Federal Investigation Prompts Changes in Special Education Classes
EDINBURG – Changes to Texas classrooms are underway. A federal investigation prompted a change in the way Texas schools treat children with disabilities.
On Thursday, a Rio Grande Valley father says the changes are a long time coming.
Reyes Trevino has one goal in mind. He is determined to have his 10-year-old son's voice be heard.
“We started noticing that he wasn't following the patterns of being a baby,” he says about his son’s autism diagnosis.
Trevino says his son was never affectionate and would get alarmed by various sounds.
“It could be sensory development, lack of sensory development, all the way to interpersonal skills. Right now, he is in the special education program,” he tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
It was a rocky road getting there.
Trevino says he was told by his son's school there was nothing wrong with him and was denied necessary disability services.
“The school told me they would not honor the diagnosis that I had from the psychologist. It was a wrestling match that ensued. I had to get some legal representation,” he says.
Incidents like Trevino's sparked an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.
“Not only my son was wronged here, children all across the state of Texas that fall under special education,” he says.
The department determined some Texas independent school districts took actions designed to decrease the percentage of special education students.
As CHANNEL 5 NEWS reported in 2016, a Houston Chronicle investigation revealed denial of services for special needs students across the state.
It also revealed TEA’s 8.5 percent indicator, which only allowed a small portion of special education services to school districts.
The state is now forced to make sure each ISD identifies and evaluates all children suspected of having a disability, who need special education, and that they provide them needed services.
TEA came up with a 42-page plan for action titled: Special Education Strategic Plan.
To get feedback on it, the state held the first of two public hearings on Thursday.
Representatives with TEA heard from educators, counselors, and parents on the new plan.
In it, the executive summary reads:
"The purpose of special education is to provide sufficient support to our students with disabilities, on an individualized basis, so that those students can obtain the same level of academic success typical of their peers. Collectively, we as a state are not yet delivering on that purpose. More pointedly, historically the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has not provided the leadership, guidance, and support sufficient for that purpose."
Trevino says he hopes this is the beginning of the state's children being serviced properly.
TEA will host another public hearing in Richardson on Monday, April 16 at Education Service Center Region 10 in 400 East Spring Valley Road.
Participants will register onsite for each hearing beginning at 12:30 p.m. Speaker registration will end at 1 p.m.
Anyone unable to attend can submit their comments by email to TexasSPED@TEA.texas.gov, until noon Wednesday.