Dispute between Dallas ISD, TEA leads to hearing over student's special education testing

A Dallas ISD parent is fighting for her son to receive special education instruction, but she says the district is going overboard by demanding her son be tested for autism.

This mother, who happens to be a DISD employee and works in special education, says her son is being railroaded into a more serious diagnosis than she believes he has.

She has the support of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), but there was a hearing Wednesday that was requested by DISD to challenge the TEA's ruling.

“Lots of personality, very talkative, a problem solver. He's hyper, he's very hyper,” said Angela Bolton-Smith, when describing her 6-year-old son Trent.

Trent will be in first grade at George Bannerman Dealey Montessori in North Dallas.

Last year, Trent’s mother requested her son be tested for special education services, which cover attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and speech and occupational therapy.

Tests and conditions she's familiar with.

“I am also a special educator. I've been in this field, this is my passion,” Bolton-Smith said.

Bolton-Smith consented to the tests, and DISD began administering them, but the district says during the process, it was determined that more tests were needed to determine if Trent had autism.

That's where Bolton-Smith drew the line.

[REPORTER: “Why not test for autism?”] “Because there was no supporting documentation, number one. There's no history,” she said. “He's been with the same pediatrician, and the biggest thing, because I am an evaluator as well, I understand what autism is. I didn't see those characteristics in him.”

With both sides at an impasse, Bolton-Smith appealed to the Texas Education Agency, which sided with her, finding that DISD “did not ensure that it evaluated and determined the student’s eligibility for special education services,” and should have “completed the initial full and individual evaluation."

But DISD is fighting back, requesting a special hearing to reconsider TEA's decision.

The district says Trent had “numerous academic and behavior concerns,” and when Bolton-Smith consented to him being tested, she signed off on tests for “all areas of suspected disability.” Adding that federal regulations state a parent “cannot choose individual tests.”              

“I want him to get the best, whatever his needs are,” Bolton-Smith said.

Bolton-Smith says she'll keep standing up for parent's rights, ensuring her son isn't categorized inappropriately or prematurely.

“If there's a need that presents later, then we can pursue that, but at this time, there was no need and I didn’t want my son to be misdiagnosed,” she said.

Wednesday’s hearing will continue into Thursday.