. The principal replies, “see me regarding this”. I wonder what records were destroyed in the process of my receiving them!

        Our new school was not hesitant to give him a 504. I should not have to remove my children from their school of residence and drive them every day to a different school when the FEDERAL LAW IS FOR ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

    • I 100 percent agree. It is criminal. Money was misused. It is criminal, so why isn’t anyone investigating this. Yes I asked the Department of Justice to investigate this. They told me that this was up to the Department of Education. I strongly disagree. More people need to speak out about this. In our situation the district my child attended misused money a lot. It has been written about in the media, but again no one will investigate this either. If anyone other than a school did this those people would be in jail.

    • Great analogy! I did notify them the school district told me my son couldn’t be a Staar Alt or M (tasks back then on some of it) because TEA ‘numbers” wouldn’t allow for it. They told me “they are not suppose to tell you that”. Well of course not! But they know very well about this and my son graduated on a 5th grade level according to testing and TEA thinks this is acceptable! they failed him and now they are denying services to my son with dysgraphia a form of dyslexia (and he has other difficulties) claiming even though we have medical documentation, he does not qualify for special ed. TEA is a bunch of huge liars and greedy people in my opinion!

      • Dysgraphia can exist completely, independently of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a phonological weakness in processing. Dysgraphia can be an orthographic, spelling influenced issue related to dyslexia – or not – by some definitions or a truly neurologically based handwriting and/or motor disorder in a pure sense with great, intact reading and decoding ability. It simply depends on the individual child.

  107. This is happening across the US. I am the mother of 2 with learning disabilities from Virginia. My son who is 15 was initially denied services 9 years ago, we were forced to file due process to secure his IEP. Now 9 years later we will be forced to do the same for our youngest, who was referred into eligibility 2 years ago. She is not only diagnosed with a learning disability and falls below the 20% on grade level benchmark assessments but has failed to meet state standards. Less than one month ago she was denied eligibility for the third time even after the county entered into a mediated agreement that provided specialized instruction for the previous year. We have done our due diligence, we have educated ourselves on the system and our rights and we have exhausted every avenue available to a student to receive interventions that may have helped a struggling learner. There is no question she is a child with a disability that is impacting her ability to access the curriculum and learn. At this point, I have no other option but to believe the school is systemically denying children their rights under IDEA.

    • It all sounds familiar. That is why we decided to homeschool with a co-op. I only wish that we would have done it sooner. Smaller classroom sizes, more attention, and plenty of help, because it is up to the teachers.

  108. The same thing is happening in North Carolina. I hope that someone will look into it here as well.

    Our Special Ed Dept is saying we are “over identifying” and/or “over servicing” students with disabilities.

    They have a goal to lower the percentage of students w/disabilities here as well – its not as low as Texas — but the goal itself seems to go against the law (IDEA). Students with disabilities qualify under the law to receive educational services from public schools.

    Our goal in our County is to go from 17% to 13%. I don’t understand where that goal originated or whether that goal seems fair/compliant with the law.

    Over the past few years, we have had many cuts in Special Education staff and classrooms. A few children have been moved classrooms without prior notice/IEPs with parents.

    • I’m from North Carolina as well, I wish Federal officers hear us too.
      My son had IEP at Massachusetts and Houston TX but NC write him off the IEP.
      They didn’t even use age appropriate tool for testing

    • The same things are happening with the College Board. I hope that they investigate this too. Money is being misused. It’s criminal. Yet this is not being addressed. Why is that?

  109. My daughters both have been denied Special Eduaction Services by Pasadena ISD, Deer Park ISD, and Katy ISD. Not only that but my youngest daughter is seriously ill and the TEA’s absurd rule about who is eligible for Homebound services is another example of denying services to Texas Special Populations.

    My oldest daughter is almost 25 years old. She attended elementary school in Pasadena ISD. She was tested for GT and accepted into Pasadena’s GT program at Mae Smythe Elementary. When she was not being pulled out for GT enrichment like the district told us they would be doing I had a meeting with the Principal. Her excuse was that they were a Title 1 School and did not have money for the GT student programs it all went to feeding the students who went to school there. Starting in 3rd grade my daughter had trouble reading. She exhibited signs of Dyslexia such as writing b and d backwards as well as being unable to successfully read aloud. The students in her class bullied her and called her names because she couldn’t read out loud. Due to the fact that her Dad is dyslexic I requested that the school test her for Dyslexia. They refused stating that GT students are not dyslexic enough to need Special Education support. When she started 6th grade we transferred to Deer Park ISD. They tested her for GT because she was identified in Pasadena ISD. Unfortunately, she no longer met the criteria for GT due to her academic issues. That did not prompt a dyslexic screening or any kind of flag for a “child find” by Fairmont Jr. High. By this time it was a huge battle to get her to do her honework and it took hours to complete even with my help. In 7th grade at Fairmont my daughter started skipping homework assignments while telling me she did not have homework. During one session where I was scolding her for lying about homework she said she lied because homework took forever and she hated reading. I asked the school to test her for Dyslexia they refused stating she did not meet criteria for testing. I had her tested on my own by a Neuhaus certified Dyslexia diagnostician who attended church with us. She had 30 years experience in dyslexia testing. The results of the test were shocking. I sobbed at points during her testing because of the profound difficulties she had in reading and comprehension. The testing results were that she was profoundly dyslexic and had the rivers and swirl due to Irlen syndrome. The diagnostician’s formal evaluation stated that my daughter was the most profoundly dyslexic student she had ever tested. I went to the school with the evaluation in hand sure that they would allow her to be referred for Special Education services now that we had proof. Fairmont refused to test her again on the grounds that “since she had an A/B average she did not qualify for services. The other reason was that there was no such thing as Irlen syndrome. I explained that the only reason she had that average was because I spent hours every night helping her with her homework! I tried to show them the distortion of the text but they abruptly dismissed me. I didn’t even know there was the IDEA Law or I would have fought. My daughter graduated in 2010 and then went to college. She came home in a panic because of the amount of reading she had to do in all of her classes. Her anxiety was so severe she had panic attacks during tests. She failed on each of the 3 times she tried to go to college at 3 different community colleges. She was humiliated and dropped out of college and has not been back. I found out about the IDEA law in 2011 during my college Special Populations class in my pursuit of a Teaching degree. I vowed to not let what happened to my oldest daughter happen to my youngest daughter.

    My youngest daughter was different from the day she was born. She was inconsolable as an infant. She only slept in 5, 10 or 15 minute sessions never any longer. As a baby but much more as a Toddler she exhibited repetitive behaviors. When she was upset about something her reactions were nothing like I had ever seen. She had extreme temper tantrums that included banging her head on her wall, pinching and biting herself. Nothing we tried would calm her. I started calling these tantrums nuclear meltdowns. She also exhibited signs of ADHD. When she played with other children there would always be some kind of fuss and my daughter always was the one the kids were upset with. Invitations to play dates and birthday parties stopped coming. She went to Elementary school at Fairmont Elementary in Deer Park ISD. Kindergarten was a nightmare due to her inability to be social with other children. I lost count of how many conduct marks she had in Kindergarten and 1st grade. During yet another conference schedled by her Teacher to identity strategies to help her “get along” with her classmates and to correct conduct such as getting up out of her chair at inappropriate times, and “not concentrating,” her teacher suggested I take her to her Pediatrician for ADHD testing. The school never thought that her behaviors which were classic Autism and ADHD signs to test her through a “child find” Session. I took her to her Pediatrician who then referred her to a Child Psychiatrist for Autism and ADHD evaluation. Her tests revealed that she met 2 of the then 3 criteria for Asperger’s but she was very close to meeting the 3rd criteria. She said that though she had to diagnose her with Borderline Asperger’s there really was no such thing and recommended I learn every I could about it to help us understand her. She also diagnosed her with ADHD with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Her OCD caused her to display dermatilomania, or Compulsive skin picking. Yet again I went to a school with an evaluation in hand thinking she would be referred for Special Education services. Fairmont Elementary did grant my request to evaluate her to see if she met the district criteria. At the results meeting I once again was told my child did not qualify for Special Education. They stated that they would ask her teachers to let her sit at a table near the Teacher. This was 2009 and not knowing the law but being happy I got one thing when I got nothing when her sister was evaluated I thought I had a huge victory. In 3rd grade my daughter was diagnosed with Strabismus. My Dad has it and my brother did before surgery. The doctor told us her vision would gradually worsen until she required prism lenses. I took the letter to the school with her diagnosis. The school nurse was the one who tested her eyes because a Teacher sent my daughter to the nurse because she couldn’t see the writing on the whiteboard. Not one time did they mention her being eligible for 504 accommodations or Special Education services. I got the same remark “We’ll ask her teachers to please allow her to sit at a table closer to the teacher or whiteboard.

    I cannot tell you how livid I was in 2011 when I sat in my Special Populations class at UHCL knowing that both of my daughters did qualify for Special Education and that the district had illegally denied them services. I got angry and vowed to fight to get the services my younger daughter deserved. It took 2 years of me requesting a referral for SPED from Fairmont Elementary. I finally was granted the referral when in April of her 5th grade year, I threatened to get a lawyer to make them do the referral. The committee stated she did not qualify for SPED but she could have a 504 with one accommodation. Guess what it was? Preferential seating. I kept fighting for accommodations without success during her 6th grade year. I kept requesting a meeting to update her 504 but they only had times when I was in class at UHCL. Toward the end of 6th grade I told the school to schedule a meeting. Two days prior to our meeting my Sister-in-Law suddenly passed away. I requested they cancel the meeting and was told it was cancelled. Imagine my surprise that summer when her report card came and in the envelope was a copy of the 504 committee meeting held anyway on that day and without my knowledge that they held the meeting anyway and decided no further accommodations were needed.

    In December of her 7th grade year we moved to Katy ISD. She attended West Memorial Jr. High. A transfer to Katy ISD 504 meeting was held and I told them she needed additional accommodations. They were written on her 504 but when several of her teachers would not abide by them nothing was done. In 8th grade her vision was worse and she needed enlarged print STAAR. As I was teaching at private school, the 504 meeting was a conference call. I stated that I wanted it noted on her 504 that her vision was worse and that she needed large print accommodations including the STAAR test. I was told I would receive a copy of the updated 504 in the mail. This year my daughter is experiencing a severe Health crisis. Her problems started in July 2016 and I emailed the Counselor at Katy HS schedule changes due to her Anemia, and as yet undiagnosed Neurological and Vision problems. One week before school started she was hospitalized for a week due to her Neurological and Vision issues. On the first day of school I sent several copies of a detailed description of her current health crises. Three weeks later we had an appointment with her Neurologist and one with her Hematologist who each typed up a letter for the school requesting she be allowed to have snacks and water at her desk. As well as unlimited trips to the bathroom and allowing her to wear sunglasses because she was light sensitive. Additionally she was leaving school several times per week for doctors appointments. Mid September she was hospitalized again for a week. We started getting truancy letters stating she was missing school and despite the fact they were excused absences we could all face further action. No one from the school ever suggested modifying her 504 to include a Health Plan. In the second hospitalization she developed severe Vertigo and her vision is tilting at approximately 45 degree angle. We took her to vision specialists trying to determine the cause. The Specialist stated that she was essentially legally blind right now but because he did not know the cause or If it was permanent yet he did not want to formally diagnose her because if it were able to be corrected it would follow her and prevent her from driving. I sent a request to the school for a 504 meeting to add large print documents accommodations. Katy HS stated that unless we had a letter from a doctor stating she needed large print she could not have large print documents. I stated that letter or no letter she could not see. The teachers were told to do what they could. Two teachers emailed class documents for me to enlarge for her and one teacher read out loud to her. Due to her Vertigo and vision tilting she fell down the stairs at Katy HS. We felt that it was too dangerous for her to attend school in that condition. She has not been back to school since October 12. I started requesting Homebound services but was told yet again that we had to have a letter with a specific sentence in it to receive Homebound services. None of her doctors are legally allowed to write that letter because her Vertigo and vision distortion is not related to the conditions she’s being treated for. Despite frequent updates to the school administration regarding her condition and the fact that she now has missed the 2nd and 3rd Six weeks and heading into the 4th Six Weeks with no time table one sentence is preventing my daughter from receiving Homebound Education thanks to the ridiculous and onerous requirements created by the TEA. When my husband dropped off assignments she did and picked up more work he had a meeting with the 9th grade Principal. Since my daughter isn’t on Homebound all of her tests and Midterms have to be taken up at the school. Not only that but all of her outstanding work has to be completed by January 17th. My daughter is now confined to a wheelchair and still cannot see. Yet she’s supposed to clear up her missing work by January 17th?! It takes several days just to complete one assignment because my husband and I both work. Not only that but when we receive her work or download it from Canvas we have to take it and have it all enlarged to 11 x 17. It’s cruel to punish children who cannot help the conditions they have. The TEA needs to be dismantled and restructured under Federal supervision.

    • Yes the TEA needs to have a lawsuit filed against them and targets services to students with special needs. There are attorneys in Texas that could take this on and get it done. Are you aware of the ads.gov web site?? It has numbers you can call and file a complaint at the federal level when the state is not responding. We did that to get home and community based services for our son after he graduated from high school. Have you heard about this program!!!

      • To everyone on this site: Please become familiar with the federal site that deals with all the rights and services under the civil rights act the Olmstead Act that states that persons with sp needs have a right to choose where they live WITH services.There are numbers you can call. I used it to get services for our son after high school so that he could attend day programs and have his dental covered! All students needs to be placed on the waiting in the 8th grade!!!

        • The site is titled ADA.gov. It is the site that informs all with a disability of rights under the civil rights act which states that
          All persons with disabilities have a civil right to choose where they live with services!

  110. I enrolled two of my children in 2015. One of my children had a documented speech disorder, sensory disorder, milk allergies, and Asthma.
    My other child was diagnosed with severe autism, Sensory disorder, Food allergies, and was not potty trained yet.
    I asked that both my children be put in speech therapy. The Speech therapist told me that we should wait on my oldest child. That maybe she will speak better after being around other kids for a while. I told the speech therapist that both my children had two years of speech therapy already but still had problems. I was told that they would get my autistic child set up on it first.
    My Autistic child spent 1 1/2 weeks walking the halls, and running in the back of the classroom because they would not allow her to go to a special classroom until all the paperwork was completed. I signed release of information forms from all the therapy places she had received therapy from and from doctors. I had filled out paper after paper which took me hours to complete. I was asked to fill out a form about my child’s speech which seemed to be a questionnaire for a Speech therapist to fill out not for a parent. Asked about the sounds she made, how her speech correlation was to her torso. I was told to fill it out at home but wasn’t able to complete it.
    The first week of school I was called at least 3x a day to come in to take my child to use the bathroom. So I got a hold of my child’s Nurse Practitioner. She wrote a note stating that my child needed help with toile ting and ever aspect of it. My child was not to be left alone. After the note they stopped calling me and started taking her to the bathroom. The first time I stopped in while my child was in the bathroom I was upset because there was water all over the floor and the staff was just watching her. I had to tell them to get someone to clean up the floor before my child fell and hurt herself. The 2nd time I was furious because my child was completely naked and putting her butt into the toilet bowl. The staff and nurse were standing outside the bathroom. I confronted the special needs staff. I was told that they never had to deal with anyone like my child, they were giving her her privacy. I asked them what part of the Doctor’s note they didn’t understand.
    I was upset another time because my child was upset and wimp wrong. She pointed to her mouth and said it hurt. I asked the staff what happened and was told that nothing happened. After prodding I finally found out that my child had gotten someone else’s food that had gluten in it, so the staff said she used her finger to get it out of her mouth. I was pissed because of her dishonesty and her refusal to admit that my child did get hurt.
    about 1 1/2 weeks of having her enrolled I decided to pull my child out. They had her walking the halls, and running in the back of the classroom. She became more aggressive toward her siblings at home and was not happy about going to school anymore. It broke my heart to see the change in her.
    My oldest child I kept in school until the end of the
    Semester. I think about a month or so after I pulled out my first child I was asked if I wanted her evaluated for speech.
    She was served milk at the lunch cafeteria even though she told the lunch lady that she was allergic to milk. I found out about when my child came home with a stomachache and later threw up. The principal told me that she would talk to the lunch lady. I pulled her out of school after that semester. I have been homeschooling them since. My faith in the public schools are diminished. I’m very disappointed because my children deserved a fair education and a safe environment to learn. They were not given that.

  111. I attended the listening session in Austin on Dec 15, but was unable to speak because the session was closed before even half the speakers were called. Based on the many heartbreaking stories we all heard tonight, I am very fortunate for having been able to get for my children the services they need, in schools where the teachers do genuinely care about their welfare and generally try their best to do what’s right for the kids. But there is a big BUT….. and that is that as much as the teachers would LIKE to do what’s right, their hands are so often tied by the Administration. Not just from my personal observation, but from discussions with former teachers, they have been told they will be fired if they help parents get services for their kids. They ARE told they need to deny services as far as possible. They ARE told not to tell parents what their rights are. I no longer even feel it’s personal: They’re just doing their job.

    From a legal perspective, the fact that the denials are institutionally mandated so as to effectively deprive an entire class of citizens of their legal rights is the real issue. In effect, the school district is discriminating on the basis of disability by denying the disability even exists.

    And now, I’d like to share with you my own family’s story that I was unable to tell in person. It is one of success, but the instructional part is what I have had to do to make that possible, and the hurdles I’ve had to overcome along the way.

    ——————————

    I thank you for coming to Austin and for the opportunity to share my family’s story with you tonight. I have 2 children and both of them have learning disabilities. The older one is now in Special Ed and the younger one has accommodations under 504. Getting there was neither quick nor easy, and the school district has tried at every turn to deny services or prevent them getting what they’re entitled to under the ADA and IDEA.

    I will start with saying that both of my daughters are “twice exceptional” meaning they are both very, very bright, but at the same time, very, very disabled. Each masks the other, so it is hard for the casual observer to see either the intellectual ability, or that there is something actively holding them back.

    With my older daughter, I had observed problems she was having from a very early age: problems with how the work was presented and how she engaged with it (or not), problems with her social interactions, problems with handwriting and speech, problems staying organized, problems doing ordinary tasks for herself (like tying her own shoe laces), problems with attending to personal hygiene, problems with memory and attention.

    Each time I sought help for her, the answer was the same: Yes, your child definitely has problems that interfere with learning and that are holding her back, but they’re not bad enough for us to do anything about.” In pre-k, she had speech difficulties. After testing, the response was “She needs to be missing 6 sounds to get any services and she’s only missing 5.” In the same vein, when I applied in 4th grade to have my daughters evaluated for the GT program, the response was similar, but reverse: yes, your daughter is intellectually gifted, but she has these severe problems that are holding her back, and therefore we can’t have her in the GT program.”

    Now the thing is, I had been asking for help from various AISD personnel from kindergarten on up. When I spoke to the school counselor, her response was that it wasn’t something she was responsible for, I had to consult a private counselor. By the time she was in 3rd grade and really having problems, I sought help from the principal. She just told me there wasn’t any problem, stopped listening, and shut me down.

    I began to wonder if it wasn’t just that the school was a bad fit for our family and started asking “what does 4th grade look like in this school?” Her 3rd grade teacher wouldn’t respond, but referred me to one of the 4th grade teachers. It was here that I finally was given some clue about what was going on. This ONE teacher, of all the staff I have ever come across, spent about an hour visiting with me and my daughter after school one day. After listening to me and observing my daughter, her response was “Let’s do this evaluation to see what different observers have to say. Then take that to your pediatrician.” So when I did visit with the doctor, her response was that it was ADHD. And it turned out, each and every one of the things I’d been asking for since kindergarten are on the list of accommodations you get under 504 if you need them. The school had been doing everything possible to NOT provide services and NOT to tell me we had any rights in this area. But once that ONE teacher broke rank, it became abundantly clear that the teachers were all very much aware of the problems, but were under orders not to clue the parents in.

    So, long story short, it became clear that the way that school was run was not working for my daughter and I switched her to a different school for 4th grade and started the younger one in kindergarten there as well. I got her officially diagnosed in 4th grade and was stunned by what it included: ADHD combined type, Asperger’s syndrome, Non-verbal learning disability (NVLD), major depression, and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). We started her on medication for her ADHD, and that helped tremendously. I then applied for accommodations under the 504 program. And the principal’s response? “We don’t see it. We don’t believe this diagnosis because that’s not the child we see. Request denied.” My response was to take her off the medication over winter break so they could see what I saw when she went back. Within 2 weeks, her teacher was begging me to put her back on the meds because my daughter had fallen to pieces and could not function in the classroom. And at that point, I talked to the school counselor and SHE insisted on another meeting with the principal where it was FINALLY agreed she did indeed need accommodations to function. Unfortunately, the teachers didn’t always provide what was agreed to and there was resistance at every turn. They just did not see it as their responsibility to make sure my daughter had what she needed to be successful. No behavior modification program, no training in how to compensate, just reliance on her taking her meds to function.

    My daughter’s problems only got worse as she entered the district’s magnet program for gifted and talented in middle school and the workload increased tremendously. She began failing — she lost her homework assignments, or didn’t turn in her homework, she couldn’t stay organized and they actually GRADED her on her organizational ability. If I let her do her own organizing, she’d fail and the teachers would write to me to tell me to fix it for her. If I did it for her, she was getting graded on my organizational ability, not hers. She also had trouble with the very long school day and the transition from school to home. By the time she got home, her medication would have worn off, so we tried to give her longer coverage by increasing her prescription. This helped, but it wasn’t enough to get through all the homework assigned. I asked if she could be evaluated some way other than by written assignments, and the school’s response was “This is a magnet program. Under 504, you’re not entitled to anything more than accommodations. We’re not required to change the curriculum.” I also began doing a lot of reading and research on exactly what is required under section 504 of the ADA and under IDEA. And I kept coming up against the Supreme Court ruling that said a child is not entitled to a Cadillac education. They’re only entitled to a Chevrolet.” The test was whether she was failing in the general classroom, not a magnet program for GT. I did not see that it would make any difference what classroom she was in because she understood the material just fine. If she was going to fail for not doing the homework, it would happen in any classroom. She’d just be more bored from lack of stimulation.

    So to help her get the volume of work done, we tried different medications and different dosage levels of medications and there were disastrous side-effects. The medications increased her anxieties, exacerbated her depression, and caused her to have an emotional break-down. By the middle of 7th grade, I had to get her help from a psychologist for issues relating to her Asperger’s and a psychiatrist to manage her emotional crisis and her medication. And at that point, I determined that no academic program was worth sacrificing my daughter’s mental health.

    So I pulled her out of the magnet program, but even at the neighborhood school, her teachers would call or email me saying “your daughter’s failing.” My response was to give them some of her story and say “It’s OK if she fails. I’m not putting any pressure on her at all. It’s not worth her mental health.” So what they started doing instead was finding any way possible to pass her, despite her not doing the work. She ended up failing 2 courses, and passed the other two only because the teachers gave her credit for knowing the material, despite not performing well on tests or other assignments. I then got phone calls from her counselor after the term ended threatening to retain her in 7th grade if she didn’t attend summer school. To which I replied, “Please DO! Yes, I want you to retain her in 7th grade.” And then they turned around and pushed her forward to 8th. When I questioned it, the response was “Yes, she failed, but we know she knows the material. She only failed because she wouldn’t turn in her assignments.” At her next 504 meeting, I formally requested she be evaluated for Special Ed so she could get an IEP — not on the basis of intellectual deficiency, but because of all her co-morbid disabilities, she NEEDED an individualized program. She needed more than just accommodations. She needed to have the courses modified and the workload officially reduced, not just reduced if the teacher felt like it. She needed to have someone at school help her with organization and time management, make sure she brought home her assignments, and prompt her to hand them in. Since the teachers were already modifying the courses to make it possible for her to pass, I wanted it made official.

    And at this point, I hired a licensed counselor to act as an advocate, a woman who had been her counselor at school but who had since gone into private practice because of the practices she saw in the AISD system. She was able to do what I couldn’t: she could talk to the school staff in private and say “I know what AISD is telling you you have to do, because I’ve been there myself, and we all know it’s illegal. And my client is prepared to litigate this.” So that got their attention and we began the long and involved assessment needed to determine if she’s eligible under IDEA for an IEP. I got her re-evaluated by a psychologist and it again showed ADHD combined type, Aspergers, major depression and PDD-NOS. She was admitted under PDD-NOS. And despite again failing 2 of her courses in 8th grade, and over my objections, she was again promoted to the next grade level because, they said, she knows her stuff (despite the failing grades) and “it’ll be fine. They’ll help her in HS.” Well, she didn’t do “fine.” She failed 2 1/2 courses in 9th grade, and did have to go to summer school. She didn’t learn anything in her 2 weeks there, but she did make up half a credit. It was punitive more than anything else.

    This year, with additional adjustments, she is at last doing fine. She is in the regular classes where there is very little homework. She has individual help getting her work done at school, and someone to monitor that she is getting it done. She also has some special modifications that are making it possible for her to get all the work done.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my younger child struggled with reading and writing beginning in kindergarten. She’d ace a spelling test on Friday, and by Monday could not remember how to spell any of the words she’d known just a few days before. Each year, her teachers would say, “Be patient. She’ll get it.” By 4th grade, she could not read or write. When I got her evaluated, she was diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, dysgrafia, & discalcula. Again when applying for 504 accommodations, the principal said “I don’t believe this diagnosis. She passed her benchmarks and she’s below grade level in reading, but not drastically. Request denied.” We put that daughter on focalin, and at the next parent conference, I again requested 504, and this time, the teachers agreed she had ADHD, but with the medications, was performing well. So at the end of 4th grade, she finally got into 504, but without any accommodations. My request for her annual 504 meeting was denied at the end of 5th grade because the principal was too busy. I contacted her 6th grade counselor when it was clear she needed help. To my amazement, I was told the grade school principal had quietly removed my daughter from the 504 program and she was no longer entitled to accommodations. I immediately lodged a protest with the counselor because there needed, at a minimum, to be a notice and opportunity for a hearing. The counselor had to bring in the head of AISD’s 504 program to deal with this and my daughter was reinstated, and now has the accommodations she needs. But that was only possible because I knew what my daughter’s rights were.

    All this was possible because I have acted as a full-time advocate on my children’s behalf. Before raising a family, I was an attorney for the Treasury Department in Washington, and I joined the Texas bar in 2013. Education law is not my field of expertise, and I have had to learn an entirely new area of the law and bring the abilities of a licensed attorney to the table, along with those of a professional school counselor to get these services for my children. My heart goes out to all the families that don’t have the education, the determination, or the resources to push this hard for what they’re entitled to. So it took me from kindergarten until 10th grade to get my older daughter what she needed. It took me only until 6th grade to get my younger one what she needed, and that was because by then I already knew the drill.

    The bottom line for the school district is that it’s not about giving kids what they need, it’s about getting as many kids as possible to perform at grade level expectations because between No Child Left Behind and 504, that is all that the Supreme Court requires. So if you’re “twice exceptional” meaning both very bright, but also very disabled, each one masks the other and you end up looking just ordinary. For that, you don’t get services. You have to be actually FAILING.

    I know this sounds dire, but without continuing support, my eldest would most likely end up as a HS drop-out and unable to support herself in the workforce. She is that disorganized and that much of an Aspie. So it’s really important that she get the support she’s getting now and have access to special programs. She has more going on than just ADHD that makes her “special”, but ADHD in itself has a high correlation to kids coming from homes with a single parent, incarcerated parent, abusive parent, or parents who themselves have ADHD. All of whom have serious issues with lack of self-discipline and impulse control and the inability to plan for the future or manage time or money. None of those types of parents are in a position to advocate for their kids and get them what they need because of their own issues, and why it is a big contributor to the school to prison pipeline. It’s a huge issue with those populations, and denial of services is just making it worse. It needs to be stopped and these kids need to be supported so that when they grow up, they know how to do what they need to to support themselves and manage their lives.

    I know your ability to force Texas to comply with federal law is limited to that which is legally enforceable, and that you cannot yourselves change the laws. It is my fervent hope that somewhere in the impassioned and heartrending accounts you’ve heard during this week, you will find the legal bases you need to bring about positive change for the people of Texas by forcing Texas school districts to comply with the ADA and IDEA and holding them accountable when they do not.

    Thank you for listening.

    • Your post is significant because you acted in your own child’s best interest. Many parents, “don’t know what they don’t know” and consequently, want to blame the schools. While I believe the schools are somewhat to blame, not all of them are. As you noted, many teachers are fearful for their jobs.
      Parents need to take control of their children’s education. Information is power.

      • “…many teachers are fearful for their jobs.” Exactly. Which is why the SS Soldiers at Auschwitz deserved a pass for genocide. Are you kidding? If a surgeon amputates the wrong leg, he and his hospital are bankrupted. If the mechanic forgets to put oil in your car, the shop is paying for an engine. So, if a teacher sees a child struggle he or she should just ignore it because the school administrators tell them to? Professional=a person engaged or qualified in a profession. What is the point of showing up to the “profession” if your qualifications require you to ignore the most in need of help? And by the way, even the parents who understand the IDEA and ADA better the teachers ever will, even if they the bankrupt themselves to obtain services privately that the schools won’t, how can any of them “take control” of a system that shuts them out. I’m very glad that some parents are able to have success in getting support from their school. But just as sure as “Smith” elementary in one part of a district is wonderful, “Jones” elementary in the same district is abhorrent. By the way, many parents who as you say, “don’t know what they don’t know” believe that because staff is nice to their child that the child is actually receiving an education. While I commend all those educators that are nice to my child, I would expect all teachers to be nice to my child and still hold them accountable for providing meaningful education to my child. These two positions are often two vastly different realities.

