On December 28, 2016 the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released three new sets of guidance “to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities” (see here). This may be the last effort of an ongoing focus by the current administration to highlight aspects of the Civil Rights of students with disabilities.
These guidance documents include:
- A parent and educator resource guide
- A Dear Colleague Letter and an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) regarding the use of restraint and seclusion in schools
- Another Dear Colleague Letter / FAQ regarding the rights of students with disabilities in public charter school
Nearly two weeks earlier, on December 12, 2016, USED also published final regulations under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that addressed promoting equity by targeting disparities in the treatment of “students of color with disabilities” (see here). A Fact Sheet was also release that accompanied the new regulations.
New Regulations and Guidance
The parent and educator resource guide focuses on aspects related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitations Act of 1973. It describes the non-discrimination responsibilities that school districts have and includes the obligation to provide educational services to students with disabilities.
The Dear Colleague Letter and FAQ related to identifying situations where restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities could result in discrimination references Section 504 and also Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These documents are about the “legal limitations on the use of restraint or seclusion to assist school districts in meeting their obligations to students with disabilities.” They offer additional information to the document USED released on May 15, 2012 titled “Restrain and Seclusion: Resource Document”.
The documents regarding the Civil Rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools was developed jointly by USED’s Office for Civil Rights and USED’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. It is intended to help educators, students, parents, and other stakeholders understand the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools based on Section 504 and IDEA.
Finally, the final regulations and accompanying Fact Sheet issued by USED earlier in December focus on “promoting equity by targeting widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities.” These regulations are meant to address problems related to disproportionality in the identification, placement and discipline of students with disabilities that may be due to the students’ race or ethnicity.
As the time approaches for the transition to a new presidential administration, we have seen a significant uptick in the release of regulations and guidance. Now that we are into the next calendar year, this may wane a bit, but expect more from USED before the change in administration.
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