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Austin ISD is sued over backlog of special education evaluations

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 by Claire McInerny, KUT

An advocacy group for people with disabilities filed a lawsuit Monday claiming the Austin Independent School District is “failing thousands of students” by not evaluating them for special education within a specific amount of time.

KUT reported earlier this month that 800 students were waiting to get evaluated for special education. These evaluations are the first step before a student can receive special ed services. Federal law says they should be provided for free by the school district within 45 days of a request.

Some AISD families have been waiting for more than a year to get their children evaluated. In its lawsuit, Disability Rights Texas says “these delays are in direct violation of the timelines established by federal and state law.”

One reason for the backlog is a shortage of qualified employees to do the evaluations. Many licensed specialists in school psychology, or LSSPs, have left the district, claiming a hostile work environment and that they were overworked.

Dustin Rynders, an attorney for Disability Rights Texas, said the complaint outlines ways AISD can improve this problem.

“Austin is a popular place to live,” he said. “People care about the kids of Austin ISD. If you turn around that department, there’s every reason to believe there are people who would want to serve that community.”

The lawsuit is seeking compensatory services for five children who missed out on services because of the backlog. Rynders said his group is also working to make sure hundreds of other students are also granted services.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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