In Brief:

Department of Education finalizes $33 million penalty to state over special education services
The U.S. Department of Education last week made a “final determination” that the Texas Education Agency would have to pay back $33 million in grants after the government determined Texas broke a federal statute against decreasing special education funding. The department ruled that TEA, while addressing many of the deficiencies in special education funding and services, had not completed all the steps required to be in compliance. The ruling comes after a four-year dispute between TEA and the department involving hundreds of millions of dollars granted to Texas. A Houston Chronicle investigation first put the spotlight on TEA when itrevealed a cap on the number of students eligible to be evaluated for special education services.

Department of Justice takes action on violence against educators, mask lawsuits
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the Justice Department and FBI to launch an effort to curb an increasing trend of “harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools.” 

A task force will also develop training to “help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.” The increase in threat to educators has risen with local conflicts over mask rules and irrational objections to supposed instruction of “critical race theory.”

Last week, the Justice Department also weighed in on legal actions against the state of Texas for the governor’s order prohibiting mask mandates in schools. The nonprofit Disability Rights of Texas had filed suit in federal court saying the state’s actions discriminate against disabled students by not allowing them to safely participate in schooling. The Justice Department filed a brief in the lawsuit supporting that claim.

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