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86th Texas Legislative Session Review: A Summary of New Laws Impacting Special Education

The 86th regular legislative session is now behind us. With the new school year well underway, it is important for parents to be aware of the new laws now in effect that directly impact students with disabilities and their families. We have provided a summary below organized by subject matter. You can find more information about these bills, including the full text, at https://capitol.texas.gov/Home.aspx.


Senate Bill 139 by Senator Rodriguez

  • SB 139 requires TEA to develop a model notice for distribution by school districts and open enrollment charters to all public school students which explains in plain language, the rights of a child under both federal and state law and the general process available to initiate a referral for an evaluation for special education and related services.

  • This notice must also include a disclosure which states the prior monitoring indicator which held districts accountable to an 8.5% identification rate for students with disabilities has been eliminated.

  • Districts must include in the notice information indicating where the local processes and procedures for initiating a referral for special education services eligibility evaluation may be found.

  • This notice must be available in both English and Spanish. For those whose native language is not English or Spanish, districts must make a “good faith effort” to provide this notice in their native language.

  • Note: the bill only requires distribution of this notice during the 2019-20 school year.


Senate Bill 11 by Senator Taylor

SB 11 is a comprehensive bill aimed at improving school safety. As such, it includes a few provisions relating to mental health.

  • The bill requires TEA to develop a Statewide Plan for Student Mental Health to ensure that all students have access to adequate mental health resources.

  • The bill requires the development of inventories of available mental health resources at the State, Regional and District level.

  • The bill authorizes a new grant program to direct state aid to school districts and charter schools specifically for school safety. In addition to specific building upgrades and security enhancements, authorized uses for such grants include specific student programs such as programs for the prevention and treatment of adverse childhood experiences, providing mental health personnel and support, and providing behavioral health services.

  • The bill also creates the new Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium which features the establishment of a network of child psychiatry access centers.

House Bill 18 by Representative Price

HB 18 is a huge and comprehensive bill aimed at improving student mental health and counseling services. This summary only addresses some of the provisions relating to those services

  • By May 1, 2020, in cooperation with the Health and Human Services Commission, TEA must develop new guidelines for school districts to partner with local mental health authorities and other local mental health services providers to increase student access to mental health services. These guidelines must address obtaining mental health services through Medicaid.

  • TEA is now responsible for the state list of best practice based programs and research based practices in areas such as early mental health prevention and intervention; and safe, supportive, and positive school climate.

  • School districts now have authority to employ or contract with non-physician mental health professionals.

  • School Counselors:

    • Requirements for continuing education for counselors was increased to include training on counseling students concerning mental health conditions.

    • School counselors must work with district staff, students, parents and the community to create and implement a comprehensive school counseling program that meets the requirements of the Texas Model for Comprehensive School Counseling Programs developed by the Texas Counseling Association.

    • School districts must include in their student handbook and on their website a statement as to whether each campus in the district has a full-time school counselor.

  • School-Based Health Centers:

    • Creation of school-based health centers may be initiated by school district boards of trustees and charter schools governing boards.

    • School-based health centers may now provide treatment for mental health conditions and substance abuse and consent for services may apply to a course of treatment for the same service.


House Bill 165 by Representative Bernal

  • HB 165 allows students with disabilities receiving special education and related services to earn endorsements on their high school diploma with modified curriculum in a required course if the ARD Committee determines the curriculum, as modified, is “sufficiently rigorous.”

  • The ARD Committee also determines whether passing a STAAR End of Course exam will be required to earn the endorsement.

House Bill 2184 by Representative Allen

  • In order to help ensure a smooth transition, HB 2184 requires the school to create a Personalized Transition Plan (PTP) for students reentering the regular school environment from a disciplinary alternative education program, juvenile justice alternative education program, or other residential program or facility.

  • The PTP must include input from various school personnel and provide recommendations for placement and services such as counseling and information on evaluations for special education.

  • The alternative education placement must now provide notice and assessment and academic documentation to the school the student intends to attend.


Senate Bill 712 by Senator Lucio and House Bill 3630 by Representative Meyer

  • Both SB 712 and HB 3630 prohibit the use of aversive techniques on students which intentionally inflict significant physical or emotional pain or discomfort.

  • TEA must provide guidance to districts on alternative strategies for behavior management.

  • IMPORTANT! This ban only applies to public school districts and not charter schools.

Senate Bill 1707 by Senator Lucio

  • SB 1707 requires districts to work with district behavior coordinators and other school personnel in determining the law enforcement duties to be assigned to school district peace officers, school resource officers, and/or security personnel.

  • Such duties must not include any duties relating to routine student discipline or administrative tasks.

  • Districts may not require law enforcement personnel to have contact with students that is unrelated to their law enforcement duties.

Senate Bill 2432 by Senator Taylor

  • This bill adds harassment as it is defined in Texas Penal Code §42.07(a)1, 2, 3 or 7 to the list of offenses against school staff that require mandatory removal of the student to a Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP).