        • My neighbor was a teacher in LTISD & she told me she tried to help a child in desperate need of special ed. SHe was an experienced teacher but new to the district. She was fired & the Principal told her all sorts of things like she was the “biggest disappointment ever” that attacked her personally.
          -In finding out recently that the “School Board” is in charge of enforcing compliance issues with all program guidelines, why didn’t the teachers go to the School Board for help or advisement? If the “District” said to, but the “School Board” is actually accountable, why weren’t school boards put in charge of making a determining written guideline for the district to follow? TEC 7.028 (TX Education Code)

          • To clarify my comment-In TX, the local school board has “compliance enforcement authority” from TX legislature under TEC 7.028. TEA “recommended” the 8.5% target. Districts enforced this target. The school boards are accountable for schools following state & federal guidelines but failed to follow Child Find, 504 & other state/federal programs. They allowed the target to continued from 2004 until now without raising an “issue” of any sort to a Federal authority or anyone. Did ISD staff go to the school boards with concerns? It doesn’t sound like they did. ISD staff is well trained on the school board being the compliance enforcer yet never went to them about the failure to comply with these federal programs. Confidence in school boards is lost & it’s proven here that local school boards are not effective in enforcing compliance in TX public schools.
            Going forward, the responsibility of accountability needs to placed at a much higher level than “local authority”. Local authority-school boards have proven to be significantly ineffective in this role & need to be replaced. A state agency designed specifically for that task of monitoring compliance & accountability can be established but trust in the “state” has been lost. Direct federal monitoring & accountability with more than just reporting “numbers” needs to be implemented. The “people” need to be part of this process. Feedback from the people is essential so effectiveness & true change can be objectively determined.

    • One of the saddest things about these stories is the child’s perspective. Imagine how a child feels as week after week goes by and turns into months and they start to feel “stupid” because in spite of their parents’ pleas, everyone is making the child feel that they ARE stupid. If half the energy and money that went to pay these administrators and teachers to deny and deceive and punish children, had instead gone to be kind and supportive and trained to help, all of this damage to children’s self esteem and interest in learning could have been avoided.

      • My son has speech difficulties, seizure disorder, and doesn’t show any facial expression. He is currently in high school and after being in resource in Jr. High, we were told it would not be available to him now. He became so stressed because of benchmark testing that he began to have seizures. After being hospitalized for them, the doctor excused him from school for a week during testing. We had to change the kinds of tests he will take. Due to impulsivity, and other issues including learning difficulties, he doesn’t do well on evaluations and was placed in different classes. When he came home he told me he was “in dumb classes and he was dumb.” He has difficulties in regular class, but he does participate and is able to tell me what they are covering in Reading, Science and history. We are currently working on changing his schedule. I hate that the tests come first instead of the child. I guess it’s more important to take and pass a test than raising children who will contribute positively to our society. It’s sad we focus on what they can’t do instead of working and strengthening what they can do.

  112. My son is a 4th grader in Austin ISD. He has been diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and language processing disorder. He needs occupation therapy (Dysgraphia), speech therapy, and a dyslexic reading specialist (CALT). He receives none of those services thru his school and we have to seek outside help.
    He does have an IEP but not for reading/language…but for math. More on that later.
    What has happened so far:
    1. Evaluated by the school in the 2nd grade. Diagnosed with Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia. We now have an IEP. School refused to do Dyslexia testing. Says a boy who can barely read does not qualify.

    2. 3rd grade. Son is in SPED for reading and math. Starts occupational therapy outside of school.

    3. Our family spends $2k in outside testing. Determined he is Dyslexic among other learning disabilities. Son does not have Dyscalculia (math issues) but all learning issues stem from Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

    4. ARD meeting at the end of 3rd grade. School officials removed the SPED for reading because Dyslexia does not fall under the SPED umbrella. We, as parents, did not know what we were signing at that ARD meeting. Thought we were going to still get reading help in the 4th grade.

    5. Start of 4th grade. Only have SPED for math. I’m confused. We go with it because we have an outside CALT tutor and Speech Therapy. And the SPED teacher has also agreed to pull him into the SPED spelling class. This is the most important aspect since my son can only spell 3-letter words. So we keep it status quo.

    6. Last 2 weeks. My son is refusing to go to all outside tutors (CALT and Speech). After school tutors are 2x per week for CALT (bumps up to 4x in the summer) and 1x per week for Speech (bumps up to 2x in the summer).

    7. He’s burned out. We are stopping the tutors for the moment.

    How can we expect a 9th grader struggling in school to go, in addition, 3x a week to outside tutors just to keep his head barely above the water? And then do homework after that. He’s missing out on playing with friends, decompressing time, family time. In order for our kids with learning differences to succeed, we need to have these services available in our schools.

    • As someone who works in the schools– It is strange– but yes, Dyslexia is not considered a special education program. It is considered a general education program. I am a speech therapist in schools. I was prepping an ARD for a child reciving speech and dyslexia. I mentioned that the child has dyslexia in the documents, and the dyslexia teacher jumped all over me. “Its not a special education prgram, you need to leave it off the special education paperwork !!!” woah— Dyslexia people want to keep that divide for some powerful reason, and I am not sure why. When a child is “too low” and show no strengths they do not qualify for dyslexia… I know nothing about dyslexia, so I cannot have an opinion… but thats the way it is where I work….

  113. Dallas ARD (IEP) was incorrect. I knew it. Move to Frisco and they updated the ARD (IEP). However, I noticed other needs my 4 year old was displaying. Was constantly told she didn’t have them. 3 months at Frisco Early Childhood she hadn’t improved at all – no improvement in communication (still nonverbal), and still had behavioral problems along with constant major meltdowns. Was a prisoner in our own home – couldn’t go anywhere without a major meltdown. She was afraid of showers, the water for brushing her teeth, & other sensory processes. She began to be afraid of emergency vehicles that drove passed our home (while we were inside the home).

    In Dec, I was watching a home video my father created at her Christmas party. I noticed she was covering her ears with both hands, a few minutes later she looked drunk. Then I noticed she was unconscious – her head doen with her chin in her chest. Her pointer finger twitching up and down. I was furious!! Not one special day education teacher noticed my daughter had a seizure! My father didn’t recognize it because he isn’t aware of them and he lives 6 hours away but a specialized staff should!! They were aware she has a history of several types of seizures including drop seizures.

    During the Christmas break I enrolled her in a private school. Within 6 weeks she was starting to use words and the behavior changed along with no more meltdowns.

    The public school kept telling me she wasn’t on the spectrum and she didn’t have SPD – only a communication disorder. Fast forward to the present – she has all 3 including seizures and asthma.

    Leaving the public education was the best thing I have done. I was tired of being told she doesn’t have this or she doesn’t have that! When I was being told otherwise by physicians. I felt it was a constant battle to get the services needed to get the adequate resources to help my child get the help she needed to progress.

    I was speaking with a friend today. She was thinking about puttting her son into the public education. I explained how I felt and what experiences I had with Dallas & Frisco. I told her it was a nightmare and a huge headache. I told her about the TEA, the 8.5%, & the federal investigation. It’s not something she will want to deal with. It’s like pulling teeth the entire journey – who wants all that stress!! She decided to stay with the private education.

  114. I am the parent of two students in Special Education in Austin, Texas, both on the autism spectrum. I’m here to acknowledge the great work done by many Special Ed teachers on behalf of my children, but also the serious flaws that exist as well. Good Special Ed teachers make it possible for both my kids to be productive, successful and happy. However, being the parent of a Special Education students has also been a part time job for me—advocating, emailing, volunteering, cajoling; not to mention the emotional turmoil of all the frustration. My daughter had a diagnosis of autism and came to AISD in middle school. Initially we were told that she would receive Special Ed support with the Scores program and that it should be in place by the time school started. However, when school started I was told she would only receive a 504 and therefore would not be able to work with the Scores teacher (the teacher for autistic kids). It took an entire semester and threatening to bring in a lawyer for her to be approved. It was clear that the teachers and administration wanted to do the right thing but that was some sticking point. For one thing there was not adequate staffing to do the evaluation and they had to keep putting it off. Finally, our principal interceded to make sure it got through. But why should we have to threaten legal action to get services she’s supposed to get? Meanwhile my son has been in SpEd for 7 years. We have had some amazing teachers and we have had some that have little understanding of his diagnosis and little training working with these children (this is among Special Ed staff). Even worse are some Gen Ed teachers, who often look at an autistic kid and see nothing but a problem child. They can be dismissive, rude, condescending and openly hostile. My most frustrating moments have come when my child has been denied them access to academic curriculum that he is capable of because he can’t sit still and don’t seem compliant at times. Even if you know they are violating your kid’s rights, who has the time and stamina to fight all those battles? When Special Ed works well it’s good not only for our kids, but for all children because it builds a community with generosity and character. The charter schools and the private schools won’t take our children. This is their only chance, so we fight on–but it is exhausting, heartbreaking, uneven, and unfair.

  115. I attended the meeting in Austin but was #75 and wasn’t able to speak. I’m a former 1st grade teacher. I was a PTA President last year. I never set out to become an advocate but now I find myself at meetings like these and at the state Capitol far too often because of the injustices happening to kids in our state. I’m the mother of a 4th grade child with dyslexia and a 2nd grader with dyslexia and dysgraphia. My children are lucky that they were identified early because I knew what boxes to check and I can afford to get them the help they need outside of school.

    The reason I went to the meeting to speak was for the kids that aren’t teacher’s kids, those that are English Language Learners and low income kiddos and for all of the children that don’t have a parent to advocate for them. Can you imagine trying to read English when it’s not your native language and you are dyslexic? Studies say that 1 in 5 people are dyslexic. You can do the math on how many kids are being missed.

    I have a big problem with the amount of time it takes to get a child tested and I am bothered by the lack of diagnosticians and testers. I am angry with the “wait and see” approach. It takes months and sometimes years to get a child tested and identified. And then once they are identified, they aren’t guaranteed proper and necessary intervention. I have first hand knowledge of people being blown off and not being tested in a timely manner in Fort Bend ISD, Houston ISD, Spring Branch ISD, Lamar Consolidated ISD and Eanes ISD.

    I am concerned that parents no longer need to be in ARD, 504 or IEP meetings where changes can be made without their knowledge or consent.

    I am mad that children who have been privately diagnosed have been turned down time and time again for services from their school districts because they aren’t completely failing. Dyslexic students are great at coping but they need additional help and intervention.

    Teachers lack training and the ability to properly identify students. That’s not acceptable.

    I lacked the training to identify students and knowing what I know now, my heart breaks every time I think about the kids that I let slip through the cracks. I am baffled by the amount of children I know whose teachers knew there was something wrong but couldn’t put their finger on it. Most of these children were not identified as dyslexic until late elementary school, middle school or worse, high school but by then, their confidence was already shattered and their love of learning was gone. They thought they were stupid and would never be good readers. Those are some of your high school drop outs. That’s your public school to prison pipeline.

    And then there’s the STAAR test and ENd of Course exams in Texas. For some reason, this state really likes to go above and beyond and test their kids more than most states for no good reason. Texas is one of 14 states that still gives high stakes tests. The math questions are all reading which aren’t testing their math skills. Dyslexic children can’t use their accommodations completely on these tests and many are embarrassed to be pulled out and put in small groups away from their class. The STAAR gives no diagnostic information and no colleges outside of Texas even look at End of Course exams. They are a waste of time.

    I beg you to make the testing process easier. I beg you to help train teachers and to help the kids that need help and I beg you to end the senseless high stakes testing. And don’t be silly enough to think that “school choice” or vouchers or whatever you want to call them will help all of this. All school choice will do is further defund public education and rob the children who depend on their neighborhood schools. I beg you to please think about the children before all else.

  116. Our son started to display problems in first grade. Second grade more of the same and then third grade the issue could no longer be ignored.We had meetings with the school. And formally ask for testing in the third grade per our pediatrician ‘s suggestion. The testing was denied. The school committee suggested we take him to a psychologist for therapy. We followed their suggestion to the tune of $250 an hour. We ultimately ended up back where we began which was – he needed to be tested for a learning difference. In the school’s opinion he scored too high on map test and thought that he could do the work but just didn’t want to. Even after showing them his spelling and inability to read a book. Fourth grade was more of the same and even the accommodations that we came up in the third grade without a 504 plan we’re not followed through with during fourth grade and we started from scratch again. After meeting with his teachers and expressing our concerns again they suggested that we put him in special programs . They said special programs was a place to help kids get organized and focused on doing work. Later I found out from my teacher friends that it was really a place that they put kids that have behavior problems like throwing computers, outbursts and violence. None of which my son was involved in. I contacted the school one last time in an email and quoted federal law and requested the testing again. That day my son was removed from class in the most demeaning manner by the VP. At that point we could no longer ignore the fact that our son was falling further and further behind and he was being emotional scarred. He told the VP that he that he wanted to kill himself. We pulled him out of school, had him privately tested, and began to homeschool. After we withdrew him from our local elementary school I was contacted by the special education supervisor at that school to sign papers that I was denying testing even though I had already taken him out of the school. They basically forced me to have a meeting over the phone with the district psychologist present. I asked her why they were going to do the testing now had they observe my child? She stated she did not know my son and was only there because I had requested the testing, Basically they were covering their end. We also paid for private reading tutoring Once we had him home for homeschooling. The emotional abuse that he endured through all of this is immeasurable. They took a child that only needed help with learning to read and spell and turned him into a child with zero confidence and labeled him as lazy and defiant. This was in Plano ISD . I have paper work, emails and all testing documents . We are now in a Charter school that has a full time dyslexia therapists and he goes to her 4 days a week for 45 minutes . They did one additional test to confirm our private testing. In the fifth grade he is just now getting the help he has needed since first grade. I believe had we not paid for the testing ourself and left him in public school he would lost forever.

  117. As an administrator of special education for 15 years, and as the parent of two children with disabilities, I cannot argue that there are improvements that must be made with regards to special education in Texas. I have participated on both sides of the IEP meeting table, and it has given me a unique perspective. I have been the frustrated and even angry parent trying to get the needs of my child met. I understand that.

    But as a LEA administrator for special education, I also know the difficulties that school districts face. Constantly changing, complicated rules make it difficult to keep up. Differing state and federal guidance causes directors have to make difficult choices. For example, the courts have been very clear that lack of parent participation is a violation of the IDEA, with which I heartily agree. However, state monitoring does not allow for any extenuating circumstances when an ARD date is missed. So a district must choose: miss a timeline to allow for rescheduling or risk noncompliance with state monitoring. It’s a lose-lose situation.

    Multiple accountability systems also make it difficult to keep up. Special education in public schools in Texas is subject to the Federal State Performance Plan with 17 indicators, the state Performance Based Monitoring Analysis System with 16 indicators, Residential Facilities tracking, and we are also included in the state accountability system. Navigating and ensuring compliance in all of these systems is difficult and time consuming. It takes away from time spent improving programs and services.

    All of these difficulties combined with very limited resources for many LEAs, create struggles for public schools as they work to provide needed services to students with disabilities. The numbers of students with more significant disabilities who require much higher levels of support and services has risen significantly in the last five years, yet the resources and funding to help districts serve those students has not.

    I urge the Office of Special Education and Related Services, the USDE, and both our federal and state legislators, as they investigate and address the concerns with special education in Texas, to please NOT neglect the need to investigate what supports the public schools in Texas desperately need to make those necessary changes.

  118. I have been an educator for 13+ years in the area of Adapted Physical Education. I have my Masters in Physical Education, Adapted Physical Education Teaching and Coaching. I have taught in the K-12 setting, Directed at the YMCA as a Youth and Family Director and Inclusion Specialist for persons with Disabilities, and worked at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse on a grant program entitled, Active and Healthy Lifestyles for Children and Youth with Disabilities. I have been a huge asset to the La Crosse WI community with developing and implementing physical activity and nutrition education programs for kids with disabilities. I have taught undergraduate and graduate level courses. I have been in my fair share of IEP meetings and done my fair share of advocating for families. We moved to Texas nearly 3 years ago. I know the Federal law inside and out and began learning the Texas law through the TEA. When we moved here I was a stay at home mom of three. Last January 2016 I choose to get my feet wet and back in the doors of the public school setting. I went to CISD to an elementary school to assist in the Physical Education setting. While there I did my job but also was observing and learning to see how the district and school all operated from the inside. I wanted to talk to the Lead Adapted Physical Education teacher and it took over 3 weeks to locate him. First I am in that Adapted Physical Education world so parents who are not, it would be nearly impossible to locate him or the other teachers. Resources were not made available. Once we had a discussion, he told me he only served 1 child in the district because that was his trade off to be lead Adapted Physical Education Teacher. His other 4 staff (APE teachers for the entire district) only had 20 on their case loads and he had a hard time disseminating that number. So 81 kids serviced in Adapted Physical Education for the 2015/2016 School Year out of 60,000 students in the entire district. The Lead Adapted Physical Education teacher also shared with me that they could serve 200 more students but choose not to. That they are lucky to not serve kids at all on Fridays so they can pull for Special Olympics. Well Special Olympics is amazing but only caters to Cognitively disabled individuals and not for all ages usually older kids. Also, you can’t replace a program for an extra curricular activity which they are doing.

    I was told they only service kids that are physically disabled not anything else, that doesn’t comply with the Federal law. They don’t service behaviors and they don’t service kids that are too severe because that isn’t Adapted Physical Education. Again doesn’t comply with the Federal law.

    I spoke to the Diagnostician from the elementary school I was working at in CISD and she told me that only 1 child in 5 years had Adapted Physical Education on their IEP or excuse me ARD because in the state of Texas they don’t use up to date terminology. This child had it on her IEP because she came in with it from a previous district.

    The Diagnostician also told me that the only way a teacher could get fired is if they ever told a family to make a referral. I said, “that is called Advocacy and SPED 101 it is how the process begins.” She said, “Yes, but the district doesn’t like it” and I said why? She said, “it makes us look like we are not doing out jobs.” I said, “well with all do respect, you are not!” I said, “you know what go ahead and fire me and I will sue for wrongful termination.”

    I witnessed at least 20 students from K-5th that I could identify from my expertise and professional opinion and none of those students were every identified or evaluated and served. It was none of my business. The diag said if we were to state that there were 20 kids to identify, that would raise major red flags with the district.

    There were no updated 504’s or IEPs in the PE office to know what kids needed for modification and adaptations during their PE class time.

    There were 6 life skills students that came down 2-3 days a week and most of the time were off to the side because they couldn’t keep up and were given no modification to the lesson ever! There were 2 para’s with the kids and they hated coming to class because there were never certain about what to do, felt left out and on display. There was one lesson in particular where the kids couldn’t do it and the para’s had to go about their own way and create something off to the side and the PE teacher went up to the and said don’t let so and so get in the way of my lesson. At that moment that was segregation and not least restrictive.

    Kids were called out negatively for behavior in front of the entire class sizes of 90 kids on a microphone and said watch out for so and so they are special. Other than a periodical buddy system, the kids were not in their least restrictive environment.

    The PE teacher had no clue how to work with students with disabilities in her classroom. She was uneducated in that area.

    Least restrictive environment doesn’t always mean with the general population. If students in Physical Education do not benefit from their own level of physical fitness then they need services and a different environment to get what they have a right to and to learn in a safe place.

    According to IDEA students with disabilities get Adapted PE if they qualify as a direct service. They are suppose to receive the same amount of minutes per week as their non disabled peers. This was not happening. By mid-April 2016, the 6 life skills students stopped coming to PE altogether and just sat in their class room because they were not getting anything valuable out of physical education and the teacher wouldn’t work with them.

    The PE teacher never made referrals, never attended an ARD and always left the life skills students out of all events yet they were suppose to be a part of the class.

    Only 1 child was evaluated for Adapted Physical Education in the entire CISD district during the 2015-2016 school year and that child with CP, non verbal and wheelchair user who could walk with assistance didn’t qualify for services because she was too low functioning in the eyes of the district.

    Two students with down syndrome, who were both visually impaired and wore orthotics who didn’t have the stamina and endurance to hold them selves up throughout class due to low muscle tone wouldn’t even get looked at because the APE teacher said they were too high functioning.

    There was a child with severe autism who was nonverbal, made noises, who would have typical behaviors of a child with autism and would scratch her female parts and sniff her hands and she didn’t qualify for any services in APE.

    I had a family who is very active with their child outside of school because they know the value and benefits of exercise with their child. He has high functioning autism and they asked three different times for an evaluation in APE in one year and the APE teacher and diag said we won’t even test him because he won’t qualify. So DENIED!!!

    Texas is far behind times and they don’t want to make necessary changes because they haven’t had to and have gotten away with what they are doing for far to long.

    My suggestion to the US Department of Education is to mandate that all accredited institutions have highly qualified professionals in the teacher preparation program when they come out. Teachers in the area of Adapted Physical Education and Special Education are not prepared to the extent they need to be to work with children and youth with disabilities. People fear what they don’t know. They are children with special needs and it is up to us as experts to work as a team a village to meet the unique needs of a child through their IEP. It is not rocket science. Parents are our greatest resources yet the schools are working so hard against them to intimidate and control until there is no trust, rapport or safety left. These students are our next generation of hope and work. This is our future.

    If it isn’t vocational, then it is their health and well being. We have one life to live. We need to make sure these kids are learning academically in their classroom and getting active and healthy in physical education.

    Texas doesn’t recognize the Adapted Physical Education certification. Only 17 states currently do, I know this because I wrote my thesis on it in 2007. Texas does however recognize the CAPE certification which is a certified adapted physical educator and that is the most highly qualified we can be in our field. It is up to each districts discretion if they want to hire a qualified Adapted PE teacher. I am asking that we change the law for Texas with the TEA and allow only APE professionals to work with children with disabilities in the PE environment for those students that qualify for APE services. We are a direct service under IDEA so why in the world would we allow related service (OT/PT), a Special Education teacher, or the general PE teacher to cover Adapted Physical Education when they have no idea what they are doing. That is not quality Adapted Physical Education and one course in college isn’t enough for that.

    If you would like more information or to discuss further please contact me via email. Thank you for your time and consideration for the people of Texas.

    • Your post is the exact reason I stopped working in SPED ! I spent the last 15 years working with various levels from severe to high functioning. I was so tired of administration telling me I couldn’t help the students. It was a pathetic existence for me, but more importantly, the parents of the students. It was hard to watch the families and the students who needed help. Many parents “don’t know what they don ‘t know.” The education became sort of me against them, when in reality, we should have been a team. Now, I am a strong advocate here in Texas and write about how families can help themselves.

      • Thank you for what you do to educate those parents that don’t know. There are to many. I too have started my own company in serving students with special needs in physical activity programming. See a need fill a need. The problem is parents already spend way too much money out of pocket for private services when it should start for free in the schools. I will never stop fighting and advocating!

  119. We are a TX family with highly gifted children who also exhibit characteristics of learning disabilities. Despite asking for help/solutions, over a 5 year period (Grades 8-12), our daughter was never offered evaluation. Our son, transferring to TX with special education eligibility, has endured annual pressure to dismiss without full identification of his disabilities and appropriate provision of services. Here is our story.

    We moved to Texas in 2010. Our daughter transferred into Grade 8. She easily qualified for gifted programming but almost immediately began to struggle with written expression, organization, missing/ incomplete assignments and defensive behaviors. One might think her struggle was due to the move, but we suspected learning disabilities. She had always been a poor speller with inconsistent grades. In Grade 3, she was identified as highly gifted with significant discrepancies in her cognitive profile. In Grade 4, she had screened at risk for a reading disability. Beginning in Grade 8 and through Grade 12, we earnestly shared concerns and asked for help.

    Over the next five years, not a single TX public educational professional suggested an evaluation to investigate her struggle and our concerns. Instead, we were told:
    • Her struggle was “typical” or “not a problem” because grades and scores were average.
    • Can’t be a learning disability because she is so verbally articulate in classroom discussion.
    • Regarding failing reading checks in her Advanced Placement courses: Some high school students don’t do their homework.
    • From the Licensed Specialist in School Psychology: I don’t know what can be done for gifted students that struggle, maybe a tutor?
    • Counselor #1 recommended general education instead of gifted programming.
    • Counselor #2: Achievement was average so no problem; struggle sounds typical of adolescents.
    She never received identification.

    Meanwhile, our son, who is eligible for services, did not receive timely identification of disabilities or appropriate services. He transferred into Grade 1 with Other Health Impairment eligibility and a suspicion of being gifted with learning disabilities (2e). TX changed his eligibility category to Emotional Disturbance and dismissed him from Occupational Therapy (OT) services. The school year was fraught with frequent meltdowns at home and an absolute avoidance of any writing. I had been communicating concerns via email to the ARD team, so I was a bit surprised to hear them suggest dismissal in May. This annual pressure to dismiss continues until this day. In May of Grade 1 we agree to re-evaluate. In June, we begin private OT.

    Grade 2 is a pause year, waiting for the outcome of the Full Individual Evaluation (FIE). While waiting, my son was identified at risk for a reading disability and participated in Response to Intervention (RTI).
    • April Grade 2 – FIE completed, Speech Impairment eligibility. Determination of dyslexia or dysgraphia was not included in this FIE despite concurrent RTI, sibling history, and parent concerns. Furthermore, his cognitive profile which spans 3 standard deviations was squeezed into a chart with two columns: Average and Above Average. There is no discussion of his discrepant/ highly gifted cognitive ability or analysis of achievement in relation to cognitive ability. Sound-Symbol composite, spelling, and math computation are outliers.

    Grade 3 – Grade 5 is a blur of frustration. Concerns escalate. We’re now dealing with spelling-writing-math fact frustrations, work avoidance behaviors, stomach aches, and excessive absences. Particularly in Grades 4 and 5, general education teachers are attributing his inconsistent performance and difficult behaviors to laziness. Gifted programming begins, which is transformative. His gifted education teacher introduces me to 2e resources. She supports him wonderfully in her classroom, but this support is not transferring to general education. Nor is her 2e knowledge informing the ARD process. We begin to see my son’s incredible ability to “game the system” and by that I mean create work product without a quality process that ultimately undermines his learning. This is getting difficult. In Grades 3 and 4, I suggest gathering more data but I’m told he’s not due for a re-evaluation until April Grade 5.

    During this time, Scottish Rite reviews his case and recommends an educational therapist. Through the years, we receive this recommendation from every private professional we consult with.

    Also during this time, I begin sharing 2e resources with the ARD team – everything from scholarly research, 2e guidance manuals, and easy articles. I begin documenting things in writing and tracking achievement over time. Over the years I grow into not only an informed parent, but also the sole 2e voice on the ARD team. It doesn’t seem to have much effect. Shared resources are graciously accepted but never discussed. I continually hear “we don’t do that in TX”.

    Grade 5 is the year of the much anticipated re-evaluation. During this year, iStation flags multiple months of Tier 3 performance in word analysis and declining fluency and comprehension percentile rank. There is no response to this data, even after a May meeting specifically to discuss this very report. In December, I ask if dyslexia is going to be included in the ongoing re-evaluation. In January, a Determination of Dyslexia is conducted “at the request of the parent”. Never mind current iStation results, RTI history, and ongoing parent concerns. I am deeply disappointed I had to “request” dyslexia be included in his re-evaluation. Why couldn’t the ARD team connect the data dots and determine that was appropriate?
    • February Grade 5: FIE completed, Emotional Disturbance eligibility. Characteristics of dyslexia are not found. Dysgraphia was not evaluated. Eligible behaviors are not linked to underlying learning disabilities. Basic skills like math fact automaticity, writing mechanics, writing fluency, and spelling rules are not addressed in the FIE. Nor are they addressed in the IEP.

    Grade 6 – Grade 7: We share two private evaluations with the school that contain appropriate recommendations for our son who is identified as a highly gifted learner with disabilities including SLDs Disorder of Written Expression and Reading Disorder (dyslexia) with abysmal math fact fluency and significant Executive Functioning deficits. (Pennsylvania’s suspicions at the end of kindergarten are confirmed, six years later – privately). There has been no change to my son’s IEP or any formal response to the private evaluations shared.

    We continue to experience pressure to dismiss. We are not having fruitful discussions about managing discrepant and declining achievement. We are not having fruitful discussions about meaningful progress monitoring to know when accommodations are not sufficient and interventions are required. We are in the uncomfortable position of finally having identified SLDs (privately) but not having those SLDs recognized by the ARD team. We are in the uncomfortable position of sharing an appropriate roadmap for building skills and compensation strategies and being told “we don’t serve 2e learners that way in TX”. We are in the uncomfortable position of having dyslexia identified but not being included in the district dyslexia program (not even the monitoring portion). Furthermore, the ARD team has suggested that as the curriculum increases in difficulty throughout middle and high school, my son should consider dropping out of gifted programming to general education. I’ve heard that before. Remember my daughter?

    At a recent ARD meeting, a diagnostician referred to my son, a 2e learner, as a catch-22. The catch being: 2e learners don’t qualify for the services they need to be successful in the K-12 gifted programming they need. This makes no sense to me. My son is and always has been IDEA eligible. We are his ARD team. Can we not create an appropriate education plan designed to meet his unique needs? It’s been years…

    In summary, TX did not provide timely identification, evaluation, or appropriate services for my children with disabilities.

    • It’s called twice exceptional. Are you familiar with this? Ask the TEA about their so-called twice exceptional program. This is the one that serves no purpose for which it was intended. Yet they spent thousands of dollars to set this up. Who authorized this? Why isn’t anybody monitoring this?

  120. ‪We don’t want them to build new schools, we want them to give us a Free Appropriate Public Education for Students With Disabilities.‬
    No queremos que construyan nuevas escuelas, queremos que le den a nuestros hijos con necesidades especiales una educación pública, gratuita y adecuada como lo dice la ley.
    ‪Requirements Under Section 504 of
    The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
    Facebook
    Special family Inc.
    I’m going to talk on my radio show all the time of your negligence

  121. Punish the victim…

    My son is severely dyslexic. I asked the school district to test my son based on a recommendation from his pediatrician. The school refused to test my son for two years. Once my son was tested, it was confirmed that he is dyslexic and needs special education services, but of course TWO CRITICAL YEARS were LOST.
    I arranged with my employer to leave the office early and work remotely two days a week to help my son. I would pick up my son at the end of the school day, drive for an hour to get to a reading tutor for a two hour session. My son attended four to six hours of reading tutoring a week for 20 continuous months. After 1 year and 8 months, along with $12,000 in payments to the reading tutor, my son was caught up – he started 5th grade with a 5th grading reading level. My son has to work very hard to make good grades – he is has mostly A and B grades. School work does not come easy for him, but he understands it is important.

