In 2004, under then-governor Rick Perry, the Texas Education Agency secretly instituted a plan to cap the number of students receiving special education support at 8.5% — far less than the national average.
In order to achieve this goal, the state forced teachers to illegally, systematically deny care to children, including speech therapy, psychological counseling, physical therapy, and access to therapeutic tools (for example, at least one student who was born without functional hands was denied the laptop he needed to do his schoolwork).
Many of those kids went on to drop out, but Texas also leads the country in its pipeline for kids sent to mental institutions, and the Houston Chronicle’s six-part series on the policy also documents suicides and attempted suicides.
All along — and even now — the state and the local school districts deny that the policy exists, despite the testimonies of parents, students, and long-serving principals and teachers who quit rather than go along with orders. The state and local education authorities have also illegally refused to respond to public records requests.
Despite this stonewalling and lying, the Houston Chronicle has pieced together a damning, thorough documentation of the Rick Perry legacy: tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of children who were denied the education they were entitled to, who ended up uneducated, institutionalized, overmedicated, or dead — all to save the state more than a billion dollars it was required, by law, to spend on its children. As you might expect: this policy landed disproportionately on racialized brown and black children.
Rick Perry is no longer governor of Texas: now he’s America’s problem, as Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy.
Soon, Alston’s grades plunged. In January 2014, when he was in eighth grade, the school told his parents he was failing and at risk of being held back.
His behavior worsened, too, records show. At the beginning of ninth grade, he got suspended for shoving another student, and at the end of the year, he was suspended for threatening to bring a gun to school.
His parents were worried, but they didn’t know what to do. His mother, a correctional officer, and his stepfather, a maintenance worker, could not afford a private psychiatrist. They had to trust the school to help their son.
Then, in October 2015, Alston’s girlfriend broke up with him.
That night, he tried to overdose on his ADHD medication.
His mom caught him and took him to a hospital, where he was stabilized and eventually released.
He begged his parents to let him go to school the next day so he could attend basketball practice. They agreed, thinking a return to normalcy would be good for him.
Despite the suicide attempt, the school still did not test him for special ed.