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College of Education leads special education dialogue

Thursday, September 20, 2018 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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Nearly 150 public school superintendents and special education administrators discussed Texas’ changing views on how to serve children with disabilities at the Texas Special Education Policy and Resource Summit this week at College Park Center.

Dustin Rynders

Dustin Rynders, an attorney with Disability Rights Texas, was the keynote speaker at the summit.

The summit, hosted by The University of Texas at Arlington’s College of Education, provided an opportunity for leaders in the education sector to determine the policies and educational needs of children with disabilities. See a video of the event here.

Superintendents Susan Hull of Grand Prairie ISD, Bret Jimerson of Burleson ISD, Kent Scribner of Fort Worth ISD and Michael Hinojosa of Dallas ISD discussed challenges school districts face on meeting the needs of children with disabilities.

The keynote speaker, Dustin Rynders, an attorney with Disability Rights Texas, emphasized the importance of identifying children who need help early in the education cycle.

“You need to reach out to your Head Start programs,” said Rynders, who noted that those program officials could help in the identification process.

Justin Porter, statewide director of special education with the Texas Education, spoke about the state’s Corrective Action Plan for Special Education.

“States that are in noncompliance for more than one year enter into something that you’ll all be familiar with as continuing noncompliance, and that could potentially come with a whole lot of sanctions and some other things,” Porter said.

Porter said state officials must act now.

“We couldn’t just sit back and wait, there’s too much to do,” Porter said. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is that all of this has to do with making sure that kids are getting services that they need. I would be remiss in my job, absolutely, if I wasn’t moving forward as much as possible.”

Dan Robinson, chair of UTA’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said the College of Education organized the summit to address some of the current challenges in providing special education in the state.

“We’re hosting it at UTA because we are a leader in special education in Texas,” Robinson said.

Jimerson said there is more change in special education than ever before.

“My hope is that when I leave here I will have some better ideas on how to approach some of the challenges we’re facing,” said Jimerson, who received his bachelor’s degree at UTA.

In addition, a Texas Legislative Panel made up of state Reps. Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston, and Dan Huberty, R-Houston, talked about challenges the state Legislature might face in the next session, which starts in January 2019.

--  Written by Robert Rummel-Hudson