    You would think that everyone in the teaching profession would recognize the FACT that accommodations are necessary and essential to allow my dyslexic child to have the same opportunity to make good grades and succeed in his classes. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.
    A 6th grade special education teacher held my 11 year old son back from lunch as punishment for not getting his work completed. His 7th and 8th grade science teachers refused to provide the approved accommodation for note writing assistance. When my son went to after school tutorials and was still getting failing grades on his math homework, I made an appointment to meet with this teacher. Her ignorant comment was that she handed him the notes to read, but did not work with him one-on-one since there were other students that needed her help too. An 8th grade math teacher and 8th grade history teacher belittled my son repeatedly during class for needing accommodations.
    In High School, five STAAR tests are required to be passed for graduation. The high school neglected to provide ALL appropriate approved accommodations to my son during the STAAR English I. My son’s grade was very close to passing even without having all the appropriate accommodations. My son passed his 9th grade English class with an A, so I needed to gain an understanding of how it would happen that he didn’t pass this STAAR. Ironically, I was informed the high school administration doesn’t believe the 504 accommodations are required to be provided! I requested a waiver for the English I STAAR for my son due to the schools neglect, but they refused my request. This school wants to punish my son, who is the victim of their neglectful act. My son is working very hard to keep up with his regular class work, and adding to his workload for their neglect should NOT BE ALLOWED.
    It is unacceptable for the school to fail to recognize that they are responsible for my son’s education – this is the foundation for his future.

  122. The primary topic on hand is whether or not Texas has been imposing a single digit percentage rate for special education students. Uh, yes!! For as long as I have been an evaluator, the state has imposed a designated cap. I doubt that 1,247 school districts had it wrong all along and misunderstood the expectation as TEA recently stated in a letter to federal government this past November. However, I will say that whether there continues to be a cap or not in this state, the fact of the matter is that there are students with needs and how do we meet those needs.
    Over the years, I have seen an abuse of the initial referral process by parents and campus administrators (not all the time, but it does exist). Parents whom wish to have their children identified in order to apply for disability funds and administrators hoping students qualify in order to improve campus state standardized ratings.
    A state imposed cap is not our problem, early intervention and funding could be the problem. If you are a parent of a child with delays whether they be mild or severe, the questions you should be asking your district leaders are:
    – What kind of early intervention is available for 3 and 4 year olds?
    – Why does the district not provide pre kinder for all 4 year olds?
    – What interventions are available for primary grades?
    – Is Response To Intervention being implemented with fidelity at campuses?
    – Does a teacher receive additional supports for low performing students?
    – What is the district’s budget allocation for students with special needs?

    The list of questions can go on but my point is, early intervention (not necessarily special education intervention) can improve the opportunity for success for most students.
    As an evaluator, you do experience that not all student’s evaluated meet eligibility criteria which can be discerning at times knowing students are functioning well below grade level. Unfortunately, eligibility is not based on feeling rather it is based on designated criteria which is why all the more reason to make sure our general education programs are providing for ALL students.

    Upper Valley Sp Ed Staff

  123. I work for younger children and they are mixed when it comes to disabilities and abilities. Even when a child is known to have a learning disability, and has yet to be diagnosed since the child has an autism spectrum, we aren’t allowed to have a third person. I have worked with the child individually (one-to-one), but I feel that the other children are missing out on educational learning and overall time. I feel the child needs the third person to be with him for that could be a good way to see improvement in all developmental domains in that child without the need of ignoring the others. When I told my supervisor of what I thought was going on and how I would think a third person focusing on that specific child would be best she surprised me with a write up of me not beimg capable of doing my job. Just for standing up for what I thought was right for the child, I got written up. Ridiculous. I know.

  124. At ahe 3 my son started school and since he did not speak I requested a communication device to start helping my son and the school insyead of suggesting to do an evaluation for this particular need decided just to say they were going to start traditional eay of communicating. My son now in prek 3 as if august 2016 is still non verbal and after emailing special ed director that I needed an evaluation for a communication device for my son i was told informally that he is not interested in a tablet….so obviously already they are deciding to not provide that service to him. Our therapy place outside if school started the evaluation and recently sent all paperwork to medicaid for same device to help with the communication because they along with the doctor see the need. Had ard meeting in dec and i formally requested an evaluation and the information to het an outside evaluation done after schoom gives results because more than likely he will not need that service as per the eval at school. Weird that same childs speech impaiment has two totally different views to get the service he needs. Right now because there is a lack of resources outside of school medicaid cant approve his communication device and now we have to wait for the eval from school which could have been done when he first started school at age 3 but the school failed to do their job and evaluate all areas even after I requested the communication device. They know the process but chose not to mention what was the procedure. Its like the director would pay from her own money for a service that can be paid bybthe school because he has that unique need that will help him in school.

  125. I want to tell you too that my grandson was diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, & ODD among other things at Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas. So for punishment in middle school, they put him in a little tiny room and made him write ALL DAY LONG. He ended up in the behavior unit at the school.

  126. My family has filed TEA complaints against our district for years because we had no other alternative. Many have been sustained. None have ever resulted in any type of action by the Leander ISD. TEA only requires meaningless “corrective actions”, and the Walsh-Gallegos attorneys along with school administrators laugh at them. We’ve had complaints for repeated cases of the exact same violations by the same personnel acting in the same manner to deprive our child of guaranteed services. The rulings in these exact same cases have been both sustained and not sustained by the same investigators at TEA. We’ve met with the executive management and attorneys at the TEA who have no idea what they’re doing and better yet, don’t care to follow the law.

    In all appearances, ___ _____ provides trainings for ISDs on not only how to harm students and advocates, but to seemingly encourage those same districts to act with impunity knowing that TEA is incompetent, and that he and his firm benefit more by districts NOT following the law.

    This investigation only scratches the surface…For every student that has been denied entry into Sped, there are 50 that are already in the system that are being denied the services that they are supposed to be provided. And WHY ARE SUPERINTENDENTS, PRINCIPALS, TEACHERS, THERAPISTS, PSYCHOLOGISTS, ADMINISTRATORS, AND ANYONE ELSE THAT ADMIT TO DENYING SERVICES FOR THIS STORY OR IN FRONT OF YOUR COMMITTEE NOT BEING HELD ACCOUNTABLE? Most of them waited until either their pensions are being paid or until they left for other jobs and only now admit they’ve done wrong or were complicit when others did wrong. My child, and thousands of others have been harmed and no one is going to jail. Everything about the TEA’s oversight of Special Education is corrupt, and the US Department of Education has been made aware of this for years through the thousands of complaints that it has received and done nothing. Your agency had better step up and do something this time. How about bringing DOJ in here and filing some Title 18 Section 242 USC Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law or better yet, Title 18 Section 241 USC Conspiracy Against Rights of Citizens criminal charges against every Superintendent, Teacher, Therapist, Psychologist, Aide, and law firm representing any ISD that has deprived citizens of rights? Add every attorney, investigator, and director at the TEA in there for charges, too; any of them could have just followed the law.

    • The only ones who have ended up in jail are these young people who have been failed by a corrupt system, jail is not a reasonable accommodation – heartbreaking.

    • Interesting, when I asked the Department of Justice to investigate this they told me that it was up to the Department of Education. I disagree. Not only have they ignored this for years, but clearly they have no authority to file criminal charges against these people. The misuse of funds is criminal.

    • We desperately need a criminal investigation into our case regarding Walsh Gallegos. It was off the scales horrific.

  127. I retired from teaching first grade in a small, rural school district in Texas. When a student is struggling in first grade & clearly needs other options and possibly special education, my school district was retaining them back for another year in first grade “to see if they can catch up.” Some of these students will NOT catch up and will end up in special education but due to the “limit on numbers to be served in special education” I guess putting off another year to entering special education is good.
    My grandson, who started living with me when he was 3 years old, was held back in Pre-K. Little did I know what was ahead of us at that point. After the end of first grade, we made a trip to Scottish Rite Hospital to get a diagnosis to find out why he wasn’t learning because he didn’t learn to read in first grade. I became his advocate all of the rest of the way through school.
    Although I was a teacher, I still don’t know all there is to know about Special Education but I do know that holding him back was probably not the answer for him. Some of the students in my classroom that were having difficulty learning, did not need to be held back. Why is there a gap in special education between what they are capable of doing and what their IQ is in order to qualify? The reply would come back to us teachers “They are doing all they can do.” What does that even mean???
    I’ve had a couple of English Language Learners in my class who struggled. (Hispanic) They were held back and not tested because of their language was “probably the problem” as told to me by my principal. We will give them longer in first grade to pick up the language.

  128. My son was able to enter into Sped in 1st grade. By the middle of 1st grade, it was clear to me that he was really struggling in reading. As a parent of 2 older neurotypical children, I could see there was a problem. I expressed my concern with the D he was receiving in reading and asked about testing for dyslexia. I was told by the school employees they don’t even test until 3rd grade. We decided to have private testing on our dime which indicated he has severe dyslexia. The district did their own testing in 2nd grade which aligned with our private testing, he finally started receiving dyslexia services in the middle of 2nd grade with an excellent teacher. Our neighborhood opened a new elementary school the following year for what was to be his 3rd grade year. There was not a qualified dyslexia teacher who had training nor were we guaranteed more than 2 days of dyslexia services so we opted to pull him out and homeschool him for 3rd grade. After researching, talking to resources, I became more familiar with the Texas Dyslexia handbook and realized the school was not following the law. We did re enroll him for 4th grade. He has many struggles in school and needs help. Thankfully he does receive accommodations and in class support along with dyslexia services now with a qualified teacher. It should not be this hard to get the services our children need! We should not get pushed back by the schools. We now have an advocate to help us get what our child needs.

  129. People also need to look at the testing that is done to determine if a child qualifies for Special Education. I have seen many instances where people abuse these services. I will one such example. Four siblings are currently being given home school instruction by a regular education teacher because some doctor identified all four as having “school phobia,” YET these four individuals are constantly seen at the local movie theater and mall. How is this possible???

  130. Hi I am a parent from McAllen ISD my son as autism (Asperger’s) he is high functioning, he was exited out of special ed in junior high because he did not have an educational need, no he does not have an educational need but he has other needs like organizational skills, speech issues, not able to write correctly (dysgraphia) and issues with balancing his school work. So since 7th grade I have been fighting with the school district and the answer we always get is he does not have an educational need that 504 plan can help with what he needs, which it has not, so what I have done so worked part time and I make sure we always have all his work written down I am constantly in contact with his teachers to make sure he does his work but I am a single mom and I have to work. He is currently in 11 grade and he is failing 4 classes because he is not organized and does not write things correctly or we don’t understand what he write.

    • I agree completely and my son has same set of problems and is an Asperger child. Add to that he was repeatedly BULLIED and the principal of his middle school in Garland ISD refused to recognize the bullying factor. I moved him to a different middle school and the exact same problem happened again because thr schools insist on mainstreaming but do not provide adequate education and protection. Additionally at least 2 teachers at each school violated his IDEA and FAPE. Garland ISD is reprehensible and now my son is doing WELL amd NOT BULLIED in a private school where teachers are actually PAYING ATTENTION instead of chitchatting in the hallways.

      • I had a very similar type of situation with my asperger daughter. She was bullied in 6th grade. We followed all procedures & paper work for bullying. But, the principal refused to sign off on the bullying, even though her AP had several documented cases & agreed that she was bullied. After a huge battle, I quit my job, & then we withdrew our 401K money to send our daughter to special needs school. We have extreme financial struggles due to tuition, OT & therapy. We are constantly asking for help from family, friends & foundations. My daughter is very gifted & is 2 years ahead in school. However, if we sent her back to public school, I believe she would become suicidal again.

  131. Thank you so much for the opportunity to provide this testimony.

    For more than a decade, the State of Texas has been underserving children with special mental and behavioral health needs when compared to other states across the country. While we commend the TEA for its recent commitment to address these concerns, we cannot help but reflect upon the impact such a policy has had upon not only the tens of thousands of individuals who lost the opportunity to build successful lives, but also upon our criminal justice facilities and state hospital systems which often ended up serving the populations the school district did not.

    Harris County alone is home to approximately 500,000 children between the ages of 9 – 17. National prevalence estimates indicate that 20% of these children have a mental illness or addictive disorder that causes at least some level of functional impairment. Students with mental health concerns severe enough to warrant special education status are best served by comprehensive school-based strategies designed to provide individualized support so the student can learn. Just as students who may have broken a leg and need assistance climbing stairs, carrying books, or going through the lunch line, a student with serious mental health issues needs support to function effectively in school. When a student does not receive these services we see a decline in mental health, behavior, and academic performance and an increase in disciplinary actions, absenteeism and dropout rates.

    Put simply: Denying students the special education services they desperately need to be successful jump starts the school-to-prison pipeline. Recent research indicates students diagnosed with a mental illness compose the largest percentage of all special education students dropping out of school. Many of these students are undiagnosed, or if diagnosed, may not be receiving special education services for which they qualify. Dropping out of school is a fast track to prison and a life of struggle. The Harris County Juvenile Justice system is the largest provider of mental health services to youth, as more than 70% of those entering the system are diagnosed with mental illness – many of which could have been prevented had they been identified and treated at an earlier stage.

    The Center for School Behavioral Health at Mental Health America of Greater Houston supports any intervention that will eliminate and outlaw artificially imposed targets on special education students and simultaneously provide funding, training, and outreach so that IDEA can be fully realized in Texas.

  132. My sons went to Iduma elementary and had terrible experiences. My oldest failed his written star test in 5th grade and he teacher never heard back from the diag and even though the school knew he needed help, they didn’t do anything. I had to go to out side therapy and outside the district for help. They knew he had issues in 4 th grade but he wasn’t tested until fall of 6 th grade. I formally wrote for him to be tested in April of 2015 end of 5th grade and they said that it would have to wait until September of 2016. I wrote emails and emails and finally it was done late September.

    My youngest was verbally abused and neglected in his special education class in the same school. He didn’t attend kindergarten at all because the school failed to follow child find, and have an Ard. The damage that has been done, have been done to many kids in KISD and it is still going on today. As a U.S veteran , I am discusted that I have had to watch 2 out of my 3 kids suffer at the hands of a lazy, unprofessional and inadequate district. We all know that our kids need a lot to succeed but what damage has been done should never have happened. Come down hard on TEA because they need to be replaced immediately!

    • My daughter failed 4th grade math STARR. So, they took away recess for 3 days a week & made her go to tutoring. The last thing my autistic, ADD child needed was to have NO recess. Now, in special needs private school, she is a full year ahead in math. FBISD, that is pathetic!

  133. When TEA’s response to the Department of Ed is to say that school districts must have “misunderstood” their number as a cap, you know there’s a problem. It is the TEA’s responsibility to ensure all special education students in Texas are identified and receiving proper services. They should be concerned that we have such a low rate in this state, and any district who has low rates should be looked at as either denying services to students or perhaps ensuring that those students are transferred to another school.

    The school district I work in does a good job identifying special education students – we are at the national average, not the state average – but there is a lot of room to grow with giving them the right support. Texas needs a major overhaul to ensure we are identifying the right students AND giving them proper support. I have no horror stories to share, just an awareness that educators in Texas have always felt like the number was a cap. We need to start there.

  134. My son is only 4 and yet the hurdles we are experiencing with Austin ISD are overwhelming.

    • He is missing part of his 3rd chromosome and cannot walk, talk, has limited fine motor skills, and has extreme intellectual disability. There is no “expected” outcome – we rely on immense therapy, his hard work, and inclusion with peers to keep him moving forward.
    • Upon beginning our journey with AISD, he was given an evaluation that requires VERBAL responses from a NON-VERBAL child.
    • He has deficiencies in self-feeding, toileting, moving around the school and classroom, and positioning for learning, but was offered next to no occupational and physical therapy through the district, which is immensely disappointing. For a child which extreme visible handicaps, and even with proven results from early intervention, the district is essentially giving up on him and leaving him to progress solely through private therapy.
    • Inclusion with typically developing peers has provided for great achievements through his private daycare, and yet the school district plans to sequester him to lighten their load.

    Accurate testing from the onset is imperative, as is encouraging progress and believing in these children as much as their parents do. Upon the initial reports of this issue with TEA, I understood how this could happen to those with “invisible disabilities” and how hard those parents must have to fight – never did we expect we would have to fight for services for a child in a wheelchair who very obviously needs services and more importantly, has proven to THRIVE with services. The things he can do today are beyond our wildest expectations, and is due to teachers, therapists, and peers who believe in him and push him to be all he can be. AISD is not at all reflecting the premise of IDEA to provide him the ability to move forward and continue his exponential growth and development.

  135. The main reason we are homeschooling our child with Autism and Non-verbal is because the school district of Cypress, Texas did not want to provide the services that our child was entitle and it was more babysitting than teaching him at the school setting, not even one on one . There were 7 special needs children at the inclusion of a regular class and just one aid babissitting them while there and no academic help for each of their needs or their IEps. It is one of the worst school district to educate a child with special needs.

  136. I would like to first thank the Department of Education for ordering corrective actions for the Texas Education Agency. For TEA to deny that no students have been kept out of special education because of the cap that was imposed years ago is untrue and illogical. The many special education lawsuits against the school districts in Texas prove that many students have been denied services.

    My boys attend Hardin Jefferson ISD (HJISD) and I am personally aware of seven TEA Due Process suits and two Federal lawsuits that have been filed in the last couple of years on a District with and enrollment of just over 2,200 students. I currently have over $100,000 in attorneys fees pending in a Federal case, after HJISD was found to have failed at their child find duty and failed to provide FAPE. The TEA Hearing Officer said that “this is the type of procedural violation caused a substantive educational harm and impeded Student’s right to a free, appropriate public education. “

    Also, I would like to note HJISD’s Special Education enrollment has had a huge decline of special education students from 15.5% in 2005 to 7.7% today.

    Some of the downward jumps appear to have happened virtually overnight. Between 2007 and 2008, for example, the rate dropped from 14% to 11.6%. And from 2009 to 2010, it dropped from 11% to 8.7%.

    I received custody of my two dyslexic nephews about five years ago and would like to share my experience of fighting Hardin Jefferson ISD (HJISD) to identify and serve them.
    These boys’ educational needs have definitely been harmed by HJISD’s intentional delays and denial of services, as I have had to file four due process suits and one federal lawsuit against HJISD within the last year and a half to get appropriate identification services in place for both boys.
    The oldest of my two nephews was not identified or served under special education until then end of his fourth grade year and when I received custody of him, he was reading on a 1st grade level in May of 2012. It took me nearly a year figure out how to read his IEP and to discover that the HJISD was not following his IEP. For example, he should have been in co-teaching classes in fifth grade and was not receiving those services. He had been identified as dyslexic around the second grade and there are very few records to show that he received appropriate services. I pointed out that by law he should still be receiving Dyslexia services and they said he has received all the services they offer and he “just needed to use the tools he was given.” I realized I was not going to get help from the school, so I sought help from a local dyslexia specialist and contacted Baylor University’s speech and communications department for help. Although these services and camps were helpful, it was still not enough to get him reading on level because he was so far behind. I continued to ask for Dyslexia services and more help through his IEP and again, was told he was receiving all that the District had. I filed for the first Due Process for him in March of 2015 and the District settled his case with me. They still failed to follow what was agreed upon in his settlement agreement during the 2015-2016 school year, so I filed another Due Process case in February of 2016, which the District also settled.

    The youngest of my nephews was in pre-school when I received custody of him, yet during the 1st nine weeks of school and his extremely low scores on his TPRI test, I asked the teacher if he could be tested for dyslexia and she informed me that they did not test students until the end of the 1st grade. I then emailed the Special Education Director and asked for testing due to the predisposition of the family and then was informed by the school vice principal that he was too young to be tested. At that time, I trusted what I was told and they put him in 504 with a few accommodations. After that, I contacted a local dyslexia specialist who tested him and confirmed he was dyslexic and I hired her to complete a reading readiness program with him. In the summer of 2014, I also had him tested at Baylor University and they confirmed that he was dyslexic; I sent this testing to the school and with the District’s own testing; they again said he was not dyslexic and was too young to be dyslexic. They said they wanted to continue 504 services until their new “Dyslexia Matrix” was released in April of 2015 and they promised to re-test him at that point. In February of 2015, during a recorded 504 meeting, I was informed by the vice principal/504 coordinator that “he was receiving services that another student in his class probably needed more” and I ask why that student wasn’t receiving services. I was told they have “one person to service them all and they have to pick and choose who they serve, it was just the public school system.” I realized that the District’s intent to not serve him was causing him to fall dramatically behind and at the end of first grade his reading fluency on the TPRI was 12wpm. I filed the first Due Process on his case in March of 2015 and the dyslexia testing that was promised in April of 2015 was put on hold because of the pending due process hearing. The TEA Hearing Officer found the District failed at their child find duty and failed to provide FAPE; she also found that I had provided enough testing to make him eligible under special education as a student with a specific learning disability of dyslexia. There were numerous other orders in her findings and the District failed to follow all of them. In January 2016 I filed a TEA complaint against HJISD for failure to follow HO orders. The district responded with an inaccurate letter and I had to file a Public Information Request (PIR) to see why TEA closed out my complaint with no action on the district. After receiving the PIR, I realized that the District just said they followed the orders, but did not provide the proof. During a two hour phone call with _____ _____ at TEA, I asked how to reopen the complaint and he informed me that my only recourse was to re-file the complaint with different more specific wording or to file a new due process suit. I realized that going back to TEA would be more of a waste of time, because the district uses its attorneys to draft their letters and that holds more weight that a complaint from a parent, so I filed another due process in February of 2016. In May of 2016, after the last administration of the TRPI test, I discovered that the two elementary schools in this District had created its own guidelines for identifying students with reading difficulties. My nephew (who had just been identified earlier in the school year) received a letter from the school stating he was not at risk for reading difficulties even though his reading fluency was 49wpm and 45wpm at the end of his second grade year, when by state guidelines his reading fluency should be at 90wpm. I questioned this and was told that they were identifying too many students so they created their own criteria for identification, which is below state standards and intended to identify fewer students. Upon my questioning of this, the Assistant Superintendent became involved and they reissued the letters with the state standards applied. The District then settled this due process case in May of 2016.
    I have spent months of my personal time reading, researching and learning what is provided by law for students with learning disabilities. I have filed multiple lawsuits, due to this District’s resistance to serve my nephews and even went to TEA for help, with no avail. Even after all this I have also hired an advocate to help me at the boys ARD meetings just to make sure I was not missing something that the District should be providing. I will think that you will agree that no parent should have to go to such lengths just to make a school district do what is right and provided in the law, which is to timely identify and serve its students with learning disabilities.

    I ask that you please do not allow TEA to get away with just saying no student’s education was harmed by their actions, as I know my two boys’ education was. I have other families in the District that would also agree that their children are not receiving the help that they need.
    I will be happy to share our cases with anyone who might find they can be assistance in holding TEA accountable for their actions.

    I would also like to ask that the Department of Education look in the District of Innovation Plans where TEA is allowing local Districts to be exempt from certain Texas Education Codes and there are no restrictions or approval needed to put the plan in place. This will be the next issue which will harm all the students, not just SPED. I just hope it doesn’t take 12 years to discover that there is a problem with this. Thirty nine districts in Texas have already been granted the exemptions. HJISD just filed its plan with TEA for exemptions from TEC §25.081, exemption from 75,600 instructional minutes, TEC§25.112; TEC§25.113 exemption from grade class reporting size, TEC§21.003; TEC§21.053; TEC§21.055 and TEC§21.057 which is exemption from teacher certification, are just a few examples. Our Board of Trustees, approved the HJISD plan and agreed to submit it even though it wasn’t the final plan, as agreed upon by the committee; and, there is nothing anyone can do, because the legislation removed any powers the TEA commissioner would have had for approval or oversight for compliance. I would ask, when a district is as troubled as HJISD has been, the state should not allow them skirt even more requirements. If they cannot even follow the requirements of the law that exist, will relaxing the standards by which they must comply will suddenly make them better?
    Thank you for your time.

  137. In 2015 I filed 4 complaints to TEA for multiple issues regarding my daughter’s special education in Houston ISD (including non-compliance & procedural safeguard violations). After working with the school for 2 years to help educate them on what they should be doing, encouraging them to follow the IEP that they themselves created, I felt my only course of action was to file complaints.

    I did not feel that the TEA investigator, ___ _______, was impartial in investigating the multiple issues in my complaints. He never interviewed me or made any contact with me other than to tell me that my school would be in touch. I feel like the TEA complaint process should be handled by third party investigators who are not employees of the state. This would better ensure that the complaint process is fair to parents, as this is one of the few protections given to parents in this state.

    Here are some other issues I would like to see addressed by TEA:

    1. Once the DOE has cleaned up TEA and hired new staff, please give them the AUTHORITY to enforce IEPs in schools and districts. Right now there is no one watching out for our kids, except the parents. I no longer want to be the IEP police. I need someone in authority in Austin to compel schools, principals and districts to follow IDEA. My child had an IEP that wasn’t being followed, was making no academic progress, was not receiving the behavior support she needed, and yet no one cared that she wasn’t learning or thriving.

    2. School personnel, principals and district administrators do not follow their own guidelines on special ed policies and procedures. I think that this is because no one is requiring TRAINING on this. I would like to see the state require a substantial number of hours in special ed law, regulations and district policies. Gifted and talented training is required by teachers, but not special education. And if Texas follows the IDEA law and more students who receive special education receive services in general education classrooms, those general ed teachers need training.

    3. The law requires a student to the Least Restrictive Environment, but I do not think that teachers and administrators in my district have the expertise and DO NOT KNOW HOW TO IMPLEMENT LRE. My daughter was placed in a segregated, self-contained classroom for the convenience of teachers. She was never given the chance to succeed in the general education classroom and I believe that this is because special educators are operating off of outdated information and lack the training to even know how to attempt to make it successful. When I asked if my daughter could benefit from an aide in general education, I was told by HISD Special Ed Manager Kelli Rodgers that an aide in general ad is the “most restrictive” and therefore my child would be better served in a segregated classroom, which is her LRE. That statement is not true and this lie is told to parents every day in IEP meetings throughout the state.

    4. How can TEA help quantify what makes a school successful in special education. Across the state, schools are ranked as “Exemplary” by agencies and non profits. How are we measuring the SUCCESS of a child in special ed? How do we know if a special ed teacher is good? Does anyone track data on is a school meets it’s annual IEP goals for every child on an IEP? If a teacher isn’t helping a child meet IEP goals and offers no mid-year correction if a child is off track, what happens to that teacher? How many parents have filed TEA complaints against certain schools and districts in Texas? How many parents have gone to Due Process? Who is tracking our kid’s success? Right now, it’s us, the parents. My child attends a high performing elementary school (West University a Children At Risk top rated school for many years now) but this so called “good” school was failing her until I exercised my right to file a complaint with TEA.

    In Summary:
    – Hire third-party investigators to handle TEA Special Education complaints.
    – Give TEA the authority to enforce IEPs at the district and school level.
    – Require training in special education law and guidelines, as well as best practices in inclusive education by all teachers (not just special ed) to ensure students are truly getting meaningful special education in the LRE.
    – Begin taking and tracking data on special education students, schools and districts (and not just how many children have IEPs or 504s) but a way to actually address how special education effectiveness can be measured and tracked.

    Just because my daughter was one of the 8.5% of students who has received special ed services in the last 7 years does not mean that it provided her with FAPE. I am very concerned that as the cap is lifted and thousands more students come into special education in this state they will still be DENIED and left behind academically if these issues aren’t addressed.

    • Hi Jane,
      There are many of us who agree with you that personnel training is imperative especially considering the majority of Texas students lucky enough to qualify for special education services spend more than 80% of their school day in general education classes! Working together with advocates, teachers and disability organizations, we have drafted a Bill Proposal that would require changes in Educator Preparation Program and District Staff Development curriculum to better prepare all educators to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Contact your Representative and Senator at the State Legislature and urge them to sponsor this legislation!

  138. Too many of our students go through school doing poorly when all they really needed was someone to care, which is next to impossible with class sizes being what they are! Teachers need smaller class sizes so that they can effectively see and hear every student, and especially those that fall into the 504, Dyslexia, SPED or even ‘slow learners’ who rarely get the help they need. It is in the public’s best interest to help all students reach their full potential! To do that we need to start with these groups mentioned above! I personally battled a school district, Canton ISD in Texas over my son’s dyslexia. They refused to help him, for whatever reason I never figured out, unless it was based on money. The Office of Education could do nothing because the school district followed the letter of the law, terribly I might add, but did not care to follow the purpose of the law. So, all of the students who aren’t star athletes and have dyslexia they decide to ignore. They tested my son because they didn’t believe his last report of having dyslexia from Scottish Rite Hospital – Luke Waites Dyslexia Center which was over three years old. We had moved back to Texas from Georgia, where they don’t even have Dyslexia support, and so we had no recent evaluations done. So, like I said, they tested him and then tried to say that he wasn’t dyslexic anymore! I took their results to three other districts who all agreed that he most definitely had dyslexia but that his interventions provided by Scottish Rite programs in Dallas ISD had moved him to almost average. So, even though many experts agreed that my son had dyslexia and still needed services, none were provided in spite of the Office of Education because of the way the law is written. Many small school districts do the same thing so probably millions of students are not getting the services they need to succeed because of not enough funding for education in general, and especially for those students who do not fall under the SPED umbrella.

  139. I moved to Texas from NY in 2005 and was shocked to see how little assistance children with special needs receive from the school districts. I am a physical therapist who worked in the school districts in NY, where children with special needs received appropriate frequencies for therapy services…1, 2, even 3x per week for occupational, speech and physical therapy. These sessions were rarely provided in a group setting and were instead 1:1 sessions between the therapist and the child. Texas’ model for delivery of therapy services in the educational setting is to provide the least amount of therapy possible. Children here receive services in groups of 5-6 kids at a time and the groups have no rhyme or reason…..it’s not based on the child’s best interest, it’s based on providing the services to the children in the fastest, cheapest manner for the district. If a child is lucky enough to receive 1:1 therapy services it’s usually a consult model to assess and make sure the classroom has the equipment or supplies they need. These children do not receive the educationally-based services that they need during their school day so their parents seek outside therapy services to make up for what the schools are not providing. The state of Texas over the last 5 years has repeatedly cut rates for therapy services saying that there is an over-utilization of therapy services. There wouldn’t be an over-utilization of private therapy services if parents felt that their child’s needs were being met in the schools. Children aren’t receiving the services they need and are legally entitled to in the schools, now Texas is trying to prevent them from receiving those services outside of school. Texas has and continues to fail children with special needs in all settings and it’s a disgrace.

