‘Harmful resolution’ guidelines in favor of KISD in particular schooling grievance | Schooling
A family plans to take the Killeen Independent School District to federal court after a lawyer called a “dangerous decision” in favor of the school district on Monday.
In 2019, Stephanie Moody filed a formal complaint against Killeen ISD with the Texas Education Agency – and won – after she said the district failed to recognize her daughter’s two critical diagnoses, autism and a hearing disorder, and did not provide the proper special education services .
Little changed for Moody at KISD, even after the state education office spoke out in her favor, prompting her to bring the matter to court again and finally to evict her children from the district together in 2020.
“There was a compliance plan, and I got the impression that we (TEA) would make sure they are compliant,” Moody said on Monday. “I honestly never understood why I was responsible for taking this to court after I won the TEA complaint.”
Moody’s daughter was diagnosed with autism by a doctor and staff member of the Belton Independent School District – something KISD refused to do during their daughter’s time in the district. But on Monday, after four hearings of testimony, a hearing officer decided on the school district side.
“So the hearing officer basically figured out that the school didn’t identify Samantha as autistic, but that was fine; and that they didn’t really work with the parents, but that was fine, ”said Moody’s attorney Sonja Kerr of Connell Michael Kerr, LLP, of the hearing officer’s decision on Monday. “This is a very dangerous decision. I’ve been in this area for 34 years and this is one of the most dangerous decisions a hearing officer has ever made. “
Stephanie Moody told Herald Monday that she will file a lawsuit over her daughter.
“I feel like I’m ready to go to federal court,” she said. “We keep failing children with special needs, we keep telling them it’s going to be fixed, and I don’t see that happen.”
The school district issued the following statement on Monday.
“Killeen ISD will continue to provide free and adequate public education to students,” said Taina Maya, KISD’s chief communications officer, in an email. “The district hopes the hearing decision today will resolve the issues set out.”
In August there were four hearings on regular special schools, at which Moody and KISD presented testimony, exhibits and arguments.
Ian Spechler, an attorney who serves as a special education hearing officer for the state of Texas, released his 25-page verdict on the case on Monday.
“The Hearing Officer concludes that the district provided a FAPE to students in the 2019-20 school year,” the decision said. “The hearing officer also determines that the district has met its … responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”
Spechler refused to exonerate Samantha Moody’s family and dismissed Moody’s claims as part of IDEA. The verdict says that what the family intended can be challenged in court.
“The hearing officer’s decision on this matter is a final and contestable order,” said Spechler’s verdict. “Any party adversely affected by the Hearing Officer’s findings and decisions may bring a civil action in relation to matters raised at the due process hearing in any competent state court or district court in the United States.”
Kerr said the topic extends well beyond the Moody family and has implications for hundreds of thousands of special school students across the state.
“Although the state of Texas found in its 2019 complaint that this school had violated the law, the school district did not have to take action to compensate the student for the violation,” Kerr said. “So that means that complaints to the State of Texas are also practically meaningless. Most parents just give up and don’t bother about a government complaint or due hearing. Instead, they will move to other school districts or other states. “
Children with disabilities are entitled to access to a FAPE under IDEA. As part of this law, all public school districts are required to provide an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each special school student.
Stephanie Moody claims the district failed to address the shortcomings in her daughter’s IEP identified during a 2019 TEA investigation.
During the hearings, the district claimed that its IEPs were adequate and the hearing officer agreed in his ruling on Monday.
“The student had a number of privately and publicly funded evaluations and the district followed the recommendations from those evaluations,” Spechler wrote in his judgment.
Kerr said that if this decision is made, it will have a profound impact on students and families across the state.
“What happens in states where the state education agency acts like a leader is the state agency reacts and says, ‘This is not right,'” Kerr said, before adding that Texas has no leadership in the state education agency Has.
“If you (TEA) give up, you might as well shut down your complaints department as no county in the state will bother to get a complaint against you.”