On last day of due course of hearings, KISD says they supplied acceptable particular ed providers | Schooling
Staff at the Killeen Independent School District insisted during a recent hearing that they do everything in their power to provide services to a special education student whose mother has filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency.
Stephanie Moody claims that in the years her daughter attended KISD, the district failed to recognize two critical diagnoses – autism and a hearing disorder – and did not provide proper special education.
Samantha Moody is now 10 years old and has just started fifth grade in the Belton Independent School District where her parents say she is getting the educational services she needs.
“You don’t worry about doing her too much service; If she needs a service, she gets it, ”Stephanie Moody told the Herald on Wednesday.
In the Moody’s case, there were three due process hearings last week, with the fourth and final virtual hearing on Tuesday.
Samantha Moody has just started fifth grade at an ITS school in Belton where her mother says she is getting the educational services she needs.
Ian Spechler, an attorney who serves as a special education hearing officer for the state of Texas, now has until October 25 to make a decision on the Moody’s case after the deadline was postponed by 20 days at the request of KISD’s attorney.
Spechler will examine testimony, evidence and the attorneys’ written arguments before making his decision.
“Both lawyers have argued their cases well and thoroughly,” he said at the end of the hearing on Tuesday. “I’ll be thoroughly reviewing the transcripts and exhibits over the next few months.”
If Spechler sided with Moody’s, he could instruct KISD to take action that could include compensatory educational benefits and financial reimbursement of educational expenses.
How did that start?
According to the Federal Act on the Education of Persons with Disabilities (IDEA), children with disabilities are entitled to access to “free adequate public education” or FAPE. 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 that the IEPs KISD created were inadequate for her daughter’s needs and that the district failed to address the shortcomings identified during a 2019 Texas Education Agency investigation.
On July 10, 2019, Moody filed a formal complaint with the TEA alleging six violations of special education laws. 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.
KISD appealed against the TEA’s decision.
A proper hearing on special education is the final step in the TEA’s complaints procedure for special schools.
What did KISD say?
Several witnesses for KISD appeared to be putting the blame on Stephanie Moody.
The principal of Saegert Elementary, where Samantha Moody was in first to fourth grades, said the teachers there had trouble with her mother.
“It got to a point where the teachers felt exhausted from some of the things she was saying,” said Eli Lopez. “They cried because they did everything they could.”
Lopez insisted that negative interactions with Stephanie Moody did not affect the education Samantha Moody received.
“We look at the data, her scores were good, and she smiled and got involved,” said Lopez. “I could see that she was benefiting from the class.”
Janice Peronto, executive director of special education at KISD, was the last of six witnesses the district had to testify on Tuesday. She said the district is taking steps to ensure parents of special education students receive all of the help they need, including parenting and sensitivity training resources.
“Teachers and administrators learn to deal with students with disabilities and their families,” said Peronto of the sensitivity training. “It reminds them to be aware that our students have different needs.”
Will it make a difference?
Moody told the Herald that the more she stood up for her daughter, the more the district pushed back.
“When I asked nicely, they didn’t do what they should have done,” she said. “Your feelings for me shouldn’t affect my daughter’s education, and she did.”
She said she felt assaulted at the recent hearings.
“The hearing should never have been about whether you like me … it should have been about Sam,” Moody said.
She wasn’t surprised by the abundance of social media comments on the Herald’s earlier stories about the special education hearings. Many have been written by parents who say they have experienced similar situations.
“I’ve known for a long time because I became a lawyer not just for my own daughter but for other children as well,” said Moody. “Whether I win this case or not, I’ve already seen some positive impact on the community.”