  140. Last year, first semester, I was told by the director of special ed that students that are in self contained units need to be placed in regular education classes because it is now law. She said she wanted all the 9th graders placed in regular ed classes ASAP. When I told her that my 10th and 11th graders were ready to go to regular ed classes as well she said she was not concerned about them. She needed the 9th graders to go. So the 9th graders were placed in regular ed classes most of the day. The diagnosticians, not ARD committee, decided what classes they were to attend. All other students remained in units.

    This year I am being pressured to reduce the number of students taking STAAR Alt 2 because our district should be at 2% of students taking the test and we are currently at about 20%. The director held me after school with one of her supervisors for about 1 1/2 hours and told me in a private meeting that if I had students taking the exam that did not qualify and the district reached a level 4 on the PBMAS TEA would come down and look specifically at my paperwork and there would be nothing she could do to protect me. This meeting was held with me because the 9th and 10th graders were placed in regular ed EOC courses at the direction of the special ed director and without ARD committee approval and I had complained to the administrator in charge of testing on our campus. The administrator had loudly raised concerns thus resulting in the director meeting with me. The diagnosticians assigned to our campus scheduled the students in regular ed EOC courses with paraprofessional assistance. There was no concern whether 11th or 12th graders were placed in regular ed classes or not. There was a 12th grader who speaks, walks, writes, and pretty much does everything on her own and an 11th grade student who uses a wheelchair but does not have an intellectual disability placed in a severe/profound unit for a couple of periods because they didn’t have staff to help them. They would say over and over again that it was done in the best interest of the children. However is this only for the children that test? What about the others? The 11th and 12th graders were pretty much disregarded and placed in the most restrictive classroom possible.

    I am so tired of testing dictating why decisions are made. Students should be placed in classes because it is what is best for them, not because someone at central office needs to reduce or increase their numbers.

  141. I am a parent of two children who require special education resources and I am very disappointed with the manner that our school district handles our children with special needs and children with learning disabilities.

    First let me introduce you to my daughter, _______, she is 11 years old and in the 5th grade. We had repeatedly ask the school district for help as far as evaluation and tutoring as we were witnessing her difficulty in learning. When in second grade she was denied resources as they stated she did not qualify due to not having a learning disability. The school retained her and the following years continued to struggle. Last year by the works of her compassionate teacher we got her re evaluated and came to find out she has a processing disorder. I compared the first evaluation done when she was in 2nd grade to the one done last year and the scores were the same. My daughters lexil score (i believe that is what it is called) has her at 2nd grade reading level . My daughter was “left behind”. I demanded answer’s from the school district as to how could this happen as they are thought to be the “best” school district. Not…Their plan of action was to pull my daughter for resources everyday for 45+ minutes. Her current situation, she is still struggling.

    Now let me introduce to you my son, _____, born with Down Syndrome he currently is unable to speak he only says a few phrases to communicate with us for daily needs. My son’s lexil score is not even able to be measured, that’s how low it is, yet the school keeps advancing him to the next level. My son received ECI , early childhood intervention, with Easter Seals and was advancing greatly it was his transition into the school district where we began to see his decline. My son needs help with the development of his fine motor skills and speech. My son is in a special education class and is only receiving the minimal speech “group” therapy and minimal occupational “teacher instructed” therapy. This is an injustice that is not only being done to my son but to all students with disabilities. What is the point of quoting IDEA to them when they do not provide the proper resources the help our children learn to help them function not only in class but in society and an independent productive individual , and not be told that they only concentrate on getting the child to function within the classroom.

    I firmly feel that maybe school districts should be individually evaluated by the department of education so that they can see first hand the injustices that our children are experiences. I know its a long shot but to fix the problem you have to go to the source and not deal with all the political and empty promises BS….our children deserve to have a bright and prosperous future and not be limited based on their diagnosis.

    My children attend McAllen ISD

  142. My son is 7 years old and was diagnosed with autism. This year we wanted to remove him off his medication to begin an intensive ABA program. Because we know the schools are very clueless to what ABA is and how effective it is for children on the spectrum we asked for permission for a second time to allow his ABA therapist in the school to shadow my son to keep on task. For a second time we were denied. This time I asked to see district policy for the basis of their denial and I got an email indicating they would send it to me. By this time I had already done my research and knew no such policy existed, I just wanted to hear their response. I allotted the director the time she asked me for to gather and waited. The allotted time passed and got no reply. I went ahead and wrote back to her and she responded that per legal counsel they would need to present policy in their next school board meeting. Just as I figured they would do. They created the policy just to be able to deny my request. My question is who is doing the check and balances in the districts? Why are they allowed to create policies just to deny children services that would benefit all involved? If I may add we were going to pay for such services out of our own pockets. My level of frustration has been so great that I have sought to open my own charter school for children on the spectrum. But TX does not allow for charter schools to cater to a specific demographic. ABA charter schools for autistic children have great success in areas like AZ, FL and NJ. In Texas specifically El Pass is stuck in a time warp where the IEP’S are cookie cutter approaches using old techniques such as TEEACH and boys town that are simply ineffective because they are bits and pieces of strategies that are not tackling the roots of the problem. I suggested to 2 different districts to hire BCBA’S for creating programs for autistic children and to train sped teachers on the ABA to know how to manage these kids and their behaviors. My response was we already have AU specialist. 5 specialist for the entire district and some of those have no clue what ABA is. How can they call them Autistic specialist yet have no clue what the only science proven form of treatment is for autism? The schools need to clean house from the top all the way to the bottom in the special education programs and get qualified teachers and leaders that have a vision for the future and that have true passion for the success of these kids.

  143. My son was diagnosed with ADHD in 2015 after his 3rd grade teacher (whom he also had in the 1st grade) recommended he’d be tested for it. She helped me get him into the 504 program. She actually told me that the school administration does not like to approve too many students for special education services because any school that has a high number of special ed kids can potentially lose their funding due to the caps imposed by the state. Of course I am paraphrasing but she actually told me this. This was the first time I had ever heard of this. When i went to recertify my son for the 504 program this year my school administrator tried to talk me out of having my son in the program. But since having that conversation with his teacher the year before I now understand why they are so hesitant about special services and have a hard time trusting that the school’s administration has my sons best interests in mind when making these decisions. Without this help my son most likely would have not passed to the fourth grade.

  144. There has got to be a change. I went had to being to their attention something was up. They refused to even think about the possibility of dyslexia because my child didn’t fit their “profile standard”(I’m assuming). I turned in my request for testing along with Dr request for testing and any other learning disabilities in November. In April, nothing was done. Their excuse was they misplaced my paperwork and asked me to do it again.
    I told them I would bring in a copy from home,seeing as I have made multiples. -wouldn’t you know she was tested within the next week?
    Then I get a call that if the 504 meeting for the results discussion could happen (not even a24 hour notice). In that meeting I asked about why it took so many days from November to April, their response “days don’t matter when we just test dyslexia here”….so there were no other testing?..apparently it’s 2 different departments and you can’t have both happen?
    I’m shortening this up a lot. But the district and schools that do this are ridiculous. How many people, kids struggle bc tx educators say no? I have since switched, to give the best I can offer. But tx is failing our kids.

  145. Each year, my child’s ARD forces more seclusion. Each year, I negotiate for precious minutes of neuro-typical peer modeling academic minutes. Whatever tools our school has for inclusion and least restrict environment (LRE), these tools seem too polar. Where are the best practices of LRE where academics can be approached as learner-centered? Let’s make better use of inclusion! It took us 4 meetings, and the final was 4 hours, involving 10 professionals, to set up a plan where we could use that middle ground of academic inclusion instead of academic seclusion. Just specials aren’t enough for peer-modeling of academics. Learning isn’t a polar-opposites game plan. We almost went to mediation. There is no way I can accept Code 44. It is a battle each year, and it consumes so much time.

  146. I am a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology and former special education teacher. Without a doubt, I can say that around 3 of every 4 assessments are long overdue. Most students with low-incidence disabilities are not identified until at least 3rd grade, but often as late as 5th grade (unless parents are very savvy and advocate). There is a lot of push back when parents request testing and a ton of red-tape for teachers to make a referral. It can take as long as a year for testing to occur after it has been requested. TEA has absolutely placed pressure on schools to keep special education services to a minimum. Texas kids are being denied early intervention, especially those with learning disabilites, ADHD, or high functioning Autism.

  147. It’s shocking to think that in the 21st Century, schools in the United States refuse services to Special Needs kids. I’m not saying “throw money” to Special Ed Departments. I’m saying build constructive programs directed to those students that need them and follow through on providing services. Sometimes, “Services” are as simple as a Paraprofessional added to a classroom to help the teacher.

  148. Thank you for the opportunity to speak at the Houston session last night, however, 3 minutes was not nearly enough time to detail the problems that I have encountered with special education in Texas over the last 10 years as a parent of a student who receives services for autism and speech impairment and advocate.

    My calls to action are this:
    1) audit TEAs complaint department for how many are repeat complaints
    2) audit local LEA’s ‘admission’ ARDs or those ARD/IEP meetings where initial evaluations are presented to see how many doctor’s evaluation of autism are rejected by the LEA.
    3) audit LEA legal expenses for ARD and due process proceedings (especially for those cases that were settled) and compare that to how much the district is spending on sped services
    4) restrict TEA from hiring any attorney affiliated with Walsh Anderson for any TEA related event: including parent, educator & administrator conferences and workshops. This law firm has created a multi-million dollar niche market by contracting with TEA to teach school districts how to do the least amount possible required by law
    5) require annual IEP training of all LEA staff who attend ARD meetings
    6) require administrator training on IDEA legal responsibilities as a licensing renewal requirement
    7) create a sped teacher track for an autism focus

    At the meeting I shared how in 2004 I went through the Child Find process with Houston ISD. I began the process in October 2003, and when the evaluation/admission ARD meeting was finally held in April of 2004, HISD was 45 school days over due in presenting the evaluation. The only reason it was not delayed further was because I had begun mailing people in the administration the count of how many days they were overdue and the amount of compensatory time (k) would be due.

    SPED teacher training is abissmal. A degreed sped teacher told me in 2001 that nothing in her training prepared her to teach her own child with autism. The teacher training requirements have not been updated to include the specialized training that teachers need for their students with autism. I hear on a regular basis from parents who are told by their child’s teacher that she has no idea how to teach the child. How is FAPE to be provided when the IEP implementer has little to no idea what they are doing? If the LEA spent as much on teacher training as they did on legal fees, it would help everyone.

    Because of the strength of the autism supplements, many schools resist identifying a child with HFA autism despite the parents presenting multiple outside evaluations. They are often listed as OHI and speech impairment. Additionally some school districts are using the DSM5 criteria to determine autism even though the IDEA definition for autism has not changed. The DSM5 criteria is much stricter, but many districts refuse to consider it.
    My son was bullied at the junior high by both teachers and students while at Meyerland Middle School. ___ _____, the ___ _____ _______ teacher, is infamous for bullying students as a means of classroom management. He chose my son to bully because my son had told him to stop bullying someone else. ___ _____ refused to implement my son’s IEPs or make use of the district resources to understand how to implement my son’s IEPs. Instead he repeatedly demanded that the principal remove (k) from his class, or he would file a complaint with the teacher’s union. My son was not allowed to go to the bathroom and ended up wetting his pants. My son was so stressed that he snapped his glasses in half. I filed personnel complaints with the principal, but no action was taken. We had to pay for 2 year s of therapy to overcome the mental anguish my son suffered at the hands of ___ _____. In fact this bully teacher is still allowed to teach at that school. http://www.houstonisd.org/Domain/26063 After I complained, he tried to make amends by awarding (K) the most improved at the end of the year, but the damage had been done. Why are people like him still allowed to teach???
    In 2011 while in junior high, my son was receiving good supports to succeed in a general education setting. The social worker who worked with him commented to me that she had another student in her caseload that needed similar services and had tried asking for them for the student, only to be told no by the LEA administrators.
    In 2012 my son experienced many difficulties with his behavior due to anxiety from anticipating leaving 8th grade and moving to high school. I had to exert a supreme amount of effort—repeated written requests and phone calls– to get the LEA to conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA). At the ARD where the FBA was submitted, the evaluating LSSP stated that the purpose of the FBA was not to determine the cause of the behavior but merely make a guess! I asked her how were we to determine behavior goals based on a guess and she had no answer. I had to request an IEE for the FBA. We were dealing with a crisis situation at the time—and from the initial request of the FBA to the presentation of usable data in the IEE, it took over a year, by which time we had filed due process .
    During this period, the school didn’t implement his BIP properly, which resulted in my son having an explosive episode at school. I later filed a complaint, which was validated by TEA. The LEA and Meyerland Middle School (then Johnston Middle School) was required to develop a plan and to train the staff at the local school. I found out that the same thing happened to another student in sped the following semester (fall 2013). Clearly TEA’s method for resolving complaints is ineffective at best.
    As a result of that explosive episode, his aide filed assault charges against my son. We had to hire a lawyer. Once the judge saw the school documents showing that they were at fault for not implementing the BIP, charges were dismissed. However, we still had to take (K) to the police station to be fingerprinted. He became so agitated that he had an aggressive episode with me, and I received bite that created a permanent scar that I will carry for the rest of my life. All because the aide filed assault charges. This aide was later hired by the school to be a full time teacher.
    As my son was experiencing a lot of anxiety about his transition to high school, I sat down with the special ed manager to look at every possible placement option Houston ISD had to offer that would provide him access to the general ed curriculum in a small group setting with behavior, social skill, and executive functioning supports. There was none. In 2013, the 7th largest district in the country did not have a single high school program for students who need a small group setting. Because of the due process we filed, the LEA created one. But why does a parent have to result to suing the district to get it to provide something for which there is an obvious need? Especially in light of funding cuts made by the Texas legislature in 2012. High school classroom sizes have risen to 30 & 35 kids—beyond what a lot of teachers can adequately handle alone. In reality, every single comprehensive high school should offer a program like this.
    Non-educational funds: In 2012, during the middle of the crisis, I attempted to obtain non-ed funding to pay for psychological counseling for my son that wasn’t covered by insurance and that we couldn’t afford. I was told by staff at TEA & Region 4 that because students with autism receive additional services through the autism supplement, non-ed funds many ONLY be used to pay for respite. I contemplated filing an OSERS complaint, but at this point I was emotionally and physically exhausted from everything that was happening.
    I have worked with cases in Houston ISD where elementary schools have no regular SLP during the school year and all speech services are delivered during the summer, despite the ARD saying the child needs on-going services.
    Since entering the LEA in spring of 2004, (K) has had 15 SLPs deliver services. I found that only 30% of them were able to understand and adequately implement his pragmatic language and social skill IEPs. I have to wonder why the SLP turnover at Houston ISD is so high. Could it be that SLPs are regularly asked to do things that are against best practices in their profession?
    Houston ISD serves over 3,000 children with autism and yet does not have a BCBA (board certified behavior analyst on staff). Additionally, there is not a single music therapist on staff even though music therapy is supposedly a service offered by the LEA.
    Over the last decade, I have attended ARD/IEP meetings on behalf of my son and clients in many districts in the surrounding area. I have yet to attend a meeting where at least one of the LEA representatives does NOT make either an illegal or incorrect statement. In other words, at every single meeting I have attended at least one of the LEA representative makes either an illegal or incorrect statement. Unfortunately, it is often the administrator. I ALWAYS have to rewrite the present level of performance to reflect the individual student. I ALWAYS have to rewrite the IEP goals to be specific and measurable. I would say that NO general ed teacher understands how to write or implement IEP goals and few SPED teaches do.
    LSSPs are the worst when it comes to writing behavior goals. At a meeting for one a client, the LSSP expressed that they were at a loss as to how to write the behavior goal. He thanked me at the end of the meeting for the language suggestions that I had given him.
    In another meeting for a client, the school was writing academic goals specifically for the child to be in a restricted setting when the child’s evaluation indicated academic strengths. No goals had been proposed for the social and pragmatic language skills that the evaluation indicated were needed.
    At one point, in 2010, I attempted to obtain an assistive technology evaluation for (K). The district evaluation was not worth the paper it was printed on. I then attempted to obtain an IEE for assistive technology, and finally gave up after a year and a half because other issues became more pressing.

    My struggles are not unique. What is unique is the level of knowledge I possess , the advocacy skills I have, the remarkably low level of tolerance for ineffective policies and procedures, and the tenacity with which I will take on anyone for the sake of my son. I have been fortunate in that my husband’s job allows me to work part time so that I can be a part time case manager for my son. Believe me, it takes between 5 – 25 hours a week to do everything that needs to be done so that the school will indeed do what they are supposed to do. I feel so disgusted that as a parent I have to do so many other people’s jobs because the Texas system seems to reward competence.
    I will go so far as to speculate the reason for the severe shortage of SPED teachers is because of the lack of training and support that they receive. A 4th grade teacher once shared with me that she was very stressed out and so decided to take an easy class the next year. She applied to and was accepted to teach a PPCD class. She went into the class with no additional training, no idea what the children’s IEPs or disabilities were, nor what her legal obligations were. This is not an infrequent occurrence in Texas.
    In fact the prevalent attitude among Texas educators is “don’t do such a great job because then it will make us lazy and incompetent ones look bad.”
    While there are some good teachers out there, and stories of people trying to make a positive difference. In a state where 30% of the general ed students are dropping out, why would anyone really care about sped students?

    At the meeting I shared how in 2004 I went through the Child Find process with Houston ISD. I began the process in October 2003, and when the evaluation/admission ARD meeting was finally held in April of 2004, HISD was 45 school days over due in presenting the evaluation. The only reason it was not delayed further was because I had begun mailing people in the administration the count of how many days they were overdue and the amount of compensatory time (k) would be due.

    SPED teacher training is abissmal. A degreed sped teacher told me in 2001 that nothing in her training prepared her to teach her own child with autism. The teacher training requirements have not been updated to include the specialized training that teachers need for their students with autism. I hear on a regular basis from parents who are told by their child’s teacher that she has no idea how to teach the child. How is FAPE to be provided when the IEP implementer has little to no idea what they are doing? If the LEA spent as much on teacher training as they did on legal fees, it would help everyone.

  149. My son attended school in Fort Worth ISD we were unable to get evaluated for services. In Kindergarten I knew he should have been further along based on all his other development. He is extremely bright and by 1st grade I started raising concerns. It wasn’t until the 3rd grade that intervention began for his reading. The waiting list to have him testing was extremely long and we were not given a date when he could be tested. We paid to have him evaluated and he was diagnosed with dsylexia. Because the district does not have the resources and no knowledge to reach creative learners I placed him in private school. It’s unfortunate public school does not service those who learn differently. No surprise he had thrived since he moved he is reading and his writing has improves significantly.

    • My daughter has been in private special needs school for 2 years now. She is 2 years ahead of her grade level. In FBISD, she failed math STARR & thought she was stupid.

  150. Students with hearing loss or deafness begin school with the odds stacked against them. In my experience as a Texas teacher with progressive, severe/profound hearing loss, and and as a parent of a child with hearing loss, schools have little understanding of students’ communication needs, whether they are visual, auditory, or speech-related.

    As a Texas disability advocate, within the past year, I’ve had Texas parents say their children were denied interpreters or told interpreters weren’t provided at their schools.

    Deaf parents are denied interpreters for ARDs too. In this case, their children’s futures are decided without their input.

    In one case, similar to another one posted here on your website, a Texas student was not deaf, but had Down Syndrome and that was their only form of communication, but they were told they weren’t deaf and couldn’t get an interpreter.

    Other parents said they were told that since their school didn’t provide interpreters, they should pick up and move to Austin or send their child off to school in Austin so they could attend the School for the Deaf.

    Are families being split up and small children taken away from their parents because schools are denying access? What is the impact of separating young children from their parents so they can attend a school in another city?

    Moving away from communities weakens them and denies local communities across the state to stay where they are and form their own Deaf communities.

    Is this physical (and economic) disruption happening to families with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing? This is an answer we Must determine.

    Even less common is the use of CART for students who use hearing aids but don’t know sign language. Note taking isn’t sufficient for serious hearing loss. I only learned about CART while working on my master’s degree and had to retire from teaching because there was never a thought of accommodating me or providing me support to stay in the classroom. What of the less fortunate students and parents who can’t ask for what they need or have no clue?

    But in a community that has the difficulty of expressing their needs to a hearing, seeing, and speaking public, these complaints often go unexpressed and parents and children experience extreme obstacles and the lack of ability to self-advocate, become successful, stay out of trouble, and provide for their families without public assistance. Their offspring suffer. This is systemic discrimination and causes generational upset and economic distress.

    I suspect your hearings had an under-representation of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (or who are Blind or have Low Vision, or who are Speech-Challenged) and that is because of an inability for the Deaf/HH Community to cross the multitudinous communication borders, which causes isolation from learning about events such as yours in our state.

    I urge you to reach out expressly to the state’s Deaf/HH/Deaf-Blind, Blind, Low Vision, and Speech-Challenged communities to ensure that students and parents in our state receive the ability to communicate with their teachers and school personnel; to set goals and reach them; and most importantly, to begin the arduous process of communicating with a hearing, seeing, and speaking society that doesn’t meet them halfway.

    The burden is put upon the communication disability network’s shoulders to reach out and learn, rather than government inviting them to the table, knowing that communication is their barrier and bane.

    Like the DOJ determined we need Barrier-Free Healthcare, so do we need Barrier-Free Education and those who don’t communicate the same way as the majority suffer emotionally, academically, socially, and financially.

    Invite the communication networks. It’s time we started looking at the richness of diversity we’re losing by excluding those experiencing communication difficulties. Inviting them isn’t just including the Schools for people who are Deaf and for the Blind and Visually Impaired. These are places parents flock to when schools send them away! Consult also organizations such as Deaf Grassroots, the National Association of the Deaf, the Hearing Loss Association of America, the National Federation of the Blind, local Centers for Independent Living, and Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome and Autism organizations, etc.

    A child who can’t communicate or understand their education is doomed to fail and what do they become then? What does society lose?

    Now is also the time to examine proposed policies for reducing over-identification of Special Education students of color who have Limited English Proficiency. The DENIED series demonstrates they are under and not over-served. New policies trying to restrict Special Education at this time could devastate our state’s children and their parents and create new policies that would enforce instead of reducing systemic discrimination.

    These hearings prove that you’ve only scratched the surface of an enormous educational abyss.

    Here’s data collected by Gallaudet supporting the lack of success of people with hearing loss and deafness in academia and employment, which strongly supports that an academic failure to support communication supports a systemic failure to support individual success and financial independence: (https://research.gallaudet.edu/Demographics/deaf-employment-2011.pdf) :

    Blanchfield BB, Feldman JJ, Dunbar JL, Gardner EN. 2001.

    •Of the U.S. population, 18.7% did not graduate from high school in contrast to 44.4% of individuals with a severe to profound hearing loss.

    •18- to 44-year-old age group – hearing population – 82% were in the labor force, persons with a severe to profound hearing loss – 58% were in the labor force. *** My comment: For those who aren’t in the workforce, where are they??

    •College graduation – 12.8% of the hearing population graduated from college whereas 5.1% of the deaf or hard-of-hearing population graduated.

    •Post-college education—9.2% of the hearing population had some post-college education with only 4.8% of the deaf or hard-of-hearing population having any post-college education.

    Family income comparisons for the U.S. population and population of severely to profoundly deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.

    •Hearing families – 26% earned between $10,000 and $24,999
    annually, deaf or hard-of-hearing families – 28% earned incomes in the same range.

    •Hearing families- 29% earned $50,000 or more, deaf or
    hard-of-hearing families – 14% had incomes in the same range. *** My comment: What does this economic disparity promote??

    SOURCE: Blanchfield BB, Feldman JJ, Dunbar JL, Gardner EN. The severely to profoundly hearing-impaired population in the United States: Prevalence estimates and demographics. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 2001;12:183-189.

  151. Genetic testing should be mandatory and covered through the school district and/or state. There are children who don’t fall into autistic categories, etc., and are not labeled as such. I have known parents who go over & beyond and take their kids to geneticists who pinpoint the rare syndrome their child exhibits and are appropriately labeled as “Other Health Impairment” and the school gets educated on the particular syndrome that the child has.

  152. Nutrition is a big factor in learning. My concern is, could the state or federal government look into transitioning to a WIC type voucher system to ensure children are being adequately nourished? I have witnessed junk food brought from home for snacks & meals and the students choose to skip their meals for the junk food. We as educators can only encourage them to bring healthy snacks and we are told that if a parent sends their child with junk food, we need to let them consume it and cannot take it away.

  153. There needs to be more special education personnel such as teacher’s aides hired in order to shadow and support students in mainstreamed classrooms so that the learning and safety of their own and other students is not compromised and teachers can complete their lessons with adequate support.

  154. Parents need to be educated and/or held more accountable in being in compliance with prescribed therapies and administration of medication. It’s a touchy situation, but I have come across parents that don’t prioritize appointments and refills of medications. The parent’s actions impede their child’s ability to learn.

  155. I have seen children diagnosed as autistic or emotionally disabled by medical doctors and in turn parents want their child labeled as such through the school district’s evaluation. These children function and excel along with their peers, but it is now an ongoing trend where some parents learn and “work the system” so that their child is labeled as disabled for a disability check. The medical doctors need to collaborate with schools and not against schools and make more objective diagnosis to screen out parents who are looking to scam our system.

    • “Being labelled with a disability” does NOT guarantee a “disability check”. A “disability check” is actually based on the parents’ income in addition to the child’s diagnosis. It’s a Federal program called “SSI”-Supplemental Security Income. The income level is to qualify is pretty low. You can google it for yourself. Most parents are paying thousands of dollars out of pocket each year for needed therapies, co-pays for prescriptions, medical procedures, dr visits, etc. Are you aware that health insurance doesn’t cover 100% of costs?

  156. Dyslexia is an area that has been long overlooked & ignored. I have seen students not identified early enough and they are later identified as having a Specific Learning Disability or ADHD. If Dyslexia testing and intervention had been done in a timely manner, these students would NOT have fallen through the cracks. Parents need to be also made aware that a Neurologist is the only person that can diagnose dyslexia and that school districts test for “characteristics of dyslexia” only. Once a neurologist has tested & diagnosed a child, the school district needs to act on it.

  157. Continued kudos to The Chronicle for shining a “spotlight” on the special education cap in Texas. This kind of investigative reporting will hopefully bring about opportunities for students in Texas to receive the appropriate education that they deserve. Journalistic/Investigative awards should be forthcoming!

  158. I attended the listening session in Houston last night. I signed up to speak, but when time ran out and so many upset parents demanded to be heard, I chose not to infringe on their time. Here is what I wanted to say.

    I am a speech pathologist by degree who became a special education teacher and district behavior specialist. I retired a few years ago when I could no longer tolerate the injustices being done to students with special needs. I am currently an independent behavior specialist serving through consultation and staff development.

    I believe we need to address a few questions in Texas. Do we really believe in dignity and respect for all students? My experience has not shown that. Do we really believe in FAPE? What is appropriate for the disabled? As with all students, I believe it is teaching them to be the best they can be.

    In the game of golf they use handicaps to level the playing field among players with varied skill levels. Special Education laws are meant to level the playing field for those students. Fair is not equal.

    Some possible solutions may include:

    -stop overwhelming teachers with too many students.
    -better training for all teachers on differentiated instruction for all disabilities…It’s not that difficult!
    -stop tying money to performance.
    -identify according to facts and needs, not caps and money.
    -copy successful practices in other states and countries.

    As a behavior specialist I look for possible functions of our behavior in Texas regarding special education. I see the expression of prejudice and fear towards students with special needs and I see power and money leading to corruption and neglect. These must be addressed.

  159. I have suspected Dyslexia with my son for 5 years and after several years of failed state exams and many unsuccessful IEP meetings, I obtained an outside diagnosis of Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. Unfortunately, the school completely ignored the diagnosis, so I have to pay a lot of money to get help outside of school. There is no training of staff to recognize or treat Dyslexia even though it is the most common learning disability and effects 1 in 5 people.

    My school district special education dept has a 77 percent failure rate for English state exams. This was a wake up call to just how widespread the problem is at our district. Nobody seems to know the true definition of Dyslexia and that it is phonological processing based and can help kids at any age. There doesn’t seem to be anyone licensed in Dyslexia willing to help my son at the school.

    In addition, there is no accountability in the implementation of the IEP and the goals are never achieved nor are any improvements even strived for. They are complacent with no progress.

    I am sure that is not how the IDEA laws were intended to function. The meetings become a waste of time if the shared goal isn’t progress for the children. This is unacceptable and we need reform. Knowing how to read and write is the fundamental bedrock of being able to function in life and work.

  160. My son is 19 years old and we had a very difficult time in FBISD when he star school at kinder garden, the teacher did not want my son in her class, and the Especial Education Department took a lot of time to test my son to place him the right class, they did not have the materials to work with him or the teachers that could teach him. He was place in the Resource class for 2 years and the teachers cover their door so no one can see the classroom as a volunteer there for 4 years so I can be close in case of an emergency I saw how the teachers were not patience and mistreat the students including my son that was so afraid of the teacher that he did not want to go to school anymore, the teacher later was transfer to another campus and now is serving as a counselor in FBISD, a the same time the regular education teacher was so unhappy to have my son in her class, teachers are not prepare to receive the special education students because it is more work for them and don’t believe that our students can learn plus they lack the training and the help (aides) that can assist them, another thing that is happening is they are not serving students with severe behavior problems, and the other students are not serve either because of the time they spend trying to deal with them. They don’t take out students for the Life Skills, and they are not using the chickens, laundry rooms to teach the life skills that are in the IPEs, they stop teaching the student to read and write because they are old, speech and OT, are so hard to get and Assistive Technology are out of the plan forever even if the parent offers the equipment. Bureaucracy and people in hight positions that don’t have any idea on the needs of Special education students and families, make decisions that are not beneficial to the students. That is how we spend our years in the public education in FBISD frustrated, I lost hope and now my son will soon be graduating and the transition to adult life and his future is up to me i know they have resources but spend a lot money on position that are not necessary because I see their work they don’t love what they do for them represent more money to their pockets and our student don’t mean anything to them their future is not their concern. Is sad but is a reality.

