Federal judge says AISD’s alleged systematic violations of IDEA act not cured

Posted on

December 8, 2021

Edie Surtees, Communications Director

Judge Rules Complaint Against Austin ISD Has Standing, Will Proceed
Lawsuit Says District Has History of Delayed Evaluations, Violating Federal Law

AUSTIN—A federal district court judge has denied a motion to drop a case against Austin Independent School District (AISD) that claims it has a history of delaying evaluations for students with disabilities who may need special education services.

In March 2021, Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), the protection and advocacy agency for children and adults with disabilities in Texas, and pro bono counsel Susman Godfrey LLP filed a lawsuit against AISD on behalf of DRTx and five individual child plaintiffs. The complaint alleges that AISD is failing thousands of students with disabilities due to its refusal to address longstanding, systemic issues impacting its evaluation system, including staff shortages and increasing backlogs of outstanding evaluations.

In 2020, the AISD’s broken evaluation system resulted in the delayed initial evaluations of at least 800 students, and the delayed re-evaluations of an additional estimated 1,600 students. As alleged in the complaint, these delays are in direct violation of the timelines established by federal and state law.

As a result of AISD’s failures, these students are not receiving critical special education services or are receiving services based on out-of-date evaluations. Some students are not receiving any educational services due to delayed evaluations. These students have been denied the free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to which they are legally entitled.

DRTx brought this case on behalf of a group of children who were waiting for evaluations and all other impacted students in the district were waiting for overdue evaluations, services and compensatory education to make up for the delays in their assessment.

Austin ISD filed a Motion to Dismiss the case claiming the district was taking care of the problems on their own even though Disability Rights Texas continued to hear from families experiencing delays. The court found that “even if some of the initial evaluations have been completed…[m]ore information on reevaluations and finalization of IEPs must be presented to the court… Until the state of the AISD’s IDEA compliance is known, the controversy remains live.”

The court also found that “because of Disability Rights Texas has authority to pursue remedies on behalf of Texans with disabilities, this case would not be moot even if the minor Plaintiffs’ alleged violations were remedied. Other disabled students may not have received their relief yet, and AISD’s alleged systematic violations of the IDEA act have not been cured.”

“We are pleased that the court sees the need for this case to move forward,” said Dustin Rynders, Supervising Attorney at DRTx. “It’s time to stop these students from being robbed of their right to these services and in the long run, of their chance to have a successful future.”

See the full decision from the court attached below.

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About Disability Rights Texas
Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas established in 1977. Our mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit the Disability Rights Texas website at www.DRTx.org for more information.

Attached documents