On April 2, several civil rights organizations, including The Arc, released a white paper titled “Civil Rights Imperiled: Discussions Must Focus On Practical Solutions To School Violence.” The paper was released in response to calls to rescind Department of Education guidance on school discipline and increase the presence of school resource officers in the wake of the tragedy in Parkland, FL. The white paper notes that such solutions do not make schools safer, but instead will lead to greater disparities in discipline of minority students, and more arrests for behaviors that should be a concern of the school rather than law enforcement. The white paper concludes with four recommendations to make schools safer.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report showing that black students, boys, and students with disabilities are more likely to be disciplined. These disparities existed for all types of punishment examined, in all types of schools, and no matter the poverty rate at the school. Types of punishment examined included out-of-school suspension, in-school suspension, referral to law enforcement, expulsion, corporal punishment, and school-related arrest. While students with disabilities accounted for 12 percent of public school students, they were 25% of students suspended out of school, 21% of students suspended in school, 28% of students referred to law enforcement, 24% of expelled students, 16% of student received corporal punishment, and 28% of student arrested for school-related incidents. Read the highlights of the report here.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund (LCEF) released a policy brief regarding the potential rescission of guidance from the Education Department and Department of Justice clarifying the responsibility of public schools to address disproportionality in school discipline. The brief explains that students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students are disproportionately subject to suspension and expulsion. The document states that rescission of the guidance would impede the progress being made on reducing this disproportionality.
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced S. 2530, the Safe Equitable Campus Resources and Education (SECuRE) Act on March 9. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced companion legislation (H.R. 5241) in the House of Representatives. The SECuRE Act ensures the needs of students with disabilities will be taken into account in campus planning and response efforts to sexual assault on campus, and that resources provided to the campus community are accessible to everyone. Specifically, the SECuRE Act would improve prevention programs, reporting systems, personnel training, and disciplinary proceedings. A recent report from the National Council on Disability, “Not on the Radar: Sexual Assault of College Students with Disabilities,” found that the needs of these students are often not addressed under existing policies. The Arc supports this legislation.
On March 7, Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) and Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) introduced the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act (H.R.5199/S.2517). These bills would use a portion of Federal Impact Aid payments to create “Military Education Savings Accounts” that parents serving in the military could use for private school or other education expenses for their children. Federal Impact Aid is funding for school districts that have a large amount of non-taxable federal property (such as military bases and tribal lands) in order to make up for lost tax revenue. The Arc opposes these bills because they redirect money from public schools to private schools that are not required to follow the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The National Council on Disability (NCD) released a five-part report series on implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The last major report on IDEA Implementation from NCD was released in 2002, prior to the 2004 reauthorization. The five parts of the series are:
- Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA
- English Learners and Students from Low-Income Families
- Federal Monitoring and Enforcement of IDEA Compliance
- Every Student Succeeds Act and Students with Disabilities
- The Segregation of Students with Disabilities
NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published a list of pending cases currently under investigation at elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools, sorted by aspects of the law that OCR enforces, including disability. The inclusion of an institution on this list means only that a complaint was filed with OCR, and the agency determined the complaint should be opened for investigation or the agency has opened a compliance review. OCR is still investigating these cases or otherwise working to resolve them. See the list of institutions under investigation for disability discrimination here.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that the Department of Education report annually on the progress made toward the provision of a free appropriate public education to all children with disabilities and the provision of early intervention services to infants and toddlers with disabilities. The reports focus on the children and students with disabilities being served under IDEA, Parts C or B, nationally and at the state level. Notable findings in the 39th annual report that covers the 2014-2015 school year include:
- Almost one-half of students reported under the category of intellectual disability (49.7 percent) and students reported under the category of multiple disabilities (46.2 percent) were educated inside the regular class less than 40% of the day.
- From 2005-06 through 2014-15, the high school graduation percentage increased by at least 10 percentage points for each disability category except orthopedic impairment (2.4 percentage points), intellectual disability (5.3 percentage points), and multiple disabilities (5.3 percentage points).
- The percentage of students with intellectual disability who graduated with a regular high school diploma increased slightly from the previous year from 40.8 percent 42.4 percent.
On February 6, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will hold a hearing on Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Improving College Affordability. Witnesses will include Dr. Sandy Baum, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute; Dr. Jenna Robinson, President, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal; Dr. DeRionne Pollard, President, Montgomery College; Dr. Zakiya Smith, Strategy Director for Finance and Federal Policy, Lumina Foundation; and Dr. Robert Anderson, President, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.
On January 25, The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing on “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Access and Innovation”. Witnesses will include Dr. Joe May, Chancellor, Dallas County Community College District; Dr. Barbara Brittingham, President, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, New England Association of Schools and Colleges; Mr. Michael Larsson, Founder and President, Match Beyond; Ms. Donna Linderman, University Dean for Student Success Initiatives; City University of New York; and Dr. Deborah Bushway, Independent Higher Education Consultant, Provost, Northwestern Health Sciences University. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce recently passed a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (H.R. 4508) which The Arc does not support. See the letter from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities on H.R. 4508.