  161. My son is visually impaired,I will make this short and in his words “mom, I feel like a mouse in a room full of cats every time I go to school”

  162. My son is a student within Pasadena ISD. I have had to do nothing but fight for each and every accommodation, support, and IEP he has had. I have filed with TEA. I am contemplating filing with OCR.

    This has got to change.

  163. My son was diagnosed with a rare epilepsy syndrome that causes severe auditory aphasia called Landau-Kleffner syndrome 2 years ago. Basically, it is an Auditory Processing disorder caused by epilepsy. We have to treat him as if her were profoundly deaf. We are in the process of learning sign language in order to communicate with him. The school has been through all of this with us, because this started two months after he started pre-k. Every one watched it happen. When this all began for us we thought that the school district was doing all they could to help get him the services he needed. Our main request has been that he be put into the Deaf Education program housed in our school district. At first, it looked like it was going to happen. Then we have been denied because “there is nothing physically wrong with his ears”. He is word deaf. In all of the little research I have been able to find about kids like him and deaf ed, he should be able to thrive and learn there. Right now they have him in a regular class room most of the time. They pull him out for reading. He is starting to be able to read by using sign language. They only reason he is reading at all right now is because those around him are going WAY above and beyond, and learning sign language to be able to teach him. He is a very smart little boy who is stuck in a world where he can’t understand what is being said. He is in first grade. He is in the most critical time for language acquisition and he is NOT getting the immersive help he needs. If he were in deaf ed, he would have a good base in ASL, and at least have a language. Yes it is his second language, but his first language has been ripped away from him through LKS. Those we know in the Deaf commuinity are as angry as we are that he is not getting into Deaf Ed. His teachers and support team are angry as well. They can’t say as much, but you can feel it in the way they talk sometimes. We have talked to people at region 4, who say he doesn’t qualify as well as TEA. HOWEVER, when we talked to the guy at TEA he suggested at lest transfer him over to the same school as the deaf ed kids, so that he can have lunch and recess time with them. When I went back to my district and talked to the student services person, the attitude was “not my problem”, and I was directed back to deaf ed. Full circle. Now we are having to pay for an advocate to help us. Luckily I have family how are able to help us with that, otherwise, I don’t know what we would do. Also, we have letters from his Neuropsychologist, his Epileptologist, and now his ENT saying that he NEEDS to be in Deaf Ed, and they are being ignored. They talk about “least restrictive environment” for our kids. They way I see it, having my son in an environment where he can’t understand the teacher, and he can’t talk to his fellow students and be understood, he is in the most restrictive environment, and this need to change!

  164. I know, as a thirty year teacher, that there has been a cap on the number of special education students. I asked about it and complained about it, to no avail. However, when my third son began having problems, I began to fight. That fight began three years ago. We had a diagnosis of mild autism from a developmental pediatrician. I was told by the district psychologist that TEA didn’t accept an autism diagnosis from a medical practitioner-had to be from a psychologist. We went to a psychologist and he diagnosed him with severe ADHD. Again, I was told that TEA didn’t allow an ADHD diagnosis from a psychologist–this had to come from a pediatrician. By this time, the district had decided that it was a behavioral issue created by our parenting. He had a STAT for two and a half years and failed the first grade. We discussed his “504” at school, but the form had never been circled at the top (“504/ STAT circle one”). Needless to say, I thought he had a 504; never believed that he would have been on a STAT for that long. When they began sending him to off-campus, district suspension, I started pushing. No one would help. Nothing changed. We were told that they couldn’t test him until the following school year as he was in DDAEP and there wasn’t time to do the testing. We ended-up withdrawing him from school and I quit my job with that same district. The answers to all of my questions were always, “That’s what TEA requires/ allows.”

  165. I am a parent of an young adult who has autism. I am also a parent liaison for a small nonprofit that helps parents navigate the complex special education system. It takes so much time, training, reading, learning, and money to learn how to be a good advocate for your child with a disability. Not all parents are able to do this. It is especially hard for parents who speak another language, are low income, work outside of the home, or have a learning disability themselves. If the school district knows you know your rights, they treat you very differently. Parents should not have to be experts in special education law in order to get a FAPE for their child. They should not have to spend $80 per hour to hire an advocate in order to get a FAPE for their child. I have friends and family members who are teachers, and they are told by administrators not to refer children who may have a need for special education. When they do have children with an IEP in their class, they do not get the training and support they need to provide the students with an appropriate education. There are many good teachers, but they do not get the help they need to be effective. Also, therapy services from the school district are not adequate for most students with disabilities. Most parents have to use private insurance or pay out-of-pocket for private OT, PT, and Speech therapy. I see IEPs with 15 minutes of speech therapy per week for students with significant language delays. It usually takes the therapist 5-10 minutes to get the student settled and ready to work. What good is that? I see IEPs that are not specific and measurable and don’t even connect to the PLAAFP! It is heartbreaking to read all of these comments, and to listen to all of the stories last night at the Listening Session. LRE is another big problem. So many students are segregated, and if your child is in a segregated classroom in Texas, they will probably NOT be taught to read. There are very low expectations in most segregated classrooms, for academics and behavior. Think of the consequences of that! I think you have enough evidence to know that there is a BIG problem in Texas. Yes, there are some schools and many teachers trying to do a good job, but not enough.

  166. I am a mother of 2 children who were maliciously discriminated against by the public school district while TEA allowed it. Specifically, _____ _____ and ____ ____. I spent the past 2 1/2 years understanding how the public school system uses inadequate evaluations to qualify students for Sped Ed in order to inflate students scores while assessing academic ability in order to stay under the 8.5% cap.

    My nightmare began 8 years ago. Information was discovered the Spring of 2016 that verified RTI was ineffective for my oldest son who wasn’t Dyslexic. For 8 years his school district administered assessments like the GORT 4 and WRMT III that proved he wasn’t dyslexic. My son has a Learning Disability and ADHD. I was never told about these assessments or scores. During his 2nd grade school year, the District recommended I have him evaluated by a Developmental Specialist for ADD. I did as they recommended using the doctor they recommended. She found my son to be ADD and we started him on stimulants by January 2008. This past Spring 2016, I asked to see his academic file which proved stimulants must have been helpful because the GORT and WRMT III showed my son’s phonological awareness to be very advanced. Instead of discussing these assessment scores, we were told once maturity kicked in things would likely get better with his executive functioning skills. By my son’s 4th grade year, I made the decision to take him out of dyslexia class to evaluate what he could do in hopes to better prepare him for Middle School. His grades “appeared to be stellar” but little did I know, teachers were using techniques like test corrections to inflate my son’s superficial progress. Removing him from the Dyslexia program turned out to be a mistake. Or at least I was made to believe so. I can’t tell you if it was the superficial inflated grades, his disability, or the fact he witnessed his youngest brother get half his face ripped off by a severe dog attack, but we did the only thing we knew to do. We put him back into dyslexia class. After entering Middle School, 6th grade went fairly well or at least we were made to believe that. His 7th and 8th grade year became increasingly difficult. I continued to voice concerns during 504 meetings I had to request. I never paid attention to this little bitty area on his STAAR results that showed he was not showing individual progress. I was only concerned about him passing. We never discussed the individual progress and what that meant. While I continued waiting for maturity to kick in, I spent my own money for Sylvan learning intervention that didn’t help, private tutors, Soar summer camps designed to help kids with disabilities to learn leadership skills, SPECT scans, and two Neuropsychological evaluations because my intuition knew something was being missed. I thought I could trust and rely on his teachers. Especially the Muddle School teachers and Principal. After his 1st neuropsychological evaluation in 2015, I presented the information during a 504 meeting at which the original teacher who diagnosed dyslexia refused to acknowledge she had gotten it wrong. That teacher was an elementary self contained school teacher. She refused to admit she knew less than a neuropsychologist who is also a certified LSSP who started SMU at 16 years old!!! We chose to work with the school, again not knowing the truth about his testing in dyslexia. The other issue surrounding this problem was the shared service agency who would have been the ones to evaluate him. They were involved with a major issue concerning my youngest child that same school year. I was in a battle to expose their utter ignorance and carelessness. My son’s grades in 8th grade History, his best subject, began to decline. I learned very quickly that 8th grade history has become a reading comprehension test. He failed all but 2 tests in 8th grade. It wasn’t because he didn’t know the history it was because he couldn’t complete the inferencing questions. When I started asking questions I was misinformed by most teachers. The same teachers I spent years bragging on. The same teachers I supported whenever my teenage son wanted to use an excuse to get out of doing something, like most teenagers do. I started asking more questions after realizing he was failing but continued to make A’s and B’s. Teachers were allowing him to correct his tests which they gave enough points to bring his grades up to high B’s and sometimes A’s. They never retaught, or reassessed. That contributed to him failing the 2016 STAAR assessment in Science and History. In fact, I never realized until this year that over the 8 years Logan might have passed the STAAR assessment but he wasn’t making independent improvements which is consistent with his disability. I had another neuropsychological assessment completed by a different neuropsychologist. That report agreed with his 1st assessment. My son’s learning pragmatic language disability is a higher form of language which is required for reading comprehension. Both evaluations explain why he isn’t making individual progress and why his individual progress is getting smaller each year. Each year his academics require more critical thinking. That means more inferencing. More vocabulary. So his scores continued to go down. I question if he even passed the STAAR in Reading after seeing how corrupt _____ _____ and ____ ____operate. I find it suspicious at best that TEA will not provide a parent a copy of their child’s assessment. They fought parents until they lost after a Judge ruled in 2015 to force TEA to allow parents to review their child’s assessment. Before a parent reviews the assessment, TEA requires parents to sign an Oath not to document anything, take pictures or video tape of the assessment. Why does it matter? TEA publishes the “Released STAAR Assessments” on their website. Why can’t I write down what my son missed? I want to use that information to compare what questions are problematic so intervention can be determined. Those are state assessments which are a major part of my child’s academic file.

    As I already stated, in 2011 my youngest child sustained a traumatic brain injury from a severe dog attack. I was forced to hire advocates and attorney’s and learn Sped Ed Law after realizing the same questionable practices were being used on my my youngest child. Unlike my oldest child, he was experiencing major cognitive delays as well as seizure activity. I learned not to rely or trust the public school system. After my youngest was denied a 504 plan. After 4 seizure episodes were reported by the school nurse we knew something wasn’t right. While we were waiting on results from the schools evaluators to determine eligibility, I caught the Elementary Principal changing information on a questionnaire intended for the physician who prescribed his psychotropic medication. The elevators tried desperately to diagnose him with autism. They refused to call my son’s developmental specialist who is an Autistic Specialist for Region 17 because she stated in several letters how he was not autistic. Yes, I can prove that happened and TEA refused to investigate that along with FERPA violations, and 37 other documented allegations on my first complaint, 4 allegations on my second complaint, including procedural violations that my advocate documented after teaching Sped Ed after 20 years. Other allegations consisted of paraprofessionals who were not certified by TEA. TEA investigated 2 allegations and left it up to the District to provide compensatory services but the District offered minimal and still refused to do the intervention in class. So my son continued to receive intervention from an uneducated para who was uncertified and a general education teacher with no Sped Ed certification or knowledge. This caused me to be extremely concerned especially after the Sped Ed teacher admitted to me that she didn’t work with my son. She reported progress based on what the general education teacher an and uneducated aide reported. That was illegal!!!!After hiring an advocate and having my son’s medical team rally to have him properly identified, 4 years after his accident, we finally got my youngest son identified. It wasn’t easy. We spent another year fighting for proper intervention based on 2 neurolopsycholigcal evaluations. TEA turned a blind eye. I took my concerns to my government official, Senator Charles Perry. His office was willing to make inquires but unwilling to take effective action to encourage change. TEA refused to investigate how my youngest son spent 2nd grade getting intervention by a woman who was never certified as an educational aide much less any formal education to speak of. The general education teacher reported progress which is a procedural violation TEA refused to investigate, citing no jurisdiction. If TEA doesn’t have jurisdiction, who does?!!!?In February of 2016, only one educational aide in that District was certified but were still assigned to help children who have special needs as an extension of the Special Education teacher. I provided proof to the school district and TEA. I demonstrated how the current Sped Ed teacher wanted to offer the support my son needed but the SSA and District wouldn’t allow it. By March of 2016, I found out that children who weren’t identified as a child with a disability were receiving intervention my son needed desperately. When asked about it, the school once again lied about it but I knew better and I have recorded conversations with those parents and the District lying about it.

    After resolving my differences in mediation, I moved to a larger city nearby this past summer. I enrolled all 4 of my boys in a larger School District hoping to get my 2 sons proper intervention for once. Unfortunately, the same issues are occurring and I am forced to hire an attorney. The District used inappropriate evaluations in an attempt to identify my oldest who is still not getting proper intervention. They used the Brigance which is a criterion based assessment referenced in 1984 which is intended for 5 to 12 year olds even though my son is about to turn 16! That was a huge problem. I’m sure that report was able to show my son at grade level in reading comprehension!!! Seriously?!! My youngest has an IEP that is being ignored. If I report to TEA, they will likely ignore most of it. At best, my son will receive compensatory services which becomes ANOTHER thing he is required to do after a long day at school. When does he start enjoying being a kid? Why should he have to work after a long day at school just because his educators are failing him? _____ _____ actually called me and after my discussion with him I realized he warned the school district about our conversation. During my conversation with Mr. _____, I told him how furious we were that the school never providing us with PWN to explain why they didn’t find my oldest to have an LD only ADHD. I revealed how upset my ex-husband was about being ignored on that request and how they failed to notify him about ARD. After that discussion the District tried telling us how my ex-husband was never put into Skyward which prevented them from notifying him about ARD. I can prove someone changed Skyward. Yes, I have documented proof that his information was in Skyward and I didn’t remove him. So who did? I’ve learned to make copies or screen shots on everything I provide a public school district. I’m done playing games. No matter how nice or demanding I am, I will always be the bad guy. If I am going to be the bad guy, my son will receive a proper education while I demand FAPE!!
    I would like to know why members at TEA aren’t being Federally charged with child endangerment?! With all my complaints I offer suggestions to help solve these issues. _____ _____ and Senator Perry have yet to respond to my offer to come to them to have a direct but honest conversation. My suggestions are as followed: #1: I have yet to find an attorney who specializes in Sped Ed Law from West Texas, who doesn’t work for the public school districts. Offer an accreditation program for advocates. Require advocates to be certified to legitimize the accreditation. Require schools to pay for an advocate much like an IEE. Once the school budget is over extended from paying advocates parents will not be happy to learn a new football field can’t be built, Superintendents and Principals will be forced to account for their lack of leadership. If that is offered, it forces school districts to work with reasonable parents and more children get appropriate support. It forces school districts to demand teachers to get proper and consistent continuing education instead of encouraging it to be done which never happens. As a part of their advocacy accreditation, require advocates to report issues such as disabilities and intervention strategies that aren’t working vs what is working. Have them report how disagreements are being solved and how they aren’t being solved and why? Make it a requirement that parents and educators receive a copy of that report so everyone is informed what is being reported to TEA and USDOE. This information should be utilized by the SBOE when addressing curriculum decisions and teacher certifications. Especially those who teach children with special needs. Teachers in Texas who are Sped Ed Certified aren’t being taught what they need to know. I have documented proof of that from two Highly Ranked Texas School Districts. A certified Advocacy Designation should be an independent profession. Not another government controlled department. As a parent who would never trust anyone who worked with or assigned by TEA, I think by having an independent advocate it allows trust to be restored so effective negotiations can be had and hard feelings be set aside. For unreasonable parents who might be part of the problem, allow that to be considered as part of the problem. In today’s society, I think it is reasonable to believe a small percentage of parents are part of the problem. TEA wants you to believe that percentage are all of us who complain. An advocacy accreditation program opens up a new profession to the marketplace. Utilize advocates much like OT, PT, and Speech Therapist’s are utilized. They are not medical doctors. But they offer a more specialized intervention approach. Many attorneys don’t specialize in Sped Ed Law anyway. They know TEA will keep cases wrapped up in the Executive Process for years. The few who do offer services hire advocates to argue cases because they can bill for attorney fees and add on advocate fee on top of their fee. Which brings me to my next suggestion. #2: STOP allowing TEA to keep things wrapped up in the administrative process. Allow parents to sue in civil court. Don’t allow TEA to force us into a due process litigation for years. Once that is on the table, more specialized educators who are allowed to embrace mediocrity at the expense of our children, will step up and take education more seriously, or risk being exposed for the mediocre educator they are. I will never understand how our state agency, who is in charge of educating our youth, justifies Educational Diagnostician’s using old criterion referenced assessments to evaluate children. TEA allows minimal educators out rank neuropsychologist’s who have a PhD!!! What happened to the most educated and knowledgeable person winning the argument? My last suggestion #3: Negotiate with insurance companies to allow OT, SLP, and PT’s to offer services at school so parents can take advantage of medical insurance for proper intervention. Children with low incidental disabilities are being ignored!! My son has a traumatic brain injury. I sat in ARD in August 2016 and listened to a room full of educators who admitted not knowing anything about TBI. Not one educator attended the seminar my neuropsychologist performed on TBI last Spring at their own Region 17 ESC. That seminar was funded from compensatory services my son received after my complaint to TEA. It took 26 years after TBI was determined a disability for Region 17 to provide continuing education on TBI and yet the Diagnostician and LSSP didn’t attend that seminar. As though family violence or athletic injuries never cause TBI to cause them to deal with it in their professional careers?! Not one professional who sat in ARD took the time to pick up the phone to consult with Dr. ________ on TBI. They failed to call and consult to better understand my son and how his memory and processing speed fails him on most days. They continue to use the same approach that lowers the bar because it’s easier than offering an individual approach which the law requires. Science, Medical Research and Technology is evolving and offering us a better understanding about effective Psychiatric intervention. Utilize the specialists and document what is consistently working in the classroom and then offer that information to parents, educators and advocates to resolve intervention disputes. I know I would have utilized that information if it were given to me.

  167. I just read in “An Act from the 108th Congress” that 2) BEFORE the date of enactment of the Education for All
    Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (Public Law 94-142), the
    educational needs of millions of children with disabilities were
    not being fully met. And SINCE
    the enactment and implementation of the
    Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, this title
    has been SUCCESSFUL in ensuring children with disabilities and
    the families of such children access to a free APPROPRIATE
    public education and in improving educational results for
    children with disabilities.
    Obviously this is not true in our district. My daughter is not being placed in an APPROPRIATE environment for her special needs. She is being thrown into the mass of children without any sort of safe guarding or special requirements. She is being watched out of kindness by those with a conscience, but has been in harm’s way many times. She has been diagnosed with PDDNOS and clearly lives in the Autism Spectrum. She has pituary dwarfism and is developmentally and intellectually delayed. She answers questions such as “how much did Susie pay for the shirt” with answers like “12%”. Her mind is not aware nor rationale much of the time, however she CAN memorize and fill in the blanks and read. This put her into the “amazingly brilliant” category in the school’s mind based on their other children with special needs. My daughter is in 7th grade and the size of an average 3rd grader. She has the social mind of a K – 2nd grader. She can read and repeat much like a computer in SOME areas, but Math is out of the question and application is out of the question. Her original test scores are almost always below a 30; however, when “corrected” the magic number is always a 70. She is so unaware that she has absolutely no issues whatsoever with junior high. She has never had a fear of stranger danger. She only memorizes what is taught specifically. Her brain does not process nor function typically. She is a minority and was adopted. The issues of concern are PDDNOS and Pituitary Dwarfism.
    She was fully evaluated by the school and the report said she is 100% typical in ALL AREAS. This is a sickening and hurtful lie signed by many at the school. As long as there is no problem recorded in the classroom, there is no problem. That is their rule of thumb. So therefore there is nothing recorded or any red flags waved. Everything is “fine”, “normal” “no problem”. They find a solution to pass these children who are not profoundly disabled with all kinds of ways that make their paperwork easier and keep expenses down. The concern for the overall student might be there personally for them, but the district enforces the tight lips and policies of “there are no problems, everything is fine from what we see”. IF there is a problem brought up by the parent, it somehow becomes the issue of fault of the parent. It’s a great strategy to have the parent’s of special needs children questions themselves and stay oppressed, move on, find alternative education for their child. Because I did not birth my child and do not have the possible guilt of “what did I eat during pregnancy? what could I have done differently? Is there something wrong with me or my husband? my parenting?”, I have been able to “play chicken” if you will with the schools. It doesn’t help, but it does allow me to see what they are doing to other parents and why and how this is happening. The sad part is the lack of communication and cooperation. The school doesn’t really want to open that door because it opens up a door of potentially more work and more costs for them. Very sad that everything is based on money, as usual. When the schools are forced to mainstream, I understand their dilemma, too. It is a difficult situation because each parent wants something different for their child. What I have asked for is honesty and reality so that I can plan for our daughter’s future. If parents don’t see the reality and the possibilities of what can be achieved independently as adults, there will be yet more adults collecting disability checks from the government rather than pay check from work.
    Many of these children are being funded to go to college, only to find out they cannot truly achieve without serious or constant help. More money owed or wasted. It’s a huge cycle of problems that hopefully can be slowed down a little bit!! Thank you to Brian from the Houston Chronicle!

  168. I thought that it was only my school district who was failing to identify students who very clearly qualified for special education. Turns out it’s far more widespread. I have 2 children who have special needs… one with Autism Spectrum disorder and one with an Other Health Impairment and autism. we have had to fight for every last service they get down to the last minute. It took filing for due process to even have one of my kids identified for services and instead of being fully identified was facing disciplinary actions by the school at 5 and 6 years old due to behavioral concerns. Once we went through mediation he was then evaluated.. as of now he is supposedly in the right setting with a Behavior intervention plan mare suited to his needs. Right now he’s still being educated in the hallway.still denying him Free Appropriate Public Education Per IDEA, but it’s a lot better than it was.
    The school has drastically improved how they deal with him and he is now actually spending time learning. Sadly, it took Due process and an attorney we can no longer afford.
    My other child has a list of disabilities that go with his condition covered under the category of Other Health Impairment. I was told that he only needed to qualify under this to be able to receive services through my district. This could be so far from the truth. Instead we’re being told he has to qualify solidly under each category to be eligible for each category’s service.
    We’ve gotten independent evaluations, and even though the evaluators report states a dire need or data (2nd percentile) that supports the need for services in an educational setting, we get told in our ARDS that our child is fine, we’re worrying too much. He has several specific learning disabilities that are not being addressed at all causing him further issues. we have been told He has to qualify as a child on the autism spectrum to receive the The autism supplement. Not according to state law and IDEA. He is at risk for failing several classes. We have to force the issue of ESY services at all because we have to prove regression. He can barely read (2nd grade level) and his handwriting is so poor due to poor fine motor skills. School districts OT hasn’t seen him directly in several years and refused to agree to give ANY service time other than to work on typing- which is adaptive technology.
    His peers can’t understand him due to his speech impairment even though he gets 10 mins. of speech a week and the speech therapist admitted his issues are deteriorating.
    We cannot afford an attorney, which makes us better targets for denial. According to what I have read so is being caucasian.
    Parents should be able to advocate for our own children without being treated in an adversarial way as outsiders at our own Children’s ARD’s we should as stated in our procedural safeguards be treated as equal participants in this process. Instead we have predetermined documents, get told we already had a meeting about him (without your input or permission), get personally attacked by school district’s counsel when we did not bring an attorney.
    And then after 3 continued ard meetings because they limited us… (combined time of 10 hours) have yet to implement a IEP that works.

  169. I attended the session last night in Houston, Texas, but wasn’t able to speak due to time restraints. First, I commend Representative Sheila Jackson Lee for bringing up cuts to Early Childhood Intervention (ECI). Since my twins began ECI in 2009, ECI funding has been cut twice. The first time, we were still receiving services, but were told one daughter (developmentally delayed due to preemie and other complications of birth) wouldn’t have been accepted under the new guidelines. We also had to watch committed professionals fear for their jobs and/or end up with additional work added to their already heavy burden. TEA claimed early childhood programs accounted for the drop in Special Education admission, but needs previously serviced by ECI aren’t serviced any more. The children cut out of ECI are entering elementary school now.
    Second, I believe Texas fails to support its teachers with training based on current research on best practices for children with special needs. My daughter’s reading intervention in Kindergarten was nothing more than a computer program. A computer program is not reading intervention. In addition, there is currently very little interest in inclusion for children like my daughter who has high-functioning Down syndrome and Juvenile Arthritis, among other issues. I watched with awe and pride the young woman with cerebral palsy who testified December 12 in Houston about her full inclusion in her school in The Woodlands since Kindergarten, despite her inability to walk or talk. My daughter, in Houston ISD, should be afforded the same opportunity – just look at the results. Yet even teachers with best intentions don’t seem trained to do that.
    Third, Houston ISD cuts parents out of the placement process using what are called “staffing meetings” – their version of predetermination. Each child with a disability has individual needs – placement cannot be predetermined by some formula used by staff who’ve never met her. And, as you know, IDEA requires that parents be involved in that process. Due to the “staffing meeting” for my daughter last year, I ended up having to make 19 separate contacts to 7 different individuals in Houston ISD school and district offices before I finally had to get our school board representative, Anna Eastman, involved. All this just to get a final first-grade placement, which wasn’t reached August 19 – the Friday before school. The placement was a compromise for us and did not reflect what we expected coming out of our ARD in May. And at one point my husband and I sat in the ARD listening to staff from two elementary schools argue over who was responsible for producing the final IEP and why my daughter was suddenly not enrolled anywhere within the district (I have a timeline of events I can share if requested).
    Thank you for coming out to listen. I hope you will also take the time to review these comments as well.

  170. My oldest daughter entered Kindergarten in a school ranked as one of the best in our district. She entered K after having 3 years of Pre-K and private reading tutoring. She was very eager to learn. This was in 2009. At age of 4 I knew she was quirky and slightly different. But she was verbal and energetic and loved preschool. Just 6 weeks into K I was told by teacher to remove her and hold her back a year!!! My child wasn’t reading at same level as rest of K class and teacher felt she needed to be held back. I spoke with principal about this, and not a peep was made the remainder of school year.

    Entering 1st grade she struggled heavily with math and focus. She was also bullied a lot. She was placed in tutoring. I asked about learning disabilities, ADHD, and testing. But was told she just needed to mature and get more tutoring.

    Emerging grade 2, she struggled even more so. Still bullied and her self esteem plummeted. The energetic and eager to learn child disappeared. She was in 3 days of after school tutoring as well as 2 pull outs a week. She hated school. By end of year, she still failed benchmarks and school still promoted her to 3rd. I requested again for testing for learning disabilities. No one, not the counselor, principal, or teacher said to put it in writing. I’d had enough of watching my child’S spirit die. I pulled her to homeschool.

    The year of 3rd grade we homeschooled. And sought out private specialists to test and evaluate her. Her speech eval came back significantly delayed. She was nearly 10 communicating like a 5 year old. Her OT eval came back significantly delayed with fine and gross motor skills and sensory processing disorder. We entered in to intensive therapy twice a week with ST and OT for a year. She progressed and improved greatly. But we still struggle with academics. We sought a Pediatric Neurological eval, and there our questions were finally answered. Level 2 Autism. My child suffered at the expense of her self esteem and education because TX doesn’t want to help these kids!!!! My daughter also has OCD, SPD, Anxiety, borderline depression, all which can be worked with and therapy used to improve the child’s life and therefore academics too. Because of her late diagnosis, she has missed out on crucial therapy and interventions that could have significantly positively impacted her life and her future.

    She is now on a waitlist for a special academic program for Autistic children. We’ve been waiting since beginning of the year to start the program. And we will have to pay out of pocket for it which is a financial burden that is extremely difficult. But we want our child to have a bright future.

  171. Special Education and Dyslexia in Texas:
    My son (11yo) was referred for testing in Kindergarten of public school, and an IEP was in place at the start of 1st grade. He was deemed to have processing disorders, low phonemic awareness, above average IQ – hallmarks of Dyslexia. The school used pull-out sessions for reading and math, using multi-sensory programs, including the Wilson Reading Program. You are starting to think,”looks like he was taken care of properly by his school” Yes, he was, IN NEW JERSEY!

    We were lucky to have an IEP in place, which was (SUPPOSED) to be followed for the first 30 days, by Federal law, upon arrival in Houston. If only it had been read, and understood by his classroom teacher, a new, unexperienced UT graduate. She did not understand his disability and was the source of huge frustration and self-esteem issues for the first semester of my son’s 3rd grade year at West University Elementary School in Houston ISD. Her comments to the ARD committee were mean-spirited, saying my son wasn’t making friends and didn’t follow instructions. It’s hard to put yourself out there when your new, unexperienced teacher chides you for not copying the homework from the board so the entire class can hear. At the time, he was reading at a first-grade level, not something my son was openly sharing with potential friends in a new town.

