FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 9, 2023
Laurel Goodroe, Communications and Development Specialist
Edie Surtees, Communications Director
One Lawsuit and Two Years Later, Austin ISD Still in Violation of Federal and State Law
District Claims It Is Fixing Broken Evaluation System for Students with Disabilities Though Problem is Worse
AUSTIN—Today, Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) sent a letter to Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath, requesting that TEA investigate and remedy the Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) broken system that denies its students with disabilities timely evaluations. As a result of AISD’s failures, currently more than 1,800 students are not receiving critical special education services or are receiving services based on out-of-date evaluations.
Today’s letter to TEA follows a lawsuit filed against AISD in March 2021 for violating federal and state law and an initial letter sent to TEA in July 2021 urging them to investigate. In December 2021, a federal judge denied AISD’s motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit.
For years, AISD has been violating federal and state law by denying students with disabilities timely evaluations, leaving many of them without access to the critical special education services they need to develop and learn. Many of these students are falling behind academically and socially, threatening their success in school and life.
Since AISD’s broken system first came to light, and despite the district’s claims that it is fixing the problem, the situation has gotten worse, not better, for students with disabilities. Due to AISD’s failures, over 1,800 students are waiting for evaluations as of late last year.
As early as December 2020, TEA was aware that AISD had delayed initial evaluations for hundreds of students with disabilities, in violation of state and federal law. In July 2021, DRTx formally requested that TEA conduct a special investigation of special education services in AISD. Now, with evidence that the situation is getting worse – not better – DRTx is again requesting that TEA intervene. Today, DRTx requested that TEA not only conduct a special investigation of AISD’s special education department, but also that TEA take concrete action to remedy AISD’s systemic failure to comply with state and federal law.
“It is very concerning that AISD continues to fail the children with disabilities it is legally required to serve,” said Kym Davis Rogers, a senior litigation attorney with DRTx. “It is clear that, without the intervention of TEA, many children with disabilities in AISD will continue to be denied the critical services they need – and are legally entitled to – to be successful.”
“Due to the district’s failure to timely evaluate my son, all of his disabilities weren’t identified and his school didn’t provide the special education services he needed,” said Celestine Hunter. “Instead of receiving the appropriate supports and services he needed, he ended up in a disciplinary placement, where he fell even further behind, both academically and developmentally.”
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Disability Rights Texas is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas established in 1977. Its mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit www.DRTx.org for more information.