KISD might need to pay up after mom alleges lack of particular training companies | Training
A Texas special school hearing officer will decide whether the Killeen Independent School District should pay a family for required special education services that the family says the district did not provide their daughter.
The first of four one-day due process hearings between KISD and Stephanie Moody, whose daughter previously attended KISD, and their respective attorneys begins Wednesday morning.
Moody’s daughter was diagnosed with more than one learning disability. Now 10 years old, she is attending another Bell County public school district.
“Samantha is in 5th grade,” Moody told the Herald. “When we moved, the new school district decided to do its own full assessment that found Samantha to be autistic. She gets support in the new school district that she didn’t get in Killeen. You shouldn’t have to bear the burden of catching up on what KISD hasn’t done. “
After four due process hearings, the Hearing Officer has until October 5th to resolve Moody’s formal complaint.
The Herald sent questions to the district about its special education services.
“Killeen ISD is unable to comment on an ongoing case without parental consent for disclosure,” said Taina Maya, KISD’s chief communications and marketing officer, in an email on Tuesday.
An 8 year ordeal
Moody’s moved to the Killeen area because of the army.
“We only moved here because of my husband’s assignment to Fort Hood,” said Moody, whose husband is now retired from the Army.
The mother said her family’s ordeal began in 2013, before Samantha turned 3.
“It was first examined by KISD at the time, and it has been one fight after another ever since,” said Moody.
According to Moody, even before Samantha’s enrollment at KISD, a cascading series of problems began.
“KISD denied early intervention through the PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) and accompanied their denial with a letter stating that their disabilities were not ‘profound’ enough,” Moody said.
The whole situation should have been handled differently, she said.
“The more I pushed for it, the bigger the problems got,” said Moody.
Moody has gone through the Texas Education Agency’s complaint and dispute resolution process.
On July 10, 2019, she filed a formal complaint with the TEA alleging six violations of the Special Education Act. Following an investigation, on September 5, 2019, the agency found that five of the complaints were partially or fully founded, according to the agency’s 23-page report.
“After I won, I went to a meeting and thought we were finally going to correct their mistakes,” she said.
Instead, KISD appealed the TEA’s decision and hired at least one lawyer.
Moody said she was successful during a second TEA exam.
The years of back and forth will culminate this year with the decision of a hearing officer. Hearing officers in regular hearings can, like judges, award monetary reimbursements. According to the TEA’s Special Education Dispute Handbook, Texas special education hearing officers are private attorneys, not TEA or school district employees.
Days of the TEA hearings are coming up
Moody’s attorney is Sonja Kerr, a partner in the Austin law firm Connell Michael Kerr, LLP.
Kerr told the Herald that during the hearings she intended to prove that the KISD had violated federal law.
“We’re going to try to show the hearing officer that the Samantha School District has indeed denied ‘free adequate public education,'” Kerr said. “The school’s attorney will try to prove they did it. If we prevail, Samantha would be entitled to various legal remedies, including reimbursement for services such as tutoring or therapy. “
Since 1975, when the Education for All Disabled Children Act, now known as the Education of Persons with Disabilities Act (IDEA), was passed, children with disabilities have been entitled to access to “free adequate public education,” or FAPE, according to the US Department of Education.
As part of this federal act, all public school districts are required to provide an individualized education program (IEP) for each special school student. Kerr said Samantha’s IEP was not tailored to their needs and that the district was not working with Moody.
Moody wants members of the community to hear about their family’s experiences.
“We decided to hold an open, public hearing so my daughter wouldn’t be another still-hush case,” said Moody. “I believe there are many other military and non-military families with children with special needs who are in a bad position. I’m bringing the information out into the open to prevent this from happening to the next child. This put a heavy strain on our entire family, both psychologically and financially. I wouldn’t wish our experience to anyone. “