    The school did test my son within the allowable time-frame and concluded that his Dyslexia and a SLD (which was just some of the characteristics of Dyslexia, no ADHD or ADD, etc.) would continue to qualify him for Special Education services. However, it took the entire 3rd grade year for West University Elementary to sort out that my son should receive Dyslexia Reading Intervention. In 4th grade, they started him with the school’s Reading Interventionist, who told me that she “went to an entire day of training” to teach the Region IV Dyslexia Intervention Program. That doesn’t sound like much qualification to me, even my 4th grade son noticed that she would check the teacher manual before teaching each lesson. Wow.
    The Reading Interventionist and my son’s Sped. case manager had no interaction. I arranged a meeting at the school, bringing both teachers into one room and having them explain to each other what they are working on with my son. How can the Sped. Dept. not know anything about Reading Intervention?!?! Oh, it’s because in Texas, a child disabled by Dyslexia usually does NOT qualify for Special Education. They are supposedly “protected” by 504 plans and accommodations. That’s not good enough. If a child is so severely dyslexic that they need support and remediation, and thereby qualify for Sped., then each and every school should be prepared to offer that service appropriately. When my son transferred to Poe Elementary School in Houston ISD, we found there to be one PART-TIME Reading Interventionist for 800+ students. The Sped. person responsible for my son’s services had never heard of the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, and had no training at all in reading intervention, yet she was responsible for my son’s IEP goals, all related to reading.
    Moving on to Lanier Middle School, also in Houston ISD…I met with the Sped Chair in November of my son’s 5th grade year, well before he arrived at the school, and told them he was coming. He is in Special Education because he is severely dyslexic and would need systematic, evidence-based reading intervention. In May we met again, and the ARD committee at Lanier MS set up a plan for in-class support and remediation…until I reminded them that my son was qualified for the Gifted & Talented curriculum. His case manager literally said, “Oh, then we can’t do that (in-class support). He is the only G/T child we have, so we don’t have the staff to support him in class, we can only give him accommodations.” They are penalizing my son for being above average IQ, by denying him the best support the Sped Dept. should have given him.
    We cobbled together a reading intervention plan, and the school organized a 30 min session everyday to instruct the Neuhaus Basic Skills program. This 30 min session was filled with 12 students (some are Sped, most are under 504). I demanded a meeting with his teachers and told them they were out of compliance with the Texas Dyslexia Law, as their “504” reading intervention was not being taught with fidelity. They really didn’t have an answer, and without words, encouraged me to contact the district to ask for help.
    After three years of calling the Houston ISD for help, I finally found that there is one person, recently hired, to assist schools in implementing correct 504 reading intervention services. But she is not under Sped, so she only works with “504” reading specialists. This person met with the 504 staff at Lanier MS and provided recommendations. It took almost a whole semester of school to get my son what he needs, even though I met with the Sped Chair over a year ago. The de-centralized system in Houston, allows each school to operate however they wish, creating the opportunity to delay, delay, delay.
    Because of individual public school teachers, private tutoring by a CALT, and my relentless advocacy, my son is thriving. My husband and I strongly believe that a free and appropriate education for all children is what makes our country great. We chose not to leave public school, because we know there are wonderful people in Houston ISD doing great things for very little money with our children. But we do wonder if it was right for us to have subjected our son to the incompetence of some staff and delays in services. Parents should never have those doubts about the public school their children attend.

  172. My granddaughter (G) has autism. She is high on the spectrum and, as a result, we didn’t realize she had autism (she is very articulate and intelligent.) None of her K-2 teachers recognized she might have autism, even though she has all five of the qualifying characteristics. Why aren’t elementary school teachers and administrators trained to recognize symptoms of prevalent disorders? Because G exhibited progressively worse behavior in first grade, we had her tested for autism. Before she was tested, I read about autism and as soon as I read the definition, I knew she had it, and the testing confirmed this. We applied for special ed services that spring, and I met with her new principal before G started second grade. The district required their own testing, so in the meantime we had a 504 meeting. Apparently this was all for show and to make it look like G was receiving accommodations on paper. By October, after much prodding, the district confirmed she has autism and scheduled an ARD. However, this was not the collaborative process it is supposed to be. The district devised an intricate plan for various services so G could be in the least restrictive environment, and then at the end of the 4-hour ARD meeting, the ARD committee recommended she be labelled emotionally disturbed and sent to a self-contained unit for emotionally disturbed children (based on the recommendation of the psychologist who admitted she had not seen any problem behaviors but relied on the teacher’s account and the fact that G exhibited some depression.) After being suspended eight times in the first six weeks of school, G was severely depressed. The teacher was deliberately evoking meltdowns and the assistant principal then suspended her. This is so common in DISD that 5,500 Pre-K-5th grade students were suspended last school year, half of whom were 2nd grade and younger. This is not only ineffective, it denies students instructional time and has a profoundly negative effect on them emotionally. The school board is “considering” changing the policy, but have no plan for training teachers how to manage inappropriate behaviors. At G’s final ARD meeting in DISD the district brought 14 people, including a lawyer, and had one of their lawyers taking the minutes, which conveniently deleted every legitimate counter point we made. Some people say DISD is just too big; if New York City and Houston can ban K-2 suspensions, so can DISD. Suspension is a tool for schools to get rid of challenging, unwanted students. (G happens to be Hispanic; suspensions are even more prevalent for African Americans.) G is currently enrolled in a private school where she is doing well. She is not emotionally disturbed and she is not depressed. DISD caused her depression and then labelled it ED. This is a disgrace and should be illegal. She is also receiving ABA therapy through Easter Seals, which has a DARS grant, though because of funding restrictions, she only receives therapy for six months each year. After this year we can no longer afford to send G to this private school, and, in fact, it would be better for her to attend a mainstream classroom where she can interact with students who do not have special needs. However, we do not want to put her through the kind of trauma she experienced in first and the beginning of second grade. My daughter is considering moving to a suburb where schools treat special ed students better. ALL teachers on ALL levels should be trained in positive discipline strategies. This would help all students, whether they have special needs or not. G and other special needs students are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. It is not available in DISD.

    • It’s called Twice Exceptional. Are you familiar with this?
      http://www.gtequity.org/twice.php
      Yes, the TX Ed Agency supposedly has a program that is suppose to be helping these twice exceptional, 2e students. However to this very day not one single 2e student has been helped by the TEA. Why isn’t the Department of Education investigating this too? Again they need to investigate the money, who spent what and why. This twice exceptional program cost thousands of dollars to set up.

  173. I have taught special education in the state of Texas for the past 7 years. I currently teach in one of the largest districts in the state. The Chronicle’s report shed light on some of the questions that I have had about implementation of IDEA over my career working with special education students. What is less clear is what will be done to correct this and bring Texas public education in line with federal law.

    One issue I’ve seen this year is related to services. Schools are required to provide a continuum of services. According to IDEA, student need is supposed to drive services, rather than convenience or cost. In plain English: if a child needs a service, a school either has to provide that service, or else pay for the student to receive it somewhere else. The school cannot say “We don’t do that, so you can’t have it in your IEP.” However, due to a lack of staff, we are not providing certain services and not making parents aware of the rights they have with regard to their child. One example: my school currently has only two sections of inclusion for English II (10th grade), one section of inclusion for English III (11th grade), and zero sections of inclusion for English IV (12th grade). When I asked why this was, I was told that they don’t have enough staff. However, in practice, this means that in IEP meetings, parents are told that their student doesn’t need inclusion support, or that they can’t have inclusion support, despite the fact that they do, and the school is required to provide that service. Emphasis on inclusion in this particular school is put on STAAR tested classes and seems to be appropriated without any regard to student need.

    A coworker had concerns that a student may need to be evaluated for special education services. She referred him to the school psychologist, and was chewed out by the assistant principal for referring him for services without going through RTI. However, as the federal government has made patently clear, to force students to go through RTI before undergoing a special education evaluation is illegal. I believe this is a question of ignorance rather than malice at the school level, but their reaction is a direct result of the cap TEA has put on special education students.

    The IEPs at this district are very poorly written and not driven by specific, observable, measurable data. Goals are written to be measured by report card grades rather than achievement of specific skills. Moreover, the district’s special education software is unintuitive, outdated, and clunky- it was built in house to save money- which makes writing relevant IEPs an exercise in frustration.

    What the TEA’s cap, and staffing issues, and even technology, boil down to is money. To educate children effectively, especially those with special needs, takes money. The Texas legislature has embarked upon a tireless campaign to defund our schools, and then decry them for being ineffective and poorly run. Special education services are expensive in the short run- but save taxpayer money in the long run, because we are able to graduate citizens with the skills necessary to be productive members of society. It is not fair that a student’s ability to make it in the real world is dependent on which high school they went to.

    • I would add that the costs districts will be forced to pay out in lawsuits for inappropriately funding special education programs and violating federal law are incalculably higher than what it would cost to provide the appropriate services/staffing in the first place.

  174. (received for submission- & in the words of- “_ _” former student of FBISD/Houston)

    “Hi so I definitely appreciate that I was tagged, even though I am a former special education student and I am no longer in high school anymore.
    One of my biggest issues for me wasn’t with IDEA. It was simply with the school. I always felt that getting accomodations wasn’t the problem, but being in an environment where you’re encouraged to succeed and do your best was. One of my biggest gripes is the fact that often decisions were made without taking my goals into account (goals meaning maybe what college I want to goto, what I want to do in life, etc…)
    I never felt encouraged to do anything as a SPED student…. and I think that this has to do more with how SPED operates than it does IDEA… It’s one thing to have rights… but its another to have a school system that not only backs up those rights, but is interested in your goals.
    I want to see SPED staff deeply involved in their students’ lives… I want them to work with students’ on their goals, no matter how far off they seem.
    So that was the major issue I faced in school: None of my educational goals were really taken into account, and by the time I fought to see that they were, it was pretty late.
    One of the other issues is the fact that, as someone with Asperger’s, I was consistently shunned by my peers. Instead of really helping me with this, school staff basically sat out and did nothing. I grew extremely upset and felt alone at times. When I had social conflicts with my peers, it was not only common for staff to blame me, it was very popular. I got sent to the principal’s office so many times… it wasn’t even a joke… In the end, instead of helping me with my social issues, they essentially blamed the way people treated me on who I am… and to this day I’m shocked that these are the people who work in our school system.

    IDEA is important, but what’s more important is the perception and treatment of Special Needs students. Special Needs does not equal less capable and less important, yet that is the feeling I got during my time in special education.
    __

  175. December 12, 2016

    Dear Ladies & Gentlemen,

    I am writing regarding the special education debacle by the GOP starting around and before 2004. My son was one of the children harmed by these practices. Our state passed the state lottery for all education funding in Texas yet all and especially, special education funding was cut or diverted by the GOP. My son was born with both apgars of 0. He recovered, then after his first round of MMR vaccine, began having seizures at 18 months old. He had tonic clonic, many absence, & drop seizures all in a period of six months. As strangely as they came, they disappeared, but my son was not the same toddler. He had to relearn everything as if he were a newborn. He had a six month physical delay and a nine month speech delay at almost 3 years old. We did what we could but he needed more. My son began his life in special ed with assistance through MHMR early childhood intervention for speech and physical therapy. He then entered pre k as a head start student at age 3 due to physical and speech delays. He continued to need services throughout his education in Texas public schools. I had to fight to get an ARD annually to keep him in services because they wanted to discharge and mainstream him. I asked for testing that was never done. He had IEP’s that were never followed! I had to take him to private outpatient testing and therapy for occupational therapy for tactile and auditory hypersensitivity. I brought back the recommendations for school and those were not followed. His teachers did not allow private testing or extra time. He had teachers tell him he was stupid a direct quote. He began acting out in class. I requested counseling. He was denied again. He began doing drugs and verbalized a suicide ideation at school. Their answer was to put him in alternative school for the remaining two years! That is not special education it is criminalization. I got my son his GED and we got the hell out of there. My son is now an adult with no education and a substance abuse problem because the school wanted him doped up drooling in a corner so they did not have to deal with him. He began using in school because of low self esteem because he couldn’t get his work done like everyone else and wasn’t given the tools he was promised in the ARD’s. The most disgusting part is I had attended school in the district and my mother taught in the district for 25 years. I still have my son’s testing records, ARD, and IEP files if anyone would like to review them. My mom and I both worked with my son to help him but the school was undermining our efforts. My son was irreparably harmed. I’m just glad he didn’t follow through with his suicide ideation!

    • My daughter was placed in gifted and talented 504 education in first grade in our old district. In our new district to where we have moved, she was not continued or even offered GT.

  176. I’ve been in Mesquite ISD,Richardson ISD and currently Garland ISD. It’s been the most horrible, disgusting experience for my son. He’s been denied being tested for dyslexia because of his IQ isn’t.But Is under IDEA where the services that are offerd he doesn’t benefit from because he functions are a regular scale with kids his own age and is verbal. The school districts have repeatedly refused resources classes, so I’m the one who pays for all his educational needs w/ private tutoring. He’s been the victim of discrimination and after so many complaints to TEA,OCR., and advocacy Inc., I received no help. Texas has a broken educational system the ones who need to be punished are the teachers along with everyone in the special ed Dept., because all there doing is abusing. Federal tax money. Special Education needs to be redesigned and school diagnosticians are not qualified to diagnose students if they can’t identified there learning needs or a proper diagnoses. there needs to be child psychologist who are not affiliated with the school in Texas school districts to determine a diagnoses and identify the student’s learning needs.

    • I too could not get my son and daughter tested for dyslexia because of IQ even though it runs generationally in my family. My grandfather quit school in 8th grade because of it. My mother and sister have dyslexia. I’m sure I have some form but was never tested but have nystagmus and require prism in my eyeglasses.

    • I agree, so why is there no criminal investigation regarding the money? There should be. These districts do not have the right to misuse funds that are meant for the children.

  177. My son was diagnosed with Autism at 3.5 years old. When he entered Kinder, I had to fight for him to receive accommodations, including speech services. His elementary years were difficult. The lack of trained teachers and ignorance about how to deal with meltdowns placed so much burden and stress on me as a single mother. I had to fight for his accommodations, and stop the school for calling me every day to pick up my child because the teachers couldnt educate my child. It was easier for them to pull him out than trying to get him the services and education. After all the fights, and struggle, I couldn’t handle it any more. So I pulled my son from HISD and enrolled him on at Yes Prep Charter school for 6th till 12th grade. The fights were less to secure services and he was able to graduate, thanks to a good IEP in place. One thing I can’t understand it is why we the parents of a chikd with a disability are made to feel guilty and pressured by the Education system in Houston. The schools are not providing the services, and consequently we parents end up fighting administration and teachers for speech, inclusions, accommodations, technology and every available tool needed to educate a child. It is sad that we live in a state where children with disabilities are perceived as a burden for our schools. We need Texas Education Agency to be responsible of enforcing the rights of disabled children to earn an education. It is wrong to suffer the way we parents and children suffer due to ignorance, lack of compassion, and money making games. Wrong! Time to Change!

  178. I have worked for over 10 years as an independent educational evaluator in specific disability related areas that are among the most highly needed and easily obtainable areas of special education services. I have contracted with districts across the state in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Houston area, the Austin/San Antonio area, and rural areas of East Texas and between Fort and Austin. Not only have I directly observed students denied services and supports but also evaluations.

    Further, I have participated in a number of ARD/IEP meetings where the district’s legal representatives have completely taken over the meeting (even they are not a member of the ARD/IEP committee) and have specifically denied necessary services and supports to students when school district officials tried to deny the services but apparently were not deemed “forceful enough” by the attorney. Additionally, each time I observed this, parents had no legal representation at the meeting. One of the most notorious offenders in this process has been one ____ ________, affiliated with Jim Walsh and Associates. Many times she has attacked patents as well as independent evaluators in meetings to intimidate them and specifically deny necessary services to students.

    I am afraid to sign my real name to the form for fear of retaliation by ___ ________, Walsh and Associates, and the Texas Education Agency.

    • I, too, am afraid to sign my name to this comment as I fear retaliation by this law firm – Walsh Anderson. I have been at numerous ARDS, my own and others, throughout District’s in all of North Texas where lawyers from this firm have repeatedly and aggressively denied instructional and related services to students that required them to receive an appropriate education. To my dismay one of these attorneys provided input to the federal investigators at the Dallas Listening Session that she has never witnessed this occurring when in fact she is one of the worst perpetuators of the denial of services across the state. We had to leave a school district because of how she retaliated against our family for advocating for a child, how she denied vitally needed related and instructional services to our child, controlled the meeting completely including the editing of the minutes, controlled the free exchange of dialogue during meetings, provided erroneous legal standards, and severely restricted evaluations to the school setting only, and repeatedly dismissed parental input. This particular law firm is perhaps one of the most egregious in the state and TEA hires them to train Hearing Officers and Regional Services Centers throughout the state.

      • This particular lawyer was seen taking copious notes during the Dallas input session as different parents provided input. Many parents informed me that after they saw this they decided not to provide input because they were afraid of retaliation.

      • She is not only lying. Its an intentional game of smoke and mirrors for legal deception. Adversity brings litigation and litigation brings $$.

    • The Walsh name seems to be coming up a lot in comments made here. This too should be investigated. I agree with the majority of what you have said here. Even when teachers, staff want to help they are told not to. Let’s be honest here all of this goes way back before 2014. These kinds of things seem to be common practice in Texas for whatever reason. When I asked for this to be investigated years ago I was ignored. I can clearly see that it is hard to ignore the thousands of people that are now coming forward about all of this. This is why we were forced to pull our child from a major North Dallas school district. This and the hostile environment that the staff created at the school she attended. These things were brought on by I am sure the same attorney you talk about here. My concern, and from what I read so many others, is that the Department of Education is really not taking all of this seriously. I hope that they do not think that this will make these families be quiet. What about the money trail, why isn’t anyone investigating that too? Funds were greatly misused. Just who is going to investigate this?

    • I have recordings of this type of behavior by this law firm happening. and I can provide this if needed.

  179. I am a parent of a son with a physical disability. For the longest time my school district tried to convince us that because of his limitations he probably would be better served in a self contained unit. We could not get speech services because he was non-verbal and district SLP felt that it was a waste of time. When he did finally start to talk they offered 1-2 sessions a week. Not the communication class we asked for. Took 2 years and a huge fight to get him there. I have another son with dyslexia and I had to practically stand on my head to get him tested in the 1st grade because school said 3rd grade was best grade to start interventions? Based on what?? Not peer based research I can assure you. Third one having severe anxiety and school assigning discipline with little regard to emotional component of learning. Really? The schools have been told Staar is the end all be all. It’s not. Education should be accessible and Sped services are a joke. Secondary schools are the worst. They don’t feel they have to accommodate or serve kids in gen ed. I have had administration tell me they need to teach and these kids are a distraction. Seriously? What is the role of the school? Our kids deserve better and schools almost beg parents to file DP. With the legal teams defending them, it’s usually a slam dunk against parents.

  180. One of my biggest issues for me wasn’t with IDEA. It was simply with the school. I always felt that getting accomodations wasn’t the problem, but being in an environment where you’re encouraged to succeed and do your best was. One of my biggest gripes is the fact that often decisions were made without taking my goals into account (goals meaning maybe what college I want to goto, what I want to do in life, etc…)
    I never felt encouraged to do anything as a SPED student…. and I think that this has to do more with how SPED operates than it does IDEA… It’s one thing to have rights… but its another to have a school system that not only backs up those rights, but is interested in your goals.
    I want to see SPED staff deeply involved in their students’ lives… I want them to work with students’ on their goals, no matter how far off they seem.
    So that was the major issue I faced in school: None of my educational goals were really taken into account, and by the time I fought to see that they were, it was pretty late.
    One of the other issues is the fact that, as someone with Asperger’s, I was consistently shunned by my peers. Instead of really helping me with this, school staff basically sat out and did nothing. I grew extremely upset and felt alone at times. When I had social conflicts with my peers, it was not only common for staff to blame me, it was very popular. I got sent to the principal’s office so many times… it wasn’t even a joke… In the end, instead of helping me with my social issues, they essentially blamed the way people treated me on who I am… and to this day I’m shocked that these are the people who work in our school system.

    IDEA is important, but what’s more important is the perception and treatment of Special Needs students. Special Needs does not equal less capable and less important, yet that is the feeling I got during my time in special education.
    DK

  181. What about those educators who signed a non disparagement agreement? I was forced to resign and sign this after being bullied by my district. I can’t pay a lawyer, but the children I taught need to have representation also.

    Anonymous Please

  182. We live in Texas and our journey into the world of dyslexia began in 2013 when son#1 was dx with dyslexia. The only intervention our school offered at the time was Lexia, a computer based program. What began as an education problem quickly spiraled into an emotional problem due to lack of educational support. We took on financial burdens to seek private intervention and begin to rebuild self-confidence and self-efficacy. Now son#2 is identified dyslexic and in 1st grade and our local public school doesn’t offer dyslexia intervention until 2nd grade. So again we take on financial burdens to see our dyslexic son receives appropriate intervention. The services offered to K & 1st graders is RTI which implements programs not appropriate for dyslexic learners. Research shows dyslexic students need systematic multi-sensory instruction from a highly trained teacher versed in dyslexia and the earlier the better. The delay of appropriate instruction affords opportunities for other issues to emerge which can be avoided if appropriate early intervention is offered. Not only does our school district delay intervention, they do not employ certified dyslexia teachers.
    Dyslexia research and awareness has never been greater and it’s absolutely baffling that in 2017 our public schools refuse to provide a free and APPROPRIATE education for the 20% of struggling literacy learners who are dyslexic.

  183. It started when my son was in the 1st grade and he couldn’t read so I held him back he has spent the last couple of years with a comprehension problem. He is now in the 12th grade and read at a 6th grade level I feel like Austinisd let him down big time. My youngest son has 504 and feel like they are not following his IEP.

  184. My brother was in a prominent north dallas school district. He has autism, cerebral palsy, a stroke, no language, he is severely cognitively impaired, and the school district would only recognize him as having a speech impairment. Therefore the services offered to us were only appropriate for that of child with a very minimal impairment, about 20 minutes a week with a speech therapist. We pushed back and pushed back and pushed, but no matter how much evidence there was that my brother was severely impaired far beyond what they were willing to recognize, they would not budge and there was nothing we could do. As a result, my parents were forced to leave the school district. Refusing to recognize a disability is one way to force children out of the school system, but it isn’t the only strategy. There are other ways of forcing kids out, for instance, if the child’s disability is such that it just can’t be ignored, in order to maintain the 8.5% cap on special education enrollment, school districts will severely curtail the services they offer so that parents have no choice but to take them out. Fortunately when my parents left we were able to place my brother privately, albeit still with extreme financial difficulty, but I don’t know what other families do who can’t afford to do so. Not only is there the problem of finding affordable private options, but there is also the problem of parents having a lack of options in general, particularly for severely impaired children. In situations where parents have no where else to turn, their only recurse is to try to fight a school district that simply will not recognize the problems right in front of them; who will say, over and over again, for instance, to parents like mine, that my non-verbal, severely impaired brother with a medical diagnosis of autism, merely has a speech impediment. If private placement is not an option, they have the choice to bring an incredibly lengthy and expensive lawsuit against their school district, which is really not an option for the vast majority of parents who are already financially, emotionally, and physically exhausted from the day to day care for their child, or to accept the completely inappropriate and ineffective education their school district is providing for their child.

    That is my input, but I would also like to read a testimony from a friend of mine who works in a school district outside of Austin as kindergarten teacher. I am speaking for her and not including her name so as to protect her identity, as retaliation is not an uncommon action taken by administrators when teachers speak out against their decisions. Here is her testimony.

    _________________________________________

    In my 5.5 short years as an educator I have both witnessed and battled the injustices that accompany children with special needs. The following are descriptions of those sweet children and how their needs were not met by the public-school system. In turn, I will also point out how students are not the only ones being neglected by public schools systems, but their teachers too. All the names have been changed to protect the identity of the children and teachers.

    I work in a community where parents are not always advocates for their children, especially children with special needs. This comes from ignorance and sometimes neglect. CPS reports are filed by the dozen and that is a slow and heartbreaking process for both the child and the parent. This leaves the fate of the child in the public schools systems hands, who drop the ball. Daily.

    First you must know about the RTI program. The Response to Intervention program is an early intervention initiative originally put in place to help students with mild impairments avoid having to go into the special education program later on in life. Instead, it has become a way to grossly prolong the process of getting a child the supports they do need if they do have special needs that require special education. Once a MINIMUM of 6 weeks data collection has taken place, a committee will then schedule a meeting within an additional 2-4 weeks to decide if the data collected is substantial enough to provide services. No student will be considered for the academic sped program if they do not first have AT LEAST 6 weeks in RTI. They also must be failing the subject in which they are being tested for, which means that the child must be utterly failing in order to even be considered for RTI. And no, special education teachers are not RTI teachers. They are just normal, sometimes even first year teachers, who may or may not have experience in special education or learning disabilities. Once this committee meets and decides yes, this student may have special needs, then they schedule for a person from the district, who has never met the child, to come and evaluate them. The evaluation(s) take anywhere from 2-6 weeks, at a minimum. As a result, the whole RTI process can take anywhere from a few months to YEARS. There are still students in RTI that I taught when they were in first grade and now they are 5th graders about to go to middle school with no sped support or even an evaluation having taken place yet. They have failed the STAAR test 3 years in a row and are still going to middle school reading on a 2nd grade level. No child left behind seems to me to mean “don’t have students repeat a grade level even if they are NOT on grade level.”

    RTI doesn’t start until first grade. Students don’t start getting pulled for RTI time until late October and they are not pulled during state or district testing. They are seen a maximum of 30 minutes a day 4 days a week in a group of 5-7 other kids. Those 30 minutes including walking to and from their gen ed class. What this looks like is 20 hectic minutes here and there for a student who is already struggling. The material they learn in RTI is based on the “groups” needs. Not the individual child.

    If RTI classes are full, new students are put on wait lists. Clearly RTI has become a way to keep students out of special ed.

    I bet you’re wondering if there is a way to bypass the RTI process. The answer is yes. A 5 word request from a parent (I want my child tested) and a signature is required and that bypasses the 6 weeks of data collection. But not the meeting wait time. And not the wait time associated with the district level personnel evaluation. You’re still looking at at least a full grading period to get that child support. That’s up to 10 weeks that student will never get back. In the meantime, they get Academic Special education support, which looks like 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week with a group of students who may or may not have the same learning disability or even be the same age! Doesn’t that sound just like RTI? But now it’s a teacher with SPED “certification.” Sometimes their 30 minutes of SPED support is a COMPUTER PROGRAM because the sped teacher doesn’t have enough time slots in the day and has too many students to manage, but by law she must “see” that student for 30 minutes a day. The other 6.5 hours are spent in a general education classroom with a teacher who was most likely not trained in meeting that child’s special needs. It is now up to the teacher to learn how to support that child.

    Ms. ____ is a special education inclusion teacher with 9 students who attend school for a full 8 hours. They all have different schedules with varying time slots based on their needs including time in the general education classroom, with or without an aid, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, motor lab time, personal hyenine schedules, eating schedules etc. Her classroom has, on average, a 1-3 ratio. She has 2 aids who make less than $17 an hour. When the aids are absent they are not allowed to apply for substitutes because they are not “teachers.” These aids have no formal training other than a high school degree and SAMA which teaches them how to legally contain a physically violent student if necessary (this happens more often than not because most of these students communicate their needs physically). The students in Ms. ____’s class range from immobile/wheel chair bound with feeding tubes to 150 lb 5th graders who read and write and have enough language to communicate their needs. You can imagine that Ms. ____’s time is not spent equally between her students. Ms. ____ often does not get her state mandated lunch break because she is trying to meet the needs of all her students. Her 8-10 year old students must still take the STAAR test every spring but Ms. ____ is responsible for making “accommodations” to the test HERSELF. She must hold ARDS for all 9 of her students up to twice a year. These ARDS require 30+ pages of analyzed data, scores, behaviors, physical needs, etc which she types up during her “conference time” which is more often than not being consumed by meetings, making copies, creating visuals for her students, switching out stations, making her room safe, etc. So she does them at home. Ms. ____ does most of her work at home. When does Ms. ____ get to use the restroom? Meet with parents? Teach?! Ms. ____ is exhausted, her health is suffering from it and she no longer finds joy in her students.

    _______ is new to 1st grade and already in the speech SPED program from a previous school district. She is promptly exited from the program because “she will learn those sounds when she’s older” and “she is not as bad as the other students.” After a quick meeting and a signature from her parent, who seemed under the influence during the meeting and later lost custody of her child to cps, _______ was exited from the sped program. She never received speech therapy at her new school.

    _____ has been receiving speech sped therapy for 3 years. His allotted time with his speech teacher has ranged from 30 minutes twice a week to zero minutes for weeks at a time. He is always in a group of 3-4 other students. The inconsistency has shown little progress.

    ____ is a 6 year old diagnosed with ASD. He is also visually impaired and has violent self-stimulatory behaviors. He would scream profanity (“f___ it”) and slap his forehead repeatedly when over stimulated. He attended the general education classroom for an hour a day with no aid. The general education classroom had florescent lighting, music playing, 20 other students moving and talking and learning. There were bright colored buckets and carpets and MORE lighting. His incentive for appropriate (non self-stimulating) behavior was stickers. His general education teacher was given visuals and a few key phrases like “no hit” to handle his behavior. More often than not, he looked at books in the corner by himself. His ARD had determined this was the “least restrictive placement” for him.

    _______ is a 9 year old who struggles with reading and is in the RTI program to determine if she qualifies for special ed. She must receive intervention before testing is done to determine if she has any academic special needs. She has been in the RTI program for 4 years now and has not yet qualified for special ed. She has failed the STAAR test 2 years in a row but she got by every year by just enough. She was finally diagnosed with dyslexia after her 1st year RTI teacher brought it to the dyslexia’s teacher’s attention on her lunch break. It was shear luck that this 1st year teacher knew the signs of dyslexia. No one ever thought to test her because she “wasn’t the lowest.”

    _______ is a second grade student with emotional special needs but does not receive services. He has attempted suicide at school twice, once by trying to swallow an unbent paperclip underneath a table during a movie. He does not receive special education services because his teacher did not recommend it. _______ did finally start receiving special education services the following school year, but only after his third suicide attempt and his teacher advocating for his needs.

    ____ spent 3 years in the RTI program before he finally qualified for “poor working memory” and started receiving sped support. His “sped support” is 30 minutes a day and he gets pulled out of class to work on a computer program.

    ____ stayed at a first grade reading level and moved on to middle school with no sped support because she was still passing her classes. Her teacher graded on “completion.” She spent 4 years in the RTI program.

    ___ was mute from grades kinder-4th but never received speech services because her dad said “she talks at home” and her teacher graded her as passing. She was never accepted into the RTI program.

    ______ is a 5th grader who reads on a 1st grade reading level. He spends most of his time in a padded cubicle because of his violent outbursts. He runs out of the school almost daily and even tried to burn his apartment down. It took 2 years of paper work and meetings in the RTI program to get him sped support and then he graduated to middle school. He was never pulled for services and continued to spend most of his day in that padded cubicle room.

