Q: At the time our District closed in person instruction due to COVID-19, we had students in the District’s Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (“DAEP”). Since the closure, the District has been continuing to provide DAEP instruction through distance learning methods. Do we have the flexibility to count this type of instruction toward the students’ “successful days” in DAEP or choose to reduce or abate their placement entirely?
A: Yes. The procedures for successful completion of DAEP days and length of placement are local decisions. If the District is meeting the legal requirements for a DAEP while conducting distance learning, students should receive credit for DAEP participation. However, districts retain discretion to determine full placement abatement and/or criteria for completion of “successful days.”
Currently, TEA is not providing waivers regarding DAEP requirements. Therefore, to provide DAEP instruction through distance learning methods, the DAEP instruction provided must meet the requirements in the Texas Education Code. Pursuant to Section 37.008(a), each school district shall provide a DAEP that: (1) is delivered in setting other than the students regular classroom; (2) is located on or off of a regular school campus; (3) provides for the students who are assigned to the disciplinary alternative education program to be separated from students who are not assigned to the program; (4) focuses on English language arts, mathematics, science, history, and self-discipline; (5) provides for student’s educational and behavioral needs; (6) provides supervision and counseling; and (7) employs only teachers who meet all certification requirements established under Subchapter B, Chapter 21. Tex. Educ. Code § 37.008(a). Tex. Educ. Code § 37.008(a). If these legal requirements are being met, the student has completed the coursework sufficient to be awarded credit.
With regard to completion of “successful days” and satisfying the terms of the DAEP Order, districts are at liberty to create local expectations based on their own technical and program abilities. For instance, a student could be required to log in to the program each day, complete a certain number of modules/assignments per day, or return completed instructional materials to district personnel on specified days. To satisfy the supervision and monitoring component, districts should establish a documentation system to track student progress in the program if not already utilizing a distance learning method with that capability.
Due to the extension of spring break for many schools, it may be necessary to modify the length of a student’s DAEP placement if the goal is to conclude the discipline at the end of the school year. As DAEP placements are local decisions, the district may elect to reduce or abate a student’s length of placement for this or any other reason. However, decisions to reduce or abate placements should be made consistently to protect the district from legal challenges. Districts choosing to abate a DAEP placement should either abate all placements set to conclude on or at the end of the 2019-2020 school year or establish categories of offenses that will not be abated and apply consistently. Contact your local school attorney for specific questions or additional information.