- Statewide Outreach Center at Texas School for the Deaf
- Educational Laws for Students Ages Three to 22
Educational Laws for Students Ages Three to 22
Children and youth who are deaf or hard of hearing have the right to educational services in their state. Those rights and protections are outlined by three pieces of federal legislation and two sets of state rules that expand on general educational laws. Key provisions of those laws are:
1. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law establishing that individuals with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as others. There are five sections (titles within the law) that outline the protection that individuals have from discrimination in public life. Education, employment, and accommodations are some of the areas addressed.
2. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. This law further requires school districts to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) for students in their jurisdiction.
3. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) has 4 statutes, addressing specific populations and activities to ensure equal access to education. Part B is applicable to students ages three to 21. Part C covers early intervention for infants and toddlers from birth to age 3.
In summary, all children and youth are protected from discrimination in educational settings. Qualifying children/youth and their families may receive special education services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or accommodations with a 504 Plan.
Guides for Understanding Federal Laws
The following are resources that provide more understanding and discussion on different aspects of federal laws. It is equally important to contact your local school district and ask for their resources as you learn about your rights and responsibilities.
STUDENTS PARENTS/GUARDIANS PROFESSIONALS
Resources and technical assistance on federal legislation are available as follows:
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) oversees the Texas statewide educational system, providing guidance and application of educational laws and rules, such as IDEA Part B. TEA establishes and maintains various frameworks, best practices, processes, and accountability requirements. The main sets of rules and regulations are outlined in two codes:
- Texas Education Code
- Texas Administrative Code
Other key pieces of legislation impacting children who are deaf or hard of hearing are listed below:
- Allows students to have opportunities to develop proficiency in English and American Sign Language. (Section 29.302)
- Establishes methods and procedures for ensuring that children between the ages of birth to age eight progress in language acquisition. (HB 548)
The Special Education Process
The special education process begins with a referral. If the student, parent or educational professional suspects a disability or a need for extra support outside of normal academic intervention strategies, a referral is a good place to start.
Referrals can be requested from the local school or district special education coordinator. When a referral is made, school professionals, also known as the IEP team, will gather information to determine if the student needs to be further evaluated.
It is critical for students, parents, and educational professionals to provide as much information and data as possible throughout the process. This will help the IEP team in their decision-making process. It will also guide the student, parents, and the IEP team in determining whether an IEP or a 504 plan is needed.
An Individual Education Program (IEP) is developed and reviewed on an annual basis for every student who receives special education services. The IEP team consists of parents, educators, administrators, diagnosticians, and other people who have knowledge about the student and their disability. In Texas, the IEP meeting is also called an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) process. Annual IEP/ARD meetings are required and specific guidelines must be followed.
This process is the single, most important avenue to obtaining special education services, related services or accommodations. IDEA also requires that a student's language and communication needs must be considered, and a communication plan is often helpful to guide the IEP team through this process.
After a child is determined eligible for either special education services or a 504 plan, an annual review is conducted. At the annual meeting, the committee meets to review:
- Student performance and/or progress,
- Accommodations or related services, and
- Academic goals for the following school year.
Topics that may be discussed during the annual review are:
- Assessment results from local school testing
- Results from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), if applicable
- Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP)
- Medical records, if and when applicable
Below are some helpful resources to guide you through the special education process in Texas
STUDENTS PARENTS/GUARDIANS PROFESSIONALS
More guides or resources are available as follows:
- Texas Project First: A project of the Family-to-Family network that provides information to parents and families. Resources are organized by age group.
- Legal Framework for Child Centered Special Education Process: A project of the Texas Education Agency and the Region 18 Education Service Center that provides a compilation of state and federal requirements for special education organized by topic in a user-friendly format, glossary of terms and acronyms, links to laws, rules and guidance, and a search feature.
- SPEDTEX, Special Education Information Center: A resource managed by the TEA that offers several information briefs for parent advocacy.