    ____ is a 6 year old boy. He does not speak other than to mimic, he is not potty trained and defecates in his underwear daily, he hits/kicks/pulls/slaps/bites to communicate. He would run away. He would chew his clothes, shoe laces, toys, books. He would scream and rock himself. He spent almost 2 years in the public school setting. Almost 2 years of “data” had been collected and he did not receive any special education support because he had not been admitted to the program. He had not qualified for the program because you must pass a hearing and vision test before you are admitted into a public school special education program. ____ can’t pass the hearing test because he does not comprehend that he needs to raise his hand when he hears the beep. His mother won’t take him to a ENT to take a hearing test because she doesn’t have a car. The principal thought that “kids like him don’t remember” so she put him in a padded cubicle when he “misbehaved.” This included when he had a bathroom accident and his mother could not bring him clean clothes. After 2 years of data collection, meetings about ____, evaluations from the school district, grievances filed, and a new principal, ____ was finally placed in Ms. ____’s class in the late spring along with her 9 other students. ____ moved over the summer.

  185. I am a parent to a child with autism. I am also a special education advocate for families in Texas. First let me tell you my story, when my daughter was three years old I had her evaluated for speech services through our local isd. She qualified due to severe articulation issues along with a speech delay. Due to being a single mother and out of work, I had to move to a different area to seek employment. Since I did not have anyone in the area to help get my daughter to/from speech therapy at a new school I did not pursue services in our new town. I did not know that the new school would be required to provide transportation services for my daughter for speech services. Fast forward to her kindergarten year, I enrolled her in a school in the school district where we were presently living. I brought up the fact that she had previously received speech services to her teacher. I was told that my daughter’s speech was age appropriate and that she would grow out of it. I continued to have concerns along with several family members. When my daughter started first grade I again brought up my concerns and the fact that she had previously received services. Again, I was told that the way my daughter talked was “cute” and that she would grow out of it. I remember having several conversations over the course of the year with her first grade teacher and was always meet with the same comments. Fast forward to my daughter’s second grade year. Not far into the school year I had to speak with her teacher regarding some matter. She broached me with her concerns regarding my daughter’s speech and wanted to know why she was not receiving speech services. I told her that I had some concerns as well and of my conversations over the past two years and that she had received speech services before. She then said that she is not supposed to tell me but that I need to write a letter to the principal to request an evaluation. I went home and wrote the letter and the evaluation process was started. My mentioning that my daughter had previously qualified for speech services should have triggered child find but it did not. By the time my daughter was in middle school she had an ED eligibility along with OHI and SI. While I had mentioned to her middle school principal and assistant principal that she had received an outside PDD-NOS diagnosis. The comment from them both was “that explains a lot.” No testing was done by the school. My daughter refused to attend the general education classroom and stayed in the social development classroom the majority of her middle school years. At one of several ARD meetings, I mentioned that I think my daughter would benefit from a one-to-one aide to help her attend and stay in the general education classroom. While the district specialist and principal both said they were in agreement with me on it, they did not think they would be able to do so because they would have to hire someone and they did not have resources available to do so.

    Over the past several years, I have worked with families or spoken with families who have issues getting their child evaluated for special education services. Once evaluated many of these families have problems obtaining the appropriate services that their child needs. One example is a parent whose child was diagnosed with ADHD while in kindergarten at the encouragement of the child’s teacher. Once the parent received an outside diagnosis the parent went to their child’s school and let them know and asked what help was available for their child through the district. The parent was told that there was nothing the school can do for a child with ADHD and for them to just medicate their child. Parents are told that just because their child is too depressed to get out of bed much less do their school work and have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression that their child does not meet the criteria for testing for an emotional disturbance. A child who met the criteria of an emotional disturbance but was not eligible for in school counseling services but the school encouraged the parent to seek outside counseling for their child. Parents who have requested that their child be tested for dyslexia or a specific learning disability under IDEA and then are just tested for dyslexia under Section 504 and are told their child does not have dyslexia and the school’s reasoning for why the child is reading below grade level was because the child does not focus due to the child’s ADHD. Once I got involved the child was evaluated for services under IDEA and was found eligible for a SLD due to dyslexia. Another parent was told that their child did not qualify for accommodations for dyslexia because their child had an IQ of 80 and with an IQ that low they were considered uneducable but because the child was taking AP classes and making As and Bs that an exception could be made and the child could receive accommodations under the Texas dyslexia package. Another example is a child who meets IDEA qualification for AU and was receiving services who was having behavioral issues that were steadily increasing over a two year period. The parent was called repeatedly to pick up the child no BIP was in place nor was a FBA being considered. Once the parent mentioned to the school they were looking at hiring an advocate the school offered to conduct a FBA. A parent asked a school district to conduct a social skills evaluation on their child with AU after giving the school a list of several concerns that lead to this request. The school responded that they do not have a social skills program and would not be doing the evaluation because of such. Another parent requested additional testing for additional services and was told that the school could not evaluate for additional services until it was time for the child’s three year re-eval because by law they were only allowed to evaluate a child every three years. Another parent whose kindergarten child had minor behavior issues (i.e. not staying still in the line and not staying on the carpet during circle time) who was encouraged to place the child in the life skills classroom. The school refused to look at the full range of supplementary aids and supports to help the child remain in the general education classroom until I became involved. I have helped or spoken with parents who have been told that the school cannot evaluate their child until they complete the RTI process and that there is no determined deadline for when that process would be complete. Parents whose children were receiving special education services in another state under the AU classification who in Texas were found ineligible for special education because the children have good grades. One particular child was having meltdowns in school due to changes in routine and communication issues related to receptive and expressive language deficits. The school kept suspending the child and threatened to call the police department. I can think of several examples of students needing a Behavior Intervention Plan and instead are being repeatedly sent home early or suspended because of behaviors related to their disability but the school insists that it has nothing to do with the child’s disability and is being done intentionally, out of defiance or because they are spoiled and if the parent would just work with them more then the behaviors will go away. Many of the behaviors upon completion of FBAs turned out to be because of skills or academic deficits or disability related. I can go on and on with example after example of children not getting evaluated and/or not getting appropriate services. A child whose primary form of communication in the home is ASL. When parent requested that their child receive a particular service the school responded that in order for a service to be provided that a total of 12 students in the school needed to have the service and that it was the law.

    I encourage you to please do a thorough investigation and order TEA to make the changes necessary to ensure that children with disabilities get evaluated and once found eligible get the services that are based off of their individual needs. The issue is systemic and includes teachers who have master degrees in special education, LSSPs and principals. If they are having issues getting appropriate services for their children think about how much harder is it for parents who are not familiar with IDEA, child find, and what their rights are to get appropriate services for their children.

  186. We came through ECI and every therapist showed up to ensure we were admitted into ARD for both my children. That didn’t mean that we received the services that they needed. In fact, my children were bullied for being different, inadequate in the classroom, pullouts for services. Their Dyslexia went unnoticed, ignored. When finally tested, I was told my youngest did NOT have Dyslexia. We removed for 5 years – because the extent of bullying had gone too far without any help from the school to stop it or protect my children. When we reentered school – one was diagnosed with Dyslexia – but again limited services and those were so old that the provider no longer supported the DVDs. The Dyslexia provider was not a Reading Specialist – but an aide who had no clue what was going on. Son was stabbed repeatedly with a pencil. Next school – an ART magnet – cyberbullying, threats to remove body parts, whole school ridicule and verbal antagonism – but we received 5 days of Dyslexia services and executive function supports under 504 after being told we could not remain w/IEP. Next school after asst. superintendents investigated the egregious bullying – but no bullying support…next school, extensive bullying, will not give me an answer about how 3 days a week of Dyslexia services will be complete by the time they graduate. The school backlashes when I don’t like their goals, and for executive function issues. Son is so bullied he no longer will go to school. The other son was diagnosed last year – but school admitted to making mistakes in the diagnostics. The school and the IEE diagnostician both said it was clear my son had Dyslexia in 2nd grade – it was never mentioned he had any issues with reading. They delayed services for over 5 months fighting over diagnostic results. Still question results from outside IEE. Want to know why I insist on this OG reading program. They have only 2 Reading Specialists for over 10,000 HS students. Only 1 reading specialist for Middle and Intermediate schools. They have a less than 2% Dyslexia Diagnostic rate (and it should be minimally 10-20%), and an 8.4% SPED ID rate. They don’t have a CALT or an ALTA – trained Dyslexia specialists in the entire school. None of the Administrators are Trained in Dyslexia!! They don’t understand what a good IEP goal looks like, they have major issues with diagnostics, but they spent $18.1 million on extra curricular buses. They are commited to a K-3 REading program – but the statistics show that 65 – 80% (I’ve read the data w/2 different numbers) leave 4th grade unable to read. We know that 80% of people who leave HS never read another book and 80% of college graduates never read another book – literate people read. We know that 20% of students will read no matter what. 60% struggle. 20% are Dyslexic. The numbers of prisoners with reading issues is also 80%. We are tied to reading methods that don’t produce readers. Throwing more RTI won’t affect reading numbers – because it would have already. I talked to teachers across the state this Thanksgiving. They cried, were upset, overwhelmed – they have students in class who have been in RTI for reading for 3 years or more – no diagnosis. They don’t know what is wrong with the students – they have no training to identify Dyslexia. They don’t receive training of any kind in SPED/504 type LDs. They are loaded up with 504/SPED students promised aides that never get hired – not LRE!! Then everyone is held to the test – with inadequate training, inadequate and unreasonable witholding of accommodations – the State of Texas says that these tests verify whether a student reads or can make calculations without a calculator – yet it does nothing to ensure that these students can read and do not recognize dyscalculia. Dysgraphia is completely misunderstood. Every LD has an associated memory issue and executive function issue – yet schools don’t understand this. Texas is woefully untrained in diagnostics, in meeting the needs of SPED/504 students – and including the Dyslexia complex!! We have the finest multimillion dollar football stadiums – and we can’t hire reasonable number of Reading Specialists to teach kids to read!! We can’t hire and train Aides in SPED. We have abuses everywhere – all the result of inadequate and incompetent training!! With the cutting of Medicare services for children – some kids wait 12 years and more for services – and families look to schools to provide – yet the schools can not deal with bullying, cyberbullying or anything psychiatric or services for medical!! Charters are not the answer!! The BOE doesn’t even know if they own the charter buildings they put up Insurance to back the bonds that are sold for these buildings. Few ISDs can properly access IQ scores. The school system is full of good hearted, caring teachers and administrators who have told teachers NOT to tell parents to write a letter requesting FIE. They are told NOT to tell parents there is a learning issue. When the learning issue is obvious – they are told to stay quiet unless the parents gets the awareness of how to request diagnostic testing – for which Texas diagnosticians are not adequately trained to access students, don’t understand the results they do get, and are told to provide minimal services if they are identified. I have found most IEP teams cannot write adequate goals. Teachers don’t have the training to incorporate the accommodations students need – and tech has made it worse – no one understand how to make the tech work for students – and then don’t provide. We’ve waited 2 years to have access to Learning Ally without having to ask a teacher to load the books. They don’t understand how Learning Ally works and why it works for Dyslexic students – so they discourage students from using!! Forget about audio access to reading materials!! My son went without audio and thus materials for 6 weeks before audio was provided to the AP class reading materials – and none for any other class!! Getting a 504/IEP is difficult in Texas with many roadblocks and road hazards – but getting the IEP/504 is just the first hurdle in actually getting the services needed!! All the players are frustrated, all are overwhelmed, all are undertrained (that includes parents)!! Anytime you have to go to TEA or OCR or DOE to enforce an IEP/504 or needs – then that isn’t Provision of the Civil Right of Education – that is education for those who can afford an Advocate, a Lawyer, have the time to fight for a Civil Right!! I don’t feel we have the Civil Right to a Public Education for our Learning Different/Disabled children – only the rich get this!! HELP US ACQUIRE THIS CIVIL RIGHT FOR OUR CHILDREN IN TEXAS!!!

  187. Last year my then kindergartner was enrolled in a public charter school. Upon entering the school conversations were had with the administration in reference to my daughter’s health condition and delays to bring them abreast on her situation. The school did not assist with the what steps needed to be taken in order to help my daughter with special education even after being made aware of her disabilities. She’d never had a classroom experience and never been around other children because of her health issues. 2 days after school started the educational coordinator contacted us to let us know that there may have been an educational delay with my daughters learning which was already divulged at the very beginning of the school year. The vice principal kept disciplining my daughter even after many meetings with the school and there was no tolerance for her Meltdowns. She needed constant one on one support as well as PT/OT. I had to quit my job research all of the documentation on children’s rights and discabilities then pay out of pockect to prove my daughter’s necessity for special education. Not only did my daughter not have access to her education but her teacher expressed her dissatisaction in teaching my child. Stating what is she supposed to do with my child when she has other children in her class that needed to learn! Because the school stated they didnt have adequate staffing of a school funded OT my daughter spent most of her time in the disciplnary office instead of with her class or teacher. When the teacher didn’t have support in her class they would call me to come pick her up. My child was alienated. I was forced to seek legal representation after all attempts to help my daughter get an adequate education had failed.I withdrew her from school because she was being punished by the assistant principal still even after providing proof of her disability. The school finally complied and provided her with an emergency IEP and special accomodations and so I reenrolled her. At the beginning of the school year which was in the middle of August of my daughter’s delays and her disability were noted by us to the school and no one bothered to evaluate her until December and after many incidents occurred which really negatively affected my daughter educationally. The school waited until the middle of March to facilitate an ARD meeting to discuss My Daughter’s evaluation and determination of services. When the new year started there was an overwhelming change in staff and I had to set an ARD meeting just to address concerns that were already arising. There was no documentation of my daughter’s progress ever noted in her IEP and no OT provided by the school. My daughter continues to struggle and her new teacher doesn’t have any patients with my child. I say all of these things to say, with all of the so called assistance for these special kids, help is NOT readily or easily available as it seems. I had to give up my income to ensure my daughter was not mistreated! This educational system is a Joke!

  188. I am a parent in Austin ISD & cannot attend the 12/15 session. I have two children with health/developmental needs.

    One is a middle school student with a 504 due to a health condition and dysgraphia. Her elementary school principal would not add dysgraphia to her 504. She is a gifted learner and had not “failed” enough for services. We then hired an advocate in the 5th grade to help with middle school accommodations, as she now attends an accelerated program.

    Some accommodations have been added to her 504, and I am grateful to the middle school for adding them without a fight. That said, day to day (outside of standardized testing, where she is allowed to type and have extra time if she needs), she receives no assistance. She has received private pay OT to help with her condition, and we are saving up the thousands of dollars required for the neuropsychological testing (that our insurance won’t cover) to get at the bottom of her writing, processing, and working memory issues. She struggles every day with severe anxiety and fear of failure and has to work much harder than other students to stay afloat.

    I also have a son, 5 years old. He could have started public school this year, as he was born on the cut-off date. We and his medical team have held him back a year. He has severe developmental coordination disorder/dyspraxia, hypotonia, sensory processing disorder, and dysgraphia. His developmental pediatrician has told us to prepare for a possible dyslexia diagnosis. He has been in private pay physical therapy since 3 months old and occupational, speech, and feeding therapies since 12 months old. We do not know if/ when he will be able to write, and it will take years of intervention.

    I contacted administrators at various levels to inquire about testing for my son. While encouraged to engage in the process, I also heard phrases such as “too many children” being in sped, “limits,” and “from the top down.” A teacher friend in a neighboring school district then told me outright about caps being implemented in her district — she said her school was “not supposed to enroll” any more students.

    Needless to say, I was not surprised by the Houston Chronicle article.

    I was also told that my child likely would not qualify for services, and that even if he did, local schools do not offer on-site, one-on-one occupational therapy for writing/grasp issues. No one I spoke to had heard of Developmental Coordination Disorder/dyspraxia or had any idea how to accommodate a brain that is incapable of communicating both with other parts of the brain or the body.

    I can’t afford to home school or private school and have no idea where to turn with a school system that has already informed me, in advance of any testing, that they will not/cannot help my younger child. My son’s daycare/preschool agreed to keep him an extra year while we figure things out. I am very afraid for his future, and if it was an option to leave Texas for another state with better general education, special education, and medical insurance, we would. Unfortunately, that is not an option now or any time in the foreseeable future.

  189. I have a 22 year old daughter dx with dyslexia in 1st grade. She was ided with learning disabilities in 1st grade. After being dismissed from the 504 program to special education she stopped receiving any dyslexia specified help. I spent all of high school paying a private tutor to help her because in 9th grade she read at a 3rd grade level on her FIE evals. Jackie was also dx with Noonan Syndrome, aspergers, and adhd. I have a daughter currently 12 who is in life skills in the same district with cerebral palsy. In 2 d grade she was dismissed from PT telling me she ambulates just fine. She has fallen and broken her nose and her elbow, requiring surgery. To date she still dies not recive pt. She recieves minutes per month of OT and ST despite severe speech issues. This year they took away her assistive technology as well. Shes in 6th grade and still can not read despite knowing all of her letters and letter sounds since 2nd grade.

  190. My now 9th grader was ID’d as dyslexic when in 2nd grade. It was an easy process to request, test, and get in with the reading specialist. We had a great teacher and she was able to complete the program in the middle of 6th grade. She’s taken pre-AP language arts the last 2 years. Early intervention is so important and can lead to success for the student.

    My now 4th grade son had a much harder time to be identified. He is deaf with bilateral cochlear implants. At his ARD meeting in the spring of 1st grade, I formally requested he be tested. Due to entering PPCD when he was 3, he was also up for his tri-annual testing. The diagnostician took her sweet time to do the tri-annual testing (over a dozen tests). She said he didn’t qualify under special ed, but didn’t tell us until I asked why the delay. We then asked for him to be tested under general ed. The reading teacher, who had been expecting him since September of 2nd grade, finally was able to test him at the end of February and he failed every test she gave him. So, 11 months after I made my request, he was finally identified as dyslexic. He had a great reading teacher for the remaining 2 months of 2nd grade and a horrible reading teacher for all of 3rd grade. We are back in 4th grade with a very good, positive, and encouraging reading teacher. He’s making progress, but still so very behind his peers. How a child who has been in the school district system since he was 3 with a number of other issues and a direct family history could be so delayed is still beyond my understanding. I fault the school district for his delays, along with their hiring choices for both the faulty diagnostician and reading “specialist” who should not be allowed to teach children.

    • Hello Lisa Doorkins. I am Deaf and a graduate student at a small public university in Texas, doing research as to why the state of Texas is giving deaf college students a raw deal. What you mentioned just confirms my research: Texas does not care about Deaf residents. They do not care about deaf children at elementary school and high school, nor do they care about deaf college students or adults. Without delving into research data, we all saw how deaf Texans were denied simple support services (ASL) in order to get a drivers’ license. The Supreme Court had to hear such a case (shame on Texas!) only to dismiss it because fearful Deaf Texans just left the state to get drivers’ license elsewhere.
      This is a state which boasts of such things as a county named after a deaf person – Deaf Smith County – and where the Attorney General Ken Paxton is applauding Supreme Court decision. This is a state which boasts of being the only in the nation to provide completely free tuition for the deaf from AA to PhD and yet will not provide sufficient support services.
      My advice to you is this: Please do not waste your time and child’s future arguing with teachers here. They are controlled and are helpless against the whole apparatus of Texas. Take her to any of the deaf friendly states up North or West. They will see your child differently from the way Texas sees exceptional children.
      I personally see a gifted individual struggling to express himself. That gift needs nurturing. By deaf teachers who do not feel controlled upstairs. And if you haven’t done so already, please watch the video titled “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” It will help you make better choices for your child’s future.
      Best wishes.
      M.A.M.A.

  191. We have two boys whom we have had to pay for private school , one with autism and the other with learning disabilities, because the public schools in Texas are not equipped to adequately meet their needs.
    I live in one of the largest cities in the whole United States and it is sad that the public school system cannot keep up in Texas.

  192. As an educator to students of all needs, I have run repeatedly into the bureaucratic wall that has been built to impede the process to have a child identified as in need of special services. Not allowing students access to services they so desperately need is not only illegal, it is immoral.

  193. In 2012 when my son was diagnosed with dyslexia, other parents from my son’s elementary school in Spring Branch ISD came to me in amazement. They wanted to know how I did it. How did I get the school to agree to test him? Some parents had made multiple requests and even provided the school with documentation and testing from outside clinics with a diagnosis of dyslexia, however the school would refuse to accept the outside assessments or agree to do their own. Perhaps it was because I am a diagnostician and a teacher that school personnel listened to my concerns and finally agreed to test him. My son received pull out support from a dyslexia specialist a couple of days a week. He was making some progress but was still nowhere near grade level when suddenly he “graduated” from dyslexia support at the end of third grade!!! Imagine our surprise! “Graduating” from dyslexia support in third grade! We decided it was time to graduate him from public school to private and enrolled him at a school for children with learning differences where he could get the support he needed to be successful academically. Many other families at our school went to places such as the Texas Reading Institute and Neuhaus Education and privately paid for the support the students needed. Many others, like us, simply left and went to private school. I honestly think that the school purposely made accessing testing and support for dyslexia incredibly difficult for this reason. The school is located in an affluent area and administrators knew parents would eventually go and get the help needed privately. In our case, we managed to get the support my son desperately needed, only to be told a year later he graduated.

  194. We moved to Texas in 2011 from a different state. We were hopeful that Texas, as a state that has Dyslexia Handbook and laws in place would be able to acknowledge and provide services that would help our daughter close the gap that was only getting wider in 5th grade. There were no remediation services offered even though we had an IEP, and supposedly live in a state that acknowledges dyslexia. We were fortunate to have the resources to privately remediate our child. Fast forward to freshman year of high school. Somehow the IEP that was developed by our 8th grade ARD team did not transition with her to the High School. She had bare minimum accommodations and was struggling . At the annual ARD, the committee put back in place all of her accommodations including the modifications needed for math, but denied her basic quiz and testing accommodations for Foreign Language, she receives accommodations for quiz and test taking in all other classes . She struggled the entire school year with her foreign language class subsequently failing the second semester. There had been no communication from the teacher or warning that she was in jeopardy of failing. When I reached out to the AP for next steps the only solution I was given was for her to repeat the second semester without any accommodations for quiz and test taking.
    I hired an advocate and with professional help was able to have our ARD committee rebuild her IEP and move forward to year two of foreign language. I truly believe that without professional help we would not have been able to get what was needed for my daughter to prove her knowledge the same as her peers.
    It shouldn’t be this hard for school districts to do the right thing. The laws are clear, yet again and again we parents need to fight for FAPE for our children. At the school level I believe many of the educators would like to do the right thing for our children but at the district and state level it is clear, by the many stories being told, that the best interest of the child is not a priority.

  195. Is it any coincidence that the expenditure per student in Texas on public primary and secondary education’s near the lowest in the United States? Note the following, moreover, in that regard: Texas is one of only seven states free from income tax. Income tax, moreover, is a critical part of funding for such education in most other states. So there should be freedom from surprise about the aforesaid statistic!

    Given that reality, then, how, one might ask, can special education ever become adequate in Texas? That is, special education in accordance with “IDEA” and its principle for students with disabilities of “Free Appropriate Public Education”, or “FAPE”. And to what avail, in this regard, TEA’s recent promise to abandon its so-called 8.5 % “cap”? Or even more to the point, to what avail any continuing intervention by the United States Department of Education! For under the Constitution of this nation, Texas and its fortynine “sisters” are sovereign states. Thus only Texas can decide whether to adopt an income tax within its domain! It would therefore seem that Congress overlooked this “peculiarity” when it passed the aforesaid act: The aforesaid federal department’s powerless to enforce compliance! And any effort to persist in that regard’s likely to bring the Supreme Court into play!

    • You would communicate better without all the aforesaids. Income tax, or one less football stadium per district, or politicians who give us the impetus to educate kids all would be useful.

  196. I have an nearly 19 year old son who has been identified as AU and SI since age 3. He attended PPCD in Garland ISD at age three and remains in a Transition program to this day. Through my experience with my son, I earned a reputation for knowing the federal and state laws well enough to garner better services than most. As a result, I have advocated for other SPED parents in Greenville ISD, Kemp ISD, McKinney ISD, Dallas ISD, Rockwall ISD, Kaufman ISD, Quitman ISD, Caddo Mills ISD and Richardson ISD. Aside from Richardson ISD, which was primarily a transportation issue, every other LEA has resisted identifying students as eligible for SPED. In some cases, I think the resistance was due to a likely ASD identification, which would result in the required Autism Supplement services being extended, which are numerous and costly. Instead, most cases where ASD was identified by a private physician using appropriate assessment procedures, school districts would push for ED identifications, where no AU Supplement was required. I have seen school district instruct counselors. diagnosticians to provide 504 plans where students clearly qualified under one of the criteria that would qualify them for full SPED services (IEPs, BIPs, Manifestation Determinations). I have no doubt that throughout the decade plus that I have been helping parents navigate the maze that is Special Education, hundreds of students, not represented with advocates or parents who knew better, failed to be identified because of the TEA cap of 8.5%. Parents look to state agencies for support and enforcement of the law, not to be complicate in breaking the law mandated by IDEA 2004. The fact that the same agency responsible for enforcing compliance of LEAs was actually the agency forcing LEAs to betray students and parents in need of services is beyond comprehension of anyone with a conscience. Texas Educational Agency must recognize and make amends for the fact that due to the culture perpetuated by TEA itself, Texas is looking at an entire generation left behind, not just a child left behind. The level of failure is epic, and consequences have already been felt on behalf of the children and parents involved. Where are the consequences for TEA?

    • I could never even get my son tested much less diagnosed for anything when he was in school. Good for you!

  197. Our journey started in the fall of 2010 when we enrolled our student
    into Kindergarten. Our student was diagnosed with a heart condition that resulted into major surgery as an infant with his diagnoses we knew he would have to have long term supports in school.

    Our district did not offer a 504 plan, and we did not know that we had to put all requests for services in writing; as a result, are child went without 504 plan for the entire school year. The teacher quietly implemented the RTI tier process without notifying us. We did not know the OSEP issues a memo in 2011 about the misuse of RTI process. Our child had issues with fine and gross motor skills, reading, writing and math, and behavior.
    Resulting in the school failing the “child find” process mandated by the federal government.

    In the 1st grade we requested verbally (again we did not know that all requests must be made in writing) for a referral to special education because our child’s grades where suffering do to his disability. The school again implemented the RTI process this time all three tiers were given. It wasn’t until the 6th month in school after the holiday break when I received the referral paperwork. The school district also did not disclose their special education department information either. We did not know that all the school’s special education was given through a cooperative. .

    There were tons of issues with the referral process for the FIE. The school only recognized OHI for ADHD not heart condition nor the mild cerebral palsy. It took an entire school year with additional special education complaints to address these areas for eligibility.

    The school are also violating student HIPPA and FERPA rights by requesting consent for medical records which are used to deny services or limit services. Our school district is guilty of this practice we signed consent than later rejecting it. Our school district got very irritated with us.

    During the ARD process with the school we verbally requested additional OT for mild cerebral palsy diagnoses. We were left with the rejection the reason because of “educational verses medical model” IDEA does not recognize such law and it is used to deny services for a child with a disability.

    The ARD process itself is really confusing and intimidating for parents. The handouts that our given such as the procedural safeguards and the ARD process it miles well be written in codes because it is hard to understand it. I understand that the school’s are required to give it to the parents. The schools don’t offer any information either. Its is all “hush, hush” less the parents know the better.

    The LSSPs also used observational methods as well as part of the FIE instead of gathering data using researched based methods. We had to get our child retested when we left the district. Our child was later diagnosed with borderline intellectual functioning.

    The school failed to evaluate adaptive behavior,social/emotional/behavior that also included an FBA. The OT/SLP/PT used observational methods for their evaluations which denied SPD and PT our child was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, and no researched based testing was completed either. Physical therapy was crucial at this point because of the denial of services our child will have to have corrective surgery on his legs. Our child speech was hard to interpreted so we had another evaluation done and our child’s speech was around the age of 5 to 6 years of age. Our student was entering the
    fourth grade.

    We had to have our insurance cover both areas of services at later dates. Our school district is guilty of using the practice of “informal observational assessment” for gathering data instead of using the research based testing. We’ve learning this is another tool the school uses to delay, deny or limit services. We also are getting OT through insurance as well.

    The parents weren’t provided with related services process logs and services logs this is another practice the school uses to sooner or later to eliminate services. We filed a special education complaint due to this practice.

    In 2nd grade The school fought us on verbal request for dyslexia testing when IDEA and TEA dyslexia handbook clearly states the dyslexia is not only recognized through IDEA but state law backs the law. The school did the tests after we had to file a special education complaint. The school did the tests but used the wrong IQ score so it resulted in us paying out of pocket to retests showing accurate results. The school district proceeded to tell us that we had to go to Scottish Rite for dyslexia testing then later we were told that dyslexia wasn’t under the special education law. By this time I contacted the stated parent information center here in Texas for guidance on these ongoing issues. OSEP also issued that dyslexia is a specific learning disability.

    The school did not recognize Irlen screening when our student kept complaining of not able to read a word on the paper and Irlen is associated with dyslexia and brain damage that was associated with mild cerebral palsy.

    The school had student on student bullying issues which resulted denial of FAPE which OSEP had addresses recently. The school would use employees to discriminate, harass, intimidate the students. Parents who posed or challenged the district’s policies on special education would also get the same treatment. OSEP also issued guidance on this issue as well recently. We continued to fight back though complaint process.

    The 3rd grade was our students final year in brick and mortar school. The school again decided to retaliate against us by using employees which caused us to withdraw due to safety concerns. We had a full year of advocating in writing and filling special education complaints.

    We’ve been on the road for nearly two years with retesting. We had been in touch with our local mental health authority which we didn’t not know there services were available to use and the school didn’t provide a referral. We have been out of pocket just about everything or our insurance has provided funding for. What happened to free appropriate education schools are suppose to be provided to our students?
    Our district sure didn’t provide it to our student.

    We enrolled our student in the virtual school in the 2014-2015 school year and have been there since. It has been a success. We have been in a ongoing complaint dispute with the former district for the last 3 years to try to get some answers. When I heard about the ongoing problems with CSCOPE and its elimination then issues with the STAAR testing, then now 8.5% cap on special education. I just couldn’t believe it. It all made sense though why our special education population is struggling in standardized testing, why there such a huge homeschooling population, parents fought hard against CSCOPE.

