More Protections for Texas Special Education Students
For several years Disability Rights Texas, the National Center for Youth Law, and Texas Appleseed have worked to end the unlawful practice of Texas school districts forcing their most vulnerable students out of school through adult criminal court procedures for truancy. In 2015, legislation passed which decriminalized truancy resulting in a massive decline in the number of truancy cases. 59,537 fewer cases were filed in criminal and municipal courts following the passage of HB 2398. Importantly, the cases that have been filed since September 1, 2015 are civil, not criminal. Since truancy reform passed, Texas students no longer face fines (of up to $500), criminal records, and the possibility of jail time (for students 17 years and older who failed to comply with the judge’s order).
In addition to decriminalizing truancy, HB 2398 required the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to issue new rules to ensure districts comply with the state’s revised truancy laws. In response to comments submitted by NCYL and its partners concerned that local school districts still refer students to court for truancy without providing legally-required prevention and intervention services, TEA issued a new regulation to ensure special education students are protected. The new regulation requires that a student’s Admission, Review and Dismissal committee, or Section 504 committee first be notified of any attendance issues that the student is experiencing, and second, consider the need for a reevaluation and/or an amendment of the IEP/Section 504 Plan to address the attendance issue.