Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is my role in the ARD committee?
A parent is a committee member just the same as the district employees. Theoretically, the committee is to function as a holistic group, however, it often ends up- district v. parents.
2. Does the district have to include the parent in the committee meetings?
For any ARD meeting held under the IDEA, yes. For a 504 committee meeting, although most districts will include the parent, the statutes and regulations for 504 do not mandate it, so no, not necessarily.
3. Can a student receiving special education services be expelled from school?
Yes, but only after the ARD committee has met to determine whether the conduct underlying the anticipated expulsion was not a "manifestation" of the student's disability. This "manifestation" ARD usually takes place just minutes prior to the expulsion hearing, or Level I hearing at the local school. Sometimes it is conducted after the Level I hearing. In any event, the ARD committee must make a manifestation decision prior to any change in placement The standard 3-day suspension pending the Level I hearing is not a change in placement. The 10 day rule is still in effect, meaning, any removal lasting more than 10 days is considered a change in placement. A series of 3 day suspensions totaling 10 days or more, in close proximity, can constitute a change in placement.
4. Can the District expel my child and make them attend the JJAEP program?
Currently, the answer seems to be yes. Although, there is direct authority to support this post-expulsion placement by the district, it is not clear what authority a district has to enforce the placement. Districts will order JJAEP as the educational placement following an expulsion, and threaten to refuse re-admittance into the district after the expulsion term is complete if the student did not complete the JJAEP program. If the student is served under IDEA or 504, then the proper committee must determine that the JJAEP placement is proper before it is imposed. Parents often ask about providing home school or private school in lieu of JJAEP. Again, the district may refuse re-admittance until completion of JJAEP, at least for the school year that it was ordered, and at most, for one school year thereafter. Also, the juvenile court is going to get notice of the expulsion, and the judge may order the JJAEP as well. The law is clear on the court's authority to order the placement, but is silent as to the district's ability to enforce it. One day I will have the right case to challenge this practice. In my opinion, the district's authority ends with the expulsion.
5. How can I make the public school district pay for my child's private school tuition?
Generally, this is called compensatory services in relationship to special education services. The issue arises when parents conclude that the public school either will not or can not provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education. To win compensatory services in a due process hearing is very difficult, and a thorough record of the ARD discussions and decisions is of most importance. Be careful not to pull your child out of school too soon and enroll him/her into private school before the public school has had adequate opportunities to "get it right." While you don't have to let your child suffer complete regression, you must have sufficient evidence to show the school was not properly implementing the IEP's or that they refused necessary services. Again, this is a difficult issue to win on, and the proper ground work must be prepared.
6. Does the school have to call me before interrogating my child about possible wrongdoing?
This is a very popular question. Short answer, No. There is no requirement that school officials call you or await your arrival prior to questioning your child about wrongdoing. The issue is not so clear regarding the campus police officer who must follow rules of criminal and juvenile procedure notwithstanding his/her employment by the district. That is why the campus SRO will typically stand to the side while the school officials ask the questions. While school officials may get a written statement from the student long before you are notified, the police officer must take the child before a local magistrate prior to obtaining a written statement. The officer typically won't get involved anyway, unless the conduct constitutes a separate criminal offense.
7. Can I sue my local school district for what they did to my kid?
Very popular question regarding many different issues and fact scenarios. Generally speaking, the local district is a governmental body and is therefore protected under sovereign immunity from liability in state courts. The Texas legislature has carved out a very narrow exception in the Tort Claims Act in cases involving a district-owned vehicle. Most litigation against school districts is filed in our federal district courts and involve constitutional or civil rights issues. In some cases, you may be required to handle the matter administratively before filing a lawsuit. Other options may include filing a grievance against an individual employee with the local district and working it up from there, or filing a complaint with the State Board for Educator Certification if the conduct involves ethical violations. Go to the TEA link for more information on administrative complaints.