Education – Today is the Deadline for Comments on the Proposed Delay of IDEA Equity Regulations

Last week The Arc submitted comments in opposition to the Department of Education’s proposed two-year delay of regulations to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) identification, placement, and discipline. In 2004, the requirement to collect and report data on significant disproportionality, and take certain action if it is found, was added to the IDEA. However, in the years since the law was changed, few states and school districts have reported any such significant disproportionality. This fact was documented in a 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study showing that most states had set thresholds for identifying disproportionate districts so high that no districts ever exceeded them, and, therefore, none were ever identified or the issues resolved. Following the GAO’s recommendation, the Department of Education issued regulations in 2016 that are set to take effect in July of 2018. These regulations provide a standard methodology for determining significant disproportionality, but permit each state to set its own thresholds so long as they are reasonable. See The Arc’s comments here opposing the delay of the regulations that are set to take effect in July. Disability advocates are encouraged to submit their own comments. See shorter sample comments here which can be submitted by clicking here. Comments are due by midnight tonight.

Education – The Arc Submits Comments on Proposed Delay of IDEA Equity Regulations; Disability Advocates are Encouraged to Submit Their Own Comments

The Arc submitted comments today in opposition to the Department of Education’s proposed two-year delay of regulations to address significant racial and ethnic disproportionality in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) identification, placement, and discipline. In 2004, the requirement to collect and report data on significant disproportionality, and take certain action if it is found, was added to the IDEA. However, in the 14 years since the law was changed, few states and school districts have reported any such significant disproportionality. This fact was documented in a 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study showing that most states had set thresholds for identifying disproportionate districts so high that no districts ever exceeded them, and, therefore, none were ever identified or the issues resolved. Following the GAO’s recommendation, the Department of Education issued regulations in 2016 that are set to take effect in July of 2018. These regulations provide a standard methodology for determining significant disproportionality, but permit each state to set its own thresholds so long as they are reasonable. See The Arc’s comments here. Disability advocates are encouraged to submit their own comments. See shorter sample comments here which can be submitted by clicking here. Comments are due by midnight on Monday, May 14.

To help understand what disproportionality is, how it harms students with disabilities who are students of color, and what advocates can do to ensure equity in education for all children, the National Disability Rights Network has made this short video.

Education – New Civil Rights Data Show Continuing Disparities for Students with Disabilities

On April 24, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released data it collected during the 2015-2016 school year. These data were collected from 17,300 public school districts and 96,400 public schools and education programs across the country. The report contains data on school and district characteristics, discipline, criminal offenses, harassment and bullying, restraint and seclusion, single-sex interscholastic athletics, early childhood education, pathways to college and career, school finance, and teachers and other personnel. The data show that there continue to be disparities in discipline for students of color and students with disabilities. Notable findings for students with disabilities in grades K-12 include disproportionate rates of arrest and referral to law enforcement, suspension, and restraint and seclusion. While students with disabilities served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are 12% of enrolled students, they are 28% of students arrested or referred to law enforcement, 26% of students receiving out-of-school suspensions, 24% of expelled students, 71% of students restrained, and 66% of students subjected to seclusion. Read OCR’s press release here.

Education – “Nation’s Report Card” Shows Achievement Gap for Students with Disabilities

The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that students’ overall scores remained relatively unchanged for fourth and eighth grade mathematics and fourth grade reading, while eighth grade reading scores rose slightly from 265 to 276. For students with disabilities, scores stayed relatively the same for fourth grade reading and eighth grade mathematics. Scores for fourth grade mathematics declined from 218 to 214, while scores in eighth grade reading rose slightly from 230 to 232. These results do not include students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (1%) who take an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards. See the report here.

Education – The Arc and Other Civil Rights Organizations Release White Paper on Practical Solutions to School Violence

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.

Education – GAO Releases Report on Discipline Disparities for Black Students, Boys, and Students with Disabilities

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.

Education – Policy Brief on Potential Rescission of School Discipline Guidance Issued

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.

Education/Rights – Bills Introduced to Provide Protections from Campus Sexual Assault for Students with Disabilities

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.

Education – School Voucher Bill for Military Families Introduced in House and Senate

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.

Education – NCD Releases Five-Part Report Series on IDEA Implementation

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:

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.