Education News

Advocates Concerned Special-Needs Students Pushed Out Despite Truancy Reform

A recent state investigation confirmed that some special needs students are ordered to GED programs after they pile up absences.

When a student is enrolled in special education, it means that child has a disability and needs individualized, special instruction or other services.

So it makes sense to enroll a special needs student in a high school equivalency, or GED, program “almost never,” according to Dustin Rynders, supervising attorney with the advocacy group Disability Rights Texas.

Rynders said that he’s concerned that truancy laws will still be used to push out special-needs students, despite state reform earlier this year. The new law decriminalized truancy in Texas, but still allows a court to order a truant student to a GED program.

“GED programs don't offer individualized, specialized instruction or related services. So just the fact that the child is eligible for special education means we know that they need something that GED programs don't provide,” Rynders said.

A recent state investigation found that's been happening in some Texas schools, such as Clear Creek ISD. Some special needs students are ordered to GED programs after they pile up absences.

The Texas Education Agency recently examined four districts in Greater Houston after Disability Rights Texas and two other nonprofits, Texas Appleseed and the National Center for Youth Law, lodged a complaint.

“TEA found that, in all the districts they investigated, federal special education laws were violated and that the schools weren't providing the children with the services that they needed,” Rynders said.

Three of those districts — Fort Bend, Houston and Pasadena — have said they'll work with the state to fix the problems.

Clear Creek ISD, however, has asked TEA to reconsider its decision.


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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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