Special Education Conference: Mental Health Issues & Students With Disabilities

At our Conferences on Special Education Law this week, Holly Wardell, a named partner in the law firm Eichelbaum Wardell provides a comprehensive discussion on serving students with mental health issues, including recent special education decisions from the Texas Education Agency.

For example, in Student v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., Dkt. No. 228-SE-0518, the student was diagnosed with autism, an emotional disturbance with a primary diagnosis of mood dysregulation disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  The record showed that the student struggled with social interactions. He also engaged in disruptive behaviors. When a dispute arose over the student’s individualized education plan (IEP), the parent requested a due process hearing.

The special education hearing officer determined that the District’s IEP did not adequately address the student’s needs in social skills or pragmatics.  Nevertheless, the hearing officer concluded that this inadequacy was not significant enough to deprive the student of an educational benefit. In making this determination, the hearing officer looked to the student’s positive academic performance and decrease in disruptive behaviors.  The students teachers also testified that the student was easily redirected in class. The hearing officer stated:

While the IEP need not be the best possible one nor must it be designed to maximize Student’s potential the school district must nevertheless provide Student with a meaningful educational benefit – one that is likely to produce progress not regression or trivial advancement.

In this case, the school district was able to show that the student received positive academic and non-academic benefit as evidenced by his grades, STAAR testing, performance in class, and limited inappropriate behaviors in class.  The hearing officer concluded that the district provided the student a free appropriate public education.

If you were unable to attend this year’s Spring Conference on Special Education Law, contact Ed311 to purchase a conference workbook and check out our other products and services on special education topics at https://ed311.com/.

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