Education – Education Department Delays IDEA Racial/Ethnic Disproportionality Rule

On June 29, the Department of Education announced that it would delay the regulations that were set to take effect this month to address racial/ethnic disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The requirement for states and school districts to collect and report data on significant disproportionality, and take certain action if it is found, was added to the IDEA in 2004. However, since that time few states and school districts have reported any such significant disproportionality. In response to this problem, documented in a 2013 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of Education issued regulations in 2016 to require a standard methodology to calculate significant disproportionality. In February, the Department solicited public comment on a proposed delay of these regulations as part of President Trump’ Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.” Nearly 400 comments were submitted in response with the vast majority opposing the delay, including comments from The Arc and from school districts already in the implementation process. The Department cited concerns about creating incentives for quotas and the need to study the issue further as justification for postponement. The Arc is very disappointed with the Department’s action and remains very concerned about the disproportionate numbers of minority students being over identified with certain types of disabilities, placed in segregated settings, and suspended and/or expelled.

Letter from the Office of Special Education Programs about transition plans for students with disabilities

In a June 22, 2012 letter sent to Disability Rights Wisconsin, Melody Musgrove, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs in the Department of Education, offered informal guidance about the responsibility of school systems to ensure that students with disabilities whose transition plans call for placement in work settings are placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Dr. Musgrove clarified that if a work setting is an appropriate transition service for a student, it must be included in the child’s individualized education program (IEP). She also stated that the LRE provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) pertain to the employment portion of the student’s program and services in a segregated setting (work placement) if the use of supplementary aids and services (job coach, assistive technology) could not support the student in a less restrictive setting. The guidance indicated that schools should count students’ time spent in integrated employment settings as time spent inside the regular classroom. Finally, the letter said that IDEA would not prohibit a work placement in a segregated setting, but the LRE provisions would apply to the employment portion of the student’s program and placement.