  • This does not relieve the district of its duty to comply with disciplinary procedures for students receiving special education and related services under IDEA.


House Bill 548 by Representative Canales

  • HB 548 requires TEA and the Texas HHSC to ensure the language acquisition skills of each student who is deaf or hard of hearing are regularly assessed and monitored from birth through eight years of age using a tool or assessment that is valid and reliable. TEA, the Texas HHSC and the Educational Resource Center of the Texas School for the Deaf must consult with experts in deaf education and determine what tools and assessments may be used for this purpose by no later than December 1, 2019.

  • TEA, the Texas HHSC and the Educational Resource Center of the Texas School for the Deaf must jointly publish a detailed report annually by August 31 on the language acquisition of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

  • Districts are required to report language acquisition data to TEA to assist in a statewide measurement of educational progress in students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Senate Bill 2075 by Senator Paxton

  • Under SB 2075, TEA is required to write formal procedures to audit, monitor, and periodically conduct on-site visits of all school districts to ensure their compliance with state laws regarding the screening of, and provision of services for, students with Dyslexia and related disorders.

  • TEA is also required to write formal procedures to audit, monitor, and periodically conduct on-site visits of all school districts to ensure their compliance with state law regarding the administration of reading diagnostic instruments.

  • TEA is further required to identify any problems districts experience in complying with these laws and develop reasonable and appropriate remedial strategies to address district noncompliance and ensure the goals of these laws are accomplished.

Senate Bill 522 initiated by Senator Zaffirini

  • SB 522 requires the IEP for a student with a visual impairment include instruction in braille and the use of braille unless the ARD Committee determines it is not appropriate for the child.

  • The bill also requires braille instruction be provided by a teacher certified to teach students with visual impairments.

Senate Bill 54 by Senator Zaffirini

  • This bill requires TEA to conduct a study on appropriate methods to evaluate the performance of students attending a Regional Day School Program for the Deaf who do not reside in the district operating the program separately from the performance of other students attending the district or campus in which the program is physically located. A report on the results of this study is due by September 2020.


Senate Bill 11 by Senator Taylor

This summary is focused on certain student-oriented provisions for school safety in this comprehensive bill.

  • TEA must adopt rules for establishing a Safe and Supportive School Program in collaboration with the Texas School Safety Center. Such rules must incorporate research-based best practices for ensuring school safety including physical and psychological safety; establishing crisis situation protocols; and providing systems that support school climate, social and emotional learning and mental and behavioral health.

  • The bill requires school districts and charter schools to appoint a Threat Assessment and Safe and Supportive School Team to develop and implement the safe and supportive school program. The bill identifies what a threat assessment looks like, delineates the duties of the team, and their required level of expertise and training.

  • If a student poses a serious risk of violence to self or others, the Team must immediately report that determination to the district superintendent, who is required to immediately attempt to inform the parents or guardian of the student. Employees may act immediately to prevent an imminent threat or respond to an emergency.

  • School districts and charter schools must now revise their Multi-hazard Emergency Operational Plans to include a section on ensuring students with disabilities have equal access to safety during a disaster or emergency situation. This must also include students in portable buildings.

  • Local school health advisory councils and health education instruction must recommend strategies to make parents aware of early warning signs of risky behavior, suicide risks, and behavioral concerns, including mental health disorders, and substance abuse along with information on community programs and services.

  • Revised training policy for School District Peace Officers and School Resource Officers must be trained in accordance with requirements of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. This change now includes smaller-sized school districts.


House Bill 3 by Representative Huberty

HB 3 is a huge and complex piece of legislation. This summary focuses on school finance which impacts students with disabilities.

  • The basic allotment per student was increased from $5,140 to $6,130.

  • The Special Education mainstream allotment weight was increased from 1.1 to 1.15. This is equal to about $300 more per student in a mainstream setting.

  • The bill granted districts the authority to provide a bonus for teachers who complete autism training provided by the regional education service center.

  • The bill created a new Special Education Allotment Advisory Committee as an advisory to TEA for the purpose of reviewing the current special education funding method, the exploration of other possible financing methods, and reviewing data on current special education expenditures. The Committee may also provide recommendations for improving the special education finance system. A report to the Legislature is required by May 1, 2020.

  • The TEA Commissioner now has authority to transfer state funds or request supplemental funds for annual compliance with the Maintenance of Financial Support (MFS) requirement in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

  • The bill preserved the small and midsize school district adjustment for the state special education formula.

  • It also included new funding allotments for programs in:

    • Dyslexia

    • College, Career, and Military Readiness

    • Early Education

Senate Bill 500 by Senator Nelson

  • This bill amended the state’s current budget for 2018-19 by over $200 million in supplemental funds to address TEA’s failure to meet federal minimum funding standards in FY 2018-19 for statewide expenditures for students with disabilities.

Christine Broughal
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