A family intends to sue the Killeen Independent School District in federal court after what a lawyer called a “dangerous decision” was rendered on Monday in favor of the school district.
In 2019, Stephanie Moody filed a formal complaint against Killeen ISD with the Texas Education Agency – and won – after she said the district failed to recognize her daughter’s two critical diagnoses, autism and a hearing impairment. , and had not provided the right special education services. .
Not much has changed at KISD for Moody, even after the public education agency sided with her, leading her to take the case to court and ultimately move her children out. of the district all together in 2020.
“A compliance plan had been put in place and I had a feeling that meant we (TEA) were going to bring them into compliance,” Moody said on Monday. “Honestly, I never understood why I was responsible for paying to take this to court after winning the lawsuit against TEA.”
Moody’s daughter was diagnosed with autism by a doctor and Belton Independent School District staff – something KISD had not wanted to do while her daughter was in the district. But on Monday, after four testimonial hearings, a hearing officer chose to side with the school district.
âSo basically the Hearing Officer concluded that the school had not identified Samantha as being autistic, but that was okay; and that they hadn’t really worked with the parent, but it was okay, âMoody’s lawyer Sonja Kerr said with Connell Michael Kerr, LLP, of the hearing officer’s decision on Monday. âIt’s a very dangerous decision. I have practiced in this area of ââlaw for 34 years and it is one of the most dangerous decisions a Hearing Officer has ever made.
Stephanie Moody told the Herald on Monday that she would press charges against her daughter.
“I feel ready to move forward in Federal Court,” she said. “We keep failing children with special needs, we keep telling them it’s going to be fixed, and I don’t see that happening.”
The school district issued the following statement on the matter on Monday.
âKilleen ISD will continue to provide students with free and appropriate public education,â Taina Maya, KISD’s communications manager, said in an email. “The district hopes that today’s hearing’s decision resolves the issues raised.”
In August, four special education due process hearings were held, in which Moody and KISD presented testimony, exhibits and arguments.
Ian Spechler, an attorney who is a special education hearing officer for the state of Texas, delivered his 25-page decision on the case on Monday.
âThe hearing officer concludes that the district provided the student with a FAPE during the 2019-2020 school year,â according to the decision. âThe Hearing Officer also notes that the district has fulfilled its responsibilities under the IDEA (Disability Education Act). “
Spechler denied any relief to Samantha Moody’s family and denied Moody’s claims under the IDEA. The ruling says he can be appealed to the courts, which the family said they intend to do.
âThe hearing officer’s decision in this case is a final and appealable order,â according to Spechler’s decision. “Any party aggrieved by the findings and decisions made by the hearing officer may bring a civil action relating to the issues presented in the due process hearing in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in a state district court.” -United “
Kerr said the issue in question extends far beyond the Moody family, impacting hundreds of thousands of students with special needs across the state.
âEven though the state of Texas concluded that this school had violated the law in its 2019 complaint, the school district had nothing to do to compensate the student for this violation,â Kerr said. âSo that means the complaints to the state of Texas are also meaningless. Most parents will just give up and not care about a state complaint or due process hearing. Instead, they will move to other school districts or other states. “
Children with disabilities have the right to have access to a FAPE, within the framework of the IDEA. Under this law, all public school districts are required to provide an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for every student in special education.
Stephanie Moody claims the district has failed to address shortcomings in her daughter’s IEP that were identified in a 2019 TEA investigation.
During the hearings, the district maintained that its IEPs were appropriate, and the hearing officer agreed in his decision on Monday.
âThe student has had a number of privately and publicly funded assessments and the district has followed the recommendations of those assessments,â Spechler wrote in his decision.
Kerr said the move, if left as is, will have a lasting impact on students and families across the state.
âWhat happens in states where the state education agency acts as a leader is that the state agency would react to that and say, ‘It’s not fair’, Kerr said before adding that Texas lacks leadership in the state education agency.
“If they (TEA) let it go, then they might as well shut down their complaints division because no district in the state will worry about receiving a complaint against them.”