Special Education Law Conference: a Conversation with Jim Walsh

Jim Walsh, founding partner of Walsh Gallegos Treviño Russo & Kyle PC in Austin, will be moderating our upcoming 34th annual Spring Conference on Special Education Law. Jim and other expert attorneys from throughout Texas will share their experience and expertise in new developments in special education law. I asked Jim a few questions to start whetting everyone’s appetite for the inside scoop.

He began by reminding me about a couple of cases that will have a real bearing on special education implementation in the future. “We’re continuing to deal with the fallout from the Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. from 2017, and what it means for the provision of FAPE,” Jim said. To elaborate, the Supreme Court’s decision from Endrew F. vs. Douglas County School District explicitly noted three things: 1. IEPs must be created with input from a student’s parents; 2. a minimal standard for a child’s education is not a logical or fair standard; and 3. every student should be supported in working toward challenges appropriate for their circumstances and disabilities. These stipulations can have an enormous impact on FAPE.

Closer to home,” Jim continued, “the 5th Circuit’s decision in the case from Spring Branch ISD has a lot of implications for child find and student discipline.” In Spring Branch ISD vs. O.W., the 5th Circuit Court affirmed that time-outs (if used recurrently) must be in a child’s IEP or BIP. Ostensibly, any disciplinary action taken by a school staff member must be accounted for in an IEP or BIP. This case is a hot topic right now. In fact, Paula Maddox Roalson (also of Walsh Gallegos Treviño Russo & Kyle PC in Houston) will be presenting at the conference, and she will share a roundup of recent cases, specifically including Spring Branch vs. O.W. and its implications.

Another presenter at our conference is Janet Horton of Thompson & Horton in Houston. Janet will be discussing dyslexia. On that topic, Jim noted, “We have a case pending at the 5th Circuit that might tell us a lot about how to serve students with dyslexia.” I’m anxious to hear more from Janet and Jim about that!

I asked if there is anything he believes school leaders really need to be thinking about or doing differently in 2020 and beyond regarding special education.

Jim responded, “It’s always good to remind educators to do whatever they can to ensure meaningful parent participation, and to make sure that we are serving our low functioning students well.  We got the bill requiring cameras in the classroom due to concerns over how the low functioning students were being served.  Administrators and teachers can be far more effective than a camera in making sure that we are serving those students in a safe and nurturing environment.”

Agreed! Teachers and administrators are the beating hearts of a school. And that nurturing, affirming attitude can be extended to a student’s family as well and encourage more parent participation. Actively involved parents boost the success of students across the board, regardless of ability and regardless of a camera in the room.

Jim concluded our discussion of the upcoming Spring Conference on Special Education Law by saying, “I always hope that the takeaways from the conference are practical—things we can do next week to make a positive difference.”

Absolutely! Our one-day conference will cover current legal issues in special education, dyslexia law, parent rights, ARD documentation, and full-day pre-k’s implications on special education. Our attendees will receive fresh information, new insights, and practical tips to use right away! There will be plenty to cover because, in the words of Jim Walsh, “As usual, there is a lot happening.”

The 34th Annual Spring Conference on Special Education Law:

One Amazing Conference, Two Convenient Locations!

April 22: Irving

May 1: San Marcos


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