ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – Disability Rights Texas, a legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities, filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency Tuesday afternoon, stating that Ector County ISD is in violation of a federal law which requires schools to actively identify and evaluate students who may need special education services. Disability Rights Texas says that nearly 500 ECISD students may not have been receiving appropriate education.

According to a release by Disability Rights Texas, the complaint says ECISD has failed to meet federally mandated timelines for evaluating students with disabilities, resulting in the denial of a free and appropriate public education under IDEA for as many as 500 students. The agency says since the district still has more public records to provide DRTx, it’s suspected that the number of impacted children is much higher.

One of the students, 11-year-old Jiovanni, was diagnosed with ADHD. His mother, Lashawn, suspects he might have autism and requested and evaluation for special education services in 2021 from ECISD. DRTx says he has still not been tested.

While the family waits, DRTx says Jiovanni has experienced bullying, lack of positive behavior supports, and academic struggles. During one instance, the school called in the police when the ten-year-old was walking around the playground trying to calm himself. DRTx says the long delay in evaluating him has resulted in critical service missed that are affecting his ability to succeed in school.

“My son has been swept under the rug for a year and a half. This is seriously impacting him academically and emotionally,” said Lashawn. “He has lost hope and doesn’t feel safe at school.”

DRTx is urging the TEA to order the district to immediately provide evaluations or compensatory services for the students named in the complaint in addition to taking the following district wide actions.

  • Review and revise district policies pertaining to timelines for the completion of special education evaluations.
  • Determine whether each impacted student within ECISD is eligible for compensatory education.
  • Appoint a monitor to ECISD to assist in establishing and carrying out a corrective action plan and monitoring the district’s compliance with that plan.
  • Conduct an on-site audit of the educational files of all students receiving special education in the district to determine Child Find violations and training needs.

ECISD later issued this statement in response:

We became aware late this afternoon of a complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency. The main issue is one our school district has been fighting for several years, a severe shortage of diagnosticians and speech pathologists, resulting in longer waits for students to be evaluated.

This is an issue facing school districts across the state. A typical evaluation can take up to 12 hours from initial parent contact to the full evaluation and then writing the report. Not only are evaluations required for new students, but full evaluations for qualified students are required again after three years.

In an effort to provide students the support they need, ECISD has taken several steps to increase the availability of qualified diagnosticians:

1.       Paying ECISD diagnosticians additional compensation to conduct reviews on Saturdays

2.       Contracting with retired diagnosticians locally, and with others from across the state

3.       Contracting with, and sometimes hiring full-time, virtual diagnosticians from elsewhere in Texas

4.       Created a diagnostician pipeline program with the University of Texas Permian Basin and Sul Ross State University, in which ECISD provides funding for candidates to pursue certification. Currently, 4 people are in that program.

5.       Has $1.6 million in contracts in place with companies to help with speech evaluations and educational testing

ECISD is committed to its children and families. With new leadership in place in the Special Education Department, our staff will continue to do all we can to provide the evaluation and support needed for our children to be successful.

You can read DRTx’s full complaint below.