Lawsuit Filed to Power AISD to Finish Persistent Particular Ed Delays: No extra time to attend – Information
The Rosedale School, the AISD school for students with special needs (Photo by John Anderson)
Disability Rights Texas Advocacy Group has filed a lawsuit against Austin ISD in federal court alleging the district denied free and adequate public education to thousands of students, including the five plaintiffs, by failing to timely meet their special educational needs in accordance with the law evaluated statutory provisions. The group calls for extensive changes: “Austin ISD fails because of its disabled students because the evaluation system is defective,” says the complaint.
The civil lawsuit calls on AISD to speed up the assessments and compensate the student plaintiffs and make major changes – including hiring many new specialists – to address the issues identified. The Chronicle reported in February that hundreds of students waited to be evaluated for special education services, in large part due to an exodus of school psychologists and other evaluators citing overwork, low salaries and toxic work environments.
The lawsuit argues that AISD’s continued inability to adequately staff special education has resulted in several violations of federal law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act 1973, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the provision of public services, and IDEA (the Disability Education Act), which defines what types of disabilities a student will question for services. The delays in evaluations, the lawsuit says, were not just an unfortunate but inevitable circumstance, but “a failure … badly, a gross violation of professional judgment, willfully indifferent and the result of willful discrimination”.
States, in this case the Texas Education Agency, must set the rules for implementing IDEA, which in Texas has 15 days for districts to respond to parent evaluation requests, 45 days to complete, and a deadline of Allow 45 days. A three-year cycle for reassessment as students grow and their needs change. According to the lawsuit, around 800 current and future AISD students, in some cases more than a year, are waiting for their initial assessments and around 1,600 are waiting for re-assessments. In the meantime, they are doing without much-needed support services or simply not going to school at all.
Among those who remain in suspension is Andrea Troncoso, a plaintiff on behalf of her 5-year-old daughter. Last year, Troncoso, a mother of three, noticed that her middle daughter was on a stricter schedule, had different emotional responses to stress than her other children, and had difficulty speaking to adults. “”[She] closes in on strangers, “said Troncoso.” It’s beyond being introverted and shy. [She] won’t ask for help. “
Disability Rights Texas advocacy group alleged in a March 29 complaint: “Austin ISD fails because of its disabled students because its rating system is broken.”
As this behavior spread to the classroom, Troncoso asked for an assessment, suggesting that her daughter might need help with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, selective mutism, or oppositional defiant disorder. “I still maintain [that] I don’t need a label for my child, “said Troncoso.” But we need resources because we are just making it blind. “
That was more than a year ago, and Troncoso says she “heard radio silence from AISD” about when an evaluation might take place. Her daughter has returned to face-to-face classes and has started seeing a counselor, but with no treatment or education plan: “We all do what we see, but without any evaluation [or] any kind of idea of what kind of resources we really need, “Troncoso said.
AISD declined to comment on any pending litigation, but district leadership has already publicly discussed the backlog on the special assessment, despite providing different numbers on how many children are affected than DRTx. At the beginning of March, employees informed the AISD Board of Trustees that 437 recommendations were waiting for their evaluation and 958 initial evaluations and re-evaluations were in progress. Elizabeth Casas, chief academic officer, said the AISD’s goal is to clear the backlog at the end of the school year, with parents having clear timeframes until then. “I oblige the employees to do so,” said Casas. “Communication will start pretty quickly after the spring break.”
However, the spring break ended on March 22nd and some parents are still waiting. “Starting our third week after the spring break, we are working diligently to alert parents of upcoming assessments by prioritizing them based on the case and schedule of each student,” AISD wrote in a statement. No requested information was provided on how many parents had been notified.
Trasell Underwood, who first filed for a reassessment for her second grader 18 months ago, said she hadn’t heard from the district and still had no idea when he’ll be assessed. Since the Chronicle first reported its story, Underwood has been advised by her son’s doctor to look into treatment for dyslexia, adding to their concern about the impact of AISD’s delays on his progress.
However, Underwood said she was “hopeful” that the lawsuit would be a wake-up call that could lead to compensation for AISD students who have faced delays despite damage already being done. She said those in charge at AISD “have a history of putting [delays] “Whoever got over it,” said Underwood. “Parents don’t have time to wait for this current administration to get it right. We’re back a year or two … This is urgent.”