  198. Thank you for inviting the public to comment. I am a parent of children attending schools within Cypress-Fairbanks ISD (CFISD). I have experienced the same disillusionment some of the parents and teachers reported to the Houston Chronicle’s investigative journalist, Brian Rosenthal. His series helped me understand that the schools themselves are somewhat limited in what they can do for students, because of restrictions that are imposed on them. But I also know that most teachers are not trained on how to even recognize a learning disability. This became evident to me through my own experience as a parent of children with learning differences. Two of my children are affected by dysgraphia, and although the school denies they are affected by dyslexia, I believe both have a form of it. Over the last 5 years, I have spent thousands of dollars in private tutoring by a Certified Academic Language Therapist and Licensed Dyslexia Therapist. I first sought the help of this specialized tutor, at the beginning of second grade for my oldest child. But I knew there was a problem much earlier, after being advised by a preschool teacher to “bridge” my child. The preschool teacher told me if I sent my daughter to kindergarten, she would struggle and require tutoring. After that was brought to my attention, we chose to take her advice and “bridge” my daughter. “Bridge” is a private ($$) fifth year of preschool program. The curriculum is more rigorous than preschool for four year olds, but not as rigorous as kindergarten. After being notified by the veteran preschool teacher that my daughter was not ready for kindergarten, I started to notice that my daughter’s handwriting and reading were not consistent with other kids her age. I started to express my concerns to teachers in kindergarten, and continued to do so annually thereafter. At the beginning of second grade, I requested a meeting with the school counselor and Assistant Principal. It took them the whole school year to “collect evidence” that she was showing signs of dyslexia, before they would “screen” her for dyslexia. There was no diagnostic work-up by a diagnostician or psychologist. My child was only offered a “screen” for dyslexia at the end of second grade, and it was performed by the school’s dyslexia teacher. Although my child’s “screen” revealed my child was below level in several areas, the school reported that her difficulties were not consistent with, or severe enough, to qualify for dyslexia services. I didn’t know at the time that I could have challenged their determination. I did not have to sign the papers. Despite their determination, I knew my daughter still needed a lot of help. Luckily I was able to continue to pay for tutoring, which my daughter started 3 days/week, year-round, (as recommended by Neuhaus Education Center), in the beginning of second grade. In fourth grade, I approached the school again and complained. After a re-screen at the end of 4th grade, my daughter qualified for a 504 for dysgraphia (can co-exist with dyslexia), and received services. Luckily, my younger child is already receiving 504 services for dysgraphia. But this did not happen without my repeated requests for help, even with a family history. I must add that like her older sibling did at her age, she also requires three days/week of tutoring for reading, writing, and spelling. So from my experience, the schools are unlikely to offer any services to children, without repeated requests from the parent, and repeated failure by the child. I just think of all of the kids out there with parents that do not have the money to afford tutoring. Or they believe the school’s determination, and do not continue to advocate for their children.

  199. December 12, 2016

    Dear Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA),

    It is heartbreaking to read these comments from teachers and parents who care so much and can do so little to help their children due to lack of resource. I would like to advocate for ongoing funding and solutions by highlighting a brief success we have already had in Texas. Beginning in 2001, Accessible Arts worked in 140 classrooms, trained 280 teachers and teacher’s aides, and served over 1,200 students. Unfortunately the program was discontinued due to lack of funding, despite strong evidence of student success and teacher investment and benefit. We need to build (not destroy) effective approaches that empower teachers to serve all the children of Texas, remembering that early strategies are far more cost effective than later ones.

    The Accessible Arts School Outreach Program made available methods and applications of music, dance and art therapies to special education teachers and students with disabilities in Austin Independent School District. Expressive arts therapists, with their training in psychology, child development and counseling, model for teachers more effective strategies for classroom behavior management as well as group dynamics skill building. They carefully facilitated adapted hands-on, multi-sensory and experiential arts activities, combining verbal and nonverbal modalities and approaches. Goals of the program included:

    1. To train Special Education (LifeSkills, Resource, Social/Behavioral units) teachers in methods and applications of expressive arts in learning.
    2. To maximize the learning potential of students with learning, behavioral, mental and physical disabilities through hands-on, in-class expressive arts approaches.
    3. To promote increased application of expressive arts in special education classrooms.
    4. To create an adapted arts curriculum resource guide, interactive website and video resources made available to teachers.
    5. To provide training and internship opportunities for master’s level professionals in the integration of the arts in therapeutic and educational settings.

    Evaluation results from detailed teacher surveys showed extremely high teacher satisfaction. A list of teacher’s observations student achievement showed significant increases in motivation, behavior, concentration, impulse control, verbal and non-verbal communication, gross and fine motor skills, group co-operation, and test taking skills through stress reduction techniques.
    There were also significant decreases in bullying, acting out, and negative behaviors reported by teachers as students became more empowered and skilled in positive interactions. It is clear from teacher evaluations that this program enlivened and strengthened class curricula, and that teachers gained new skills and became more inspired to teach using expressive arts.

    Through the in-class training this program offered, teachers gained new skills in the following areas:
    • Teachers gained hands-on experience in adapting chosen art forms (music, dance, and art) to the special needs and abilities of their students. Applications include the use of expressive arts for conflict resolution and group cooperation, social and communication skills, self-regulation and impulse control, sensory integration, fine and gross motor skill development, and cognitive skill development.

    • Teachers learned how to facilitate self-expression as a basis for increased self-esteem and confidence in their students. They learned new methods and means for positively communicating with their students, better supporting their communication initiatives.

    • This program’s teacher training provided teachers with an opportunity to recognize student initiative and embrace classroom structures that support greater student effectiveness in learning. An important benefit of the arts to AISD special needs students is that the students’ own initiative and sense of agency is heightened. Self-initiation leads to the ability to live more independently, a common goal for all students.

    • Teachers gained competency in use of sensory integration methods and creative arts approaches to learning. Through the one-on-one approach to this program, teachers had an opportunity to learn the theory behind expressive arts education as well as practical applications in their everyday classroom situations.

    The program was supported with funding from a combination of corporate, non-profit, foundation, and city and state arts agencies. AISD’s Special Education office has helped to support the teacher training component through logistical support. VSA arts of Texas have supported the program since its inception. The City of Austin Cultural Contracts has been an active support since 2004. Texas Commission on the Arts provided generous funding in 2010 and 2011. Individual Donors were also an important annual source of support. Please restore funding to IDEA so that we can resume programs such as Accessible Arts, which help to create the kinds of schools all our children can thrive in.

    Sincerely,

    Kalila Homann, LPC-S, BC-DMT

    Resources:
    Berrol, C.F. (1987). Israel: Dance/movement therapy and the creative arts therapies in special education. New York: World Rehabilitation Fund, National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, United States Department of Education.

    Cochran, J.L. (1996). Using play and art therapy to help culturally diverse students overcome barriers to school success. School Counselor, 43(4), 308-316.

    Frostig, K. & Essex, M. (1998). Creative arts therapies in school: A supervision and program development guide. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
    Harvey, S. (1989). Creative arts therapies in the classroom: A study of cognitive, emotional and motivational changes. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 11(2), 85-100.

    Hanna, J. (1999). Partnering dance and education: Intelligent moves for changing times. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    Kornblum, R. (2002). Disarming the playground: Violence prevention through movement and pro-social skills. Oklahoma City, OK: Wood & Barnes Publishing.

  200. My son is in 4th grade and put in Special Ed last year after I finally had enough. He was in speech through his elementary school from 3 years old until K, when he was kicked out because he “no longer qualified”. He still struggles with his speech. Beyond that, he can barely read, can’t spell, and physically can’t write. Each year teachers would describe his difficulties to me and place him in the next grade, not pass him. He now has an IEP, and his teacher won’t follow it. So many emails back and forth about how difficult the work is for him. The response is that the work is a district expectation. His IEP called for shortened assignments, yet he still does the same amount as others. He gets some reading help, but no help for writing or spelling. He got more support last year from two wonderful teachers who cared and went the extra mile, even without an IEP. Now he is just left to flounder on his own.

  201. In 2006 my son entered kindergarten in CY Fair ISD, beginning in 1st grade, I requested testing for speech therapy because my son could not say his r’s. He was denied testing. Additionally, my son began seeing a psychologist in 1st grade and was diagnosed with adhd; he received no additional services from the school for his ADHD diagnosis.

    In 4th grade my son was seeing a private counselor because he was unable to make friends in school and hated to go to school because he was picked on by other students and staff as well. This counselor suggested he be tested for aspergers. Again, I went to CFISD and requested formal testing for my son in conjunction with the recommendation of his counselor. Again, he was denied testing because he made good grades and interacted in the classroom during instruction. However, they finally agreed to speech therapy for his difficulties with his r’s.

    In the spring of 2014, my son was diagnosed with aspergers aka ASD through a neurologist. At this time I contacted the school he attended in CFISD; again it fell on deaf ears. While he was given an empty 504- with ZERO ACCOMODATIONS; they declined to recognize the medical diagnosis of the neurologist and denied doing their own testing due to the time of year. All through the following school year, I attempted to work with the school; requesting help, help and more help. Two years later as my son entered 9th grade; I insisted on some accommodations to be included on his 504! I finally received a few but only because of his ADHD diagnosis! At the start of 9th grade I again requested testing for ASD to determine the level of services my son should receive, since CFISD refuses to take the word of our neurologist, AGAIN we were denied! All of these years my son has been denied services to help with social skills, organizational skills, study skills etc. all skills he requires to be a successful student and adult.

    CFISD- is notorious for denying services to students with ASD!! My son deserves the accommodations that will help him to be successful in life!

    On another note; CFISD also denied my daughter help with her Irlens Syndrome. I requested she be tested and she was. The tester told me she had Irlens but the district wouldn’t diagnosis her as having Irlens because she made good grades and had learned to compensate on her own! Thanks CFISD!

    • Sadly, you need an advocate. Conversations never happened. All repeat ALL requests in writing. All conversations confirmed with your understanding of the conversations’ result by email on the same day.

  202. My dyslexic son has been unable to learn to read. Dyslexia does not qualify him for special education in his school district – only classroom modifications. Giving a child more time to complete a written assignment does absolutely no good if the child has never learned to read in the first place. The classroom modifications he is entitled to under Section 504 are a joke in his case. If he could get dyslexia therapy (ALT) I’m sure he could catch up with his class in no time. But, he has been denied that one thing that could make his life so much better.

  203. Alief ISD accepted my son into Special Ed … but dealing with them over the years was always a problem. We raised issues they ignored. It looked to us like he had autism. We specified his behaviors and the diagnostic criteria. We were met with an arrogant patronizing attitude: “Now mom, dad ….” We found some teachers that were skilled and gifted, and others that were simply incapable of dealing with students with special needs. One high school history teacher thought it appropriate to have him color pictures from a coloring book. An English teacher refused to make ARD directed modifications. We complained to the school special ed director, with no response. We went to the district, no response. Then we talked to the school counselor, and a change was made immediately. ARDs were a joke. Just a bureaucratic rubber stamp. It took three years after graduation to get a diagnosis through DARS (another frustrating agency that did not do evaluations within the time required by law. And then, one day, I met one of his former counselors in Starbucks. She asked about him, and I told her about what had been happening. And she apologized. She said that we were right all along about his autism spectrum disorder, and that the staff knew it, but couldn’t say anything. That the district diagnostician had decided to limit autism diagnoses because of funding issues, and had determined that my son would not get one. She said, “Anyone who sees him walk across the room knows what he has.” And she admitted that Alief ISD failed us. We fought hard–and we are highly educated. I hate to think of how many students fail to get services because their parents are intimidated by the bureaucracy and the patronizing attitudes, or who do not speak English, or who don’t have the education and accept what they are told.

  204. TEA trying to say they never created an 8.5% cap is not true. To blame districts for misunderstanding the cap is just a way for them to cover themselves. If districts misunderstood for all of these years, TEA should have corrected them a long time ago. As an educator I have heard of this cap, seen districts lose funding and staff because of this cap, and saw administrators fill out disciplinary paperwork for going over this cap. TEA needs to be disciplined, not the local districts. Give districts the resources they need to serve all students. Stop cutting our funding so we can do what’s right by our kids.

  205. It is only half the story to focus on “admitting” a child into Special Ed. Once into SPED, the schools need to provide the right accommodations and supports to help, and not violate the IEP. In our school district (Clear Creek ISD) they not only violated the IEP, but my child was verbally threatened and bullied by SPED staff. End result? He’s worse off now than he was before CCISD SPED, and we are footing a huge bill to get him help. Also, Texas needs to extend the 12-month Statute of Limitations. It takes a very long time for a parent to even get educated, understand, and figure out what’s going on with their kid to even be aware that something awry is going on. By that time, you’re out of the statute of limitations period. The ISDs do a good job at dragging their feet. I believe the state should educate parents on their rights so they know ahead of time before a problem arises; right now, a parent has to “stumble” upon the rules and rights. Also, the Texas hearing officers are biased towards the schools based on past due process results/decisions. In one decision I read, the HO actually stated that she was giving the teachers more credibility in her decision than the other professionals that treated & evaluated the child. In addition to parents being at a major disadvantage with the due process system, a parent can’t even stand a chance to win a civil rights or personal injury suit because of all the immunity school districts are given. The kids, and their parents, are being taken advantage of by ISD’s that have money to hire high-powered attorneys. My son, who has mental health issues, was threatened by a teacher who said he was going to “throw him up against the wall”, and was bullied by this same teacher constantly, including the teacher verbally belittling me (the mom) to my son, and shoving books out of my son’s arms and then telling my son to “clean up his crap”. I have no recourse, and in the meantime we’re paying huge bills to get my child the help he needs. Oh, and the 5th circuit of which Texas is a part of, separates mental health from education. Now how does that make sense? If your brain is impaired, how are you going to learn? The whole system is so messed up. We moved to Texas from Pennsylvania, and I believe in terms of my son’s education it was a mistake.

  206. September 27, 2016 my son came home with a black eye from school. My son Braiden, is 8 years old. _______ has cerebral palsy, refractory epilepsy, globally delayed, does not sit, walk, or crawl, he is non verbal, and is blind. He requires total care. The private duty nurse that attended school with him caused his black eye while she was changing him in the private changing area. Nurse claims teacher nor the two paras in the classroom assisted her, however she did not ask for help either. A physics therapist walked into the room and witnessed this private duty nurse shaking my son trying to get his pants back on after his diaper change. She has his legs and pants twisted shaking him all the while his little face pressed up against a cement wall that the changing table is attached to. _______ was crying when the therapist got there. The private duty nurse was asked by the therapist what happened to braidens eye and she repeated her self several time she did not know what happened to his eye! However she calls and leaves me a voicemail stating _______ rolled over and hit his eye on the wall. The school is doing nothing about this incident when they are the ones that forced me to go with THEIR nursing agency that THEY picked and said I could not keep my current agency. We as parents should have the right to chose who attends school with our children. This lady was working with my son for 3 days only! I am livid and want answers and help to see that these schools can’t do as they please. Our children are special and require special help and needs, not to be mistreated in any way.

  207. I have a 6 year old daughter in Fort Bend ISD. I’ve known she has some type of learning disability since she was 4 years old. Otherwise extremely bright, she has great difficulty reading. We have had her extensively evaluated by an independent educational diagnostician at a cost of $1500 to us. The lengthy report stated that she is developmentally dyslexic and outlined detailed guidance on what type of educational interventions would help her. When she started kindergarten last year, we presented this report to her school thinking that it would be a clear process to get her help. Since then, we have had multiple meetings and 504 sessions with little progress. The school first said that they needed to assess her themselves. They have done so twice now, at our insistence, and both times they have come back saying that she does not qualify for dyslexia services. When we asked them directly if she is dyslexic the response was, “I’m not saying she’s not dyslexic. I’m just saying she doesn’t qualify for services.”

    The administrators and teachers at her school have been very sympathetic to our plight, and have done what they can to assist her but we still do not have specific targeted interventions for our daughter. I am friends with many educators, Campus Compliance Coordinators, and diagnosticians and they all tell me privately that it is extremely difficult to get special ed or learning disability services. One even went so far as to say, “you almost have to be a white girl to get services”. My daughter is a white girl and even she is having difficulty getting services for dyslexia, primarily, we are told because of her age and above average overall intelligence (she is able to just make the bare minimum reading standard for her age). I have heard from countless people “they won’t provide dyslexia services for children until they are in 2nd or 3rd grade unless they are severely dyslexic”. And it is always said very matter-of-factly as if, that’s just the way things are in Texas, and that we should just accept it. I won’t accept it. We are losing precious time when her brain is most receptive to learning. Even worse than not learning to read proficiently, my daughter is already, in first grade, developing a negative attitude towards learning which could have a lifetime effect on her.

    What saddens and scares me most is this. If we, people who have financial means and advanced educations and speak English as our first language are having difficulty getting services for our child, how are the people who don’t have these advantages doing it? Who speaks up for their children when they can’t take off from work to make the multitude of meetings required to get services? Who will ensure that their children get the support they need? The answer is clearly not the Texas Educational Administration or Texas legislators.

    Thank you, Houston Chronicle and US Dept of Education for calling attention to this not so covert institutionalized neglect and abuse of Texas children. Please keep up the fight and let me know what I can do to advance the cause.

    • This could be my exact story. I have an 8 year old who was tested outside the Pflugerville ISD and received a diagnosis of dyslexia. We, too, submitted a copy of the test to the district, only to have it shredded a year later because “those things typically don’t need to be in a child’s file”. We have been fighting for over a year for accommodations, only to have the district drag their heels about internal testing, and then to finally say she is not dyslexic “enough” to qualify for services. We are right at the age where her brain is learning these reading and writing pathways, and she is capable of learning techniques to adapt, and yet the district, and the state of Texas (to which the district is held accountable) is letting her down.

  208. When my child was transitioning from Part C to Part B services his service coordinator informed the District that he had diagnoses of classic autism, stroke, CP, seizures, and global developmental delays. The120, 90, and 60 day timelines went by with nothing done by the District. About 30 days before his 3rd birthday the District came to our home and told me that all the services he was getting from ECI and privately would not be continued as they worked on an educational model and I should not expect the same services or level of services. Despite knowing all his diagnoses beforehand the District never assessed my son in all areas of suspected disabilities. They did an evaluation and found him eligible as a speech impaired child only – ignoring his severe autism, cerebral palsy, and global developmental delays. They severely curtailed what instructional and related services they would provide for him making it impossible for us to place him in school or risk the time period for intensive interventions. The denial forced me to have to leave the rest of my family and seek an educational program in New York. The two IEPs were irreconcilable. When I approached our school board in Texas during the public input session about the failures in the SPED program I was reprimanded, told it was inappropriate to discuss these issues, and told me my only recourse was to sue. I was severely retaliated against because of my advocacy for my son by our school board, SPED administrators, and the school attorneys. I tried to get assistance from TEA but TEA did nothing but continuously call my District to tell them what I was saying despite my urging that they not do so. There is so much more… So the cap is one issue but the denial of appropriate services to children with disabilities is another way they reduce numbers. Creating such deficient IEPs that parents are forced to remove their children.

  209. Track the money – TEA hires Walsh Anderson, large School District Law firm, to train “Independent” Hearing Officers that are also hired by TEA. Walsh is also hired by the regional service centers to “train” staff and parents. These sessions turn into a mocking session of Special Needs parents and inappropriately narrow or erroneous legal standards are given for such items as related services, service delivery models, and parameters for eligibility. Walsh is all about denying eligibility and services and making a fortune doing so… there is a conspiracy between TEA, TASB, Walsh (and other law firms) to enter into an enterprise deliberately designed to deny the civil rights of disabled students. It is deeper than the cap… the cap is real but there is so much wrong. Please question why so many parents are homeschooling, buying individual health policies to get private treatment, or going broke utilizing private schools. Civil/Criminal RICO

    • On a blog here at 8:27 AM today, “ASD” asserts the following: One need only “Track the money…” to explain why special education in Texas under “IDEA” is inadequate: Specifically, TEA’s deliberately incurred inordinate expenses on legal services to process requests for enrollment in special education. Moreover, arbitrary denials on such requests have facilitated this activity. I agree that the root cause of this problem with special education is “money”. I would offer the following argument, however:

      The aforesaid analysis is mere speculation, informed though it may be. I’ve already presented an incontrovertible fact, however, elsewhere today on this blog site(3:16 PM): State-level income taxes throughout most of this nation are a critical part of funding for primary and secondary public schools. And Texas’ lack of such a tax seriously hampers its ability to do the following: Provide adequate education of the disability-free type, let alone for special needs!

      Above and beyond that fact, however, one should ask the following question: If “ASD” ’s claim about corruption is valid, then why wouldn’t TEA be actively seeking candidates for enrolling in special education? “IDEA” requires such responsibility by schools, and that would necessitate much more legal services! In fact, though, take my own experience as a tutor, and Mr. Rosenthal’s recent articles in the Houston Chronicle: As they both attest, TEA only responds to requests for enrollment!

      I should only further add one comment:

      Corruption’s almost always possible in governments. So suppose that there are grounds for suspicion in the current situation, as “ASD” believes: Then the only appropriate course of action would lie with the Texas Attorney General’s office, and possibly with his appointment of a special prosecutor.

  210. Texas is not complying with Federal IDEA as it pertains to dyslexia. IDEA identifies dyslexia as a Specific Learning Disability which is handled under SpEd.
    At Austin ISD, they have adopted the notion that a child needs to be behind grade level, to have “severe enough” dyslexia to merit SpEd intervention. In our case, SpEd intervention would NOT offer a certified dyslexia program, it would NOT be taught by a CALT. (in other words, they would not abide by IDEAs instruction for it to be taught by a certified instructor in the Least Restrictive Environment.)
    I’ve provided the district with the 10.23.15 Guidance Letter on Dyslexia and it’s the first most of my contacts have ever heard of this note.
    OSERS, TEA needs some EXPLICIT instruction on how to overhaul their dyslexia intervention so that it is in compliance with federal law.

  211. When I moved to Texas in 2006 and started teaching in FWISD I was surprised when the principal told us that we had too many SPED students. We had “over identified” and we needed to cut back the number of students in SPED. Part of my surprise was because I knew that if I took my class of students back to the school I had taught in previously in another state, several of my students would have been receiving speech therapy and several more of them would have been receiving services in a resource setting. At least one of my students would have been moved to a behavior classroom. Yet in FWISD they were receiving no services.

    I had one student that I spent over half the year trying to get tested, following the RTI process and all its tiers. The last couple weeks of the school year we finally met with the mother and at that meeting the administration decided that we should spend another six to nine weeks trying more interventions before testing. In other words, nothing will happen and next year her new teacher will have to start the process again.

    I had another student who was an immigrant from _____. He was an ELL student. He had been at our school since PK. In my second grade class, he could not read his name written on the board. He could read nothing. When I started the RTI process with him I was told that I couldn’t even do the RTI process because he was an ELL. There was moving him to the “Language Center” for the next year. I left FWISD so I don’t know what ever happened to him.

    I could continue on with more stories like this. Even when parents asked directly to have their children tested the school refused to do it and insisted that they must go through the RTI process, which of course they would drag out for several years.

    I have a daughter with special needs. She has in the public school system since she was 3 years old. Since moving to Texas we have had many problems with the school. For example, one of her many diagnosis is AU. When she was diagnosed by one of the leading experts in the field with over 35 years experience the school decided that they could not just take her word for it and they needed to do their own evaluation. I am not sure that anyone at the school is even qualified to do that kind of testing, and yet they did. It took them about 4 months to do the testing and then they decided she should be in an AU class. This is just one example of the problems we have had.

    I have another daughter that started struggling in school in first grade. I suspected that shy had dyslexia and dysgraphia. I asked to meet with the teacher before Thanksgiving and was pushed off until just before Christmas. The morning of the meeting I got an email saying the meeting needed to be rescheduled due to a Christmas program. The meeting finally happened near the end of January. When I walked into the meeting the principal was there as well. They proceeded to tell me that my daughter was lazy and would end up failing and in special ed because she refused to do her work. Then they turned around and told me how smart she was but that she just refused to do her work. They stated that at the beginning of the year she would write a whole page and now she wouldn’t. I knew that my daughter could not write a whole page. At the end of the year I collected her journal and never once had she written a whole page. Most of her journal entries consisted of “I am sorry Mrs. XXXX.

    We moved that summer and second grade wasn’t much better but thankfully her teacher was kind! In the spring of that school year I requested dyslexia testing and an evaluation with an OT. The OT came in and observed her and gave me some pointers but there was no official evaluation. They school also refused the dyslexia testing. By this time I had done some research on dyslexia and was certain she had it. By the end of the school year we decided that it was in our daughter’s best interest to pull her out of public school since the school was refusing to test her, let alone provide services to her. At the beginning of 5th grade I did have my daughter tested for dyslexia through the public school and was told that if she was attending public school she would indeed qualify for services.

    Back to my older daughter. She takes an alternative assessment for the STARR test. She is non-verbal and has no functional communication. I ask and have it noted in her ARD paperwork that I do not want her taking the test. Yet, every year she takes it. I have even called TEA asking about having her not take it. They told me I would be surprised at how well she would do on it. Well last year she scored a zero on every section of the test. Why on earth are teenagers that function on the level on an 18 month old being given multiple choice tests?

    There are many problems in the education system in Texas and I am sure that many of them start with TEA. The way they credential teachers is a joke. Once you have a teaching certificate in one area, all you have to do is pass an exam in any other area and you are certified. You don’t even have to have any credits in the area.

    Thank you Brian Rosenthal for bringing this to the attention of the public. Now maybe some changes will happen and our children will get the education the law says they should be getting.

  212. At the 12/5/16 Governor’s Council for Persons with Disabilities, TEA stated that their indicator (currently 8.5%) is developed through periodic research for a mean number.

    Let’s consider that for a moment. For cases where a partial-student cannot be assigned to special education, a school will go lower than the mean number rather than higher than the number, to avoid repercussion. (Each whole student must fit below the 8.5%.) This serves to continuously be lowering the mean so that one day it would approach zero. (In ten years it has moved down by 4%. In 20 more years, the mean could move down another 8%).

    Is this happening due to ridiculously creating an indicator and staying below it? Or did someone order cost-containment and name the % — with no research for a mean, whatsoever?

  213. The US Department of Education needs to look into the dyslexia services provided and eligibility requirements utilized at HISD.

    My son has been diagnosed, by two different evaluators with PhDs who specialize in this field, with ADHD and specific learning disabilities in spelling, reading and written expression. One evaluator even stated at the top of his report that he is “at educational risk and requires a high level of support in learning environments and ongoing, intensive and targeted intervention.”

    The HISD evaluator determined my son was not eligible and simply said “there was no educational need.”

    Under federal law, identification and placement decisions must be made by a 504 committee of knowledgeable persons, and the committee must be knowledgeable of the child.

    In direct violation of his rights, no committee was convened, no one knowledgeable about my son was consulted, no documentation or written report was provided, no observation took place, no contact with his teacher was made, no data from his classroom work was collected, no parental feedback solicited, no aptitude or achievement tests reviewed.

    The evaluator, who admitted she “knew nothing” about my son, was the sole person to determine my child was ineligible for dyslexia services or 504 protections. The evaluator did not look into any other data or information other than the 3 “rubrics” HISD uses in determining eligibility – a child’s score on reading rate, fluency, and isolated words.

    My understanding is that the 504 “committee” must base its decision of eligibility based on a “review of data from a variety of sources (34 CFR §104.35(c)(2)). She did not review data from a variety of sources, in fact no other data was reviewed.

    The TEA Dyslexia Handbook states “if the student’s difficulties are unexpected, in relation to other abilities, the committee must then determine the student has dyslexia.” There is a 38+ pt difference between his listening comprehension and oral expression vs. oral spelling, basic reading, and written expression.

    Another issue that should be investigated is how HISD addresses students who are both gifted and have SLDs (twice exceptional). HISD has absolutely nothing in place to deal with twice exceptional (2e) kids. Because these kids are making decent grades, HISD denies them eligibility to programs and services, claiming “there is no educational need.”

    Many 2e kids are identified as gifted but not identified as having a learning disability; giftedness masks the disability. They are the most frequently under-identified and under-served population in our schools due to the fact that these children are able to maintain grade-level expectations until the difficulty level of the curriculum increases, often during middle and high school years.

    • Thank you for shining a light on the unique needs of 2e learners, particularly gifted/SLD.

      I, too, have experienced delay and denied identification of SLD (written expression, dyslexia!) in two 2e children. Instead, I’ve been told my children who participate in gifted programming should consider general education programming as the difficulty increases in middle and high school.

      2e is complicated, but private evaluators can identify appropriate placement, interventions, and accommodations. Why can’t TX public schools?

      Salt in the wound: Because the FIE did not identify SLDs (including dyslexia!), classroom teachers believe the struggle is not related to SLDs, but rather a lack of motivation or laziness. Masking persists…even with significant subtest scatter (4 standard deviations in our case). Not your normal pattern of strengths and weaknesses by any means.

  214. My son was suspected to have dyslexia at the beginning of his 1st grade year. Our district’s wait time to be tested was more than a year. They had two testers for a district of approximately 87,000 students. We tested him privately and he was identified dyslexic mid-October. Knowing the earlier you receive help the better, we were disheartened to learn that our district did not have a Certified Academic Language Therapist able to work directly with my son. We pulled him out and had him meet privately with a C.A.L.T. This year our district has a special pull-out class of 7 students that work with a teacher. However, it has one level, not taught by a C.A.L.T. and is not specific to my child. You can quickly see that the provisions set forth by FAPE are not being met. His entire education is not publicly-funded nor designed to meet his individual needs. We continue to pull him out for private therapy.
    He currently has a 504 Plan and we have experienced its limitation in procedural safeguards and lack of annual educational goals. We have requested that he be given Special Education services. We were just told at his last Section 504 that unless he demonstrates another deficiency he must remain under the limited 504 Plan. This information contradicts the Federal law and the special standards it provides. How is it that the TEA rules and the Texas Dyslexia Law supersede the Federal law of protection under IDEA? There is so much misinformation and confusion about this and we believe that it begins with the TEA and their unwillingness to appropriately identify eligible Special Education students.

    • It actually begins further up the chain, in Austin, with our elected officials. Choose who you vote for wisely. The ruling party of the last several decades has made this mess and the voters have not held them accountable.