Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded 72 federal guidance documents outlining rights for disabled students. The U.S. Department of Education has now issued a notice on the Office of Federal Student Aid website saying that they have taken action against the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in regard to the revocation of the document.
This comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Education announcing a review of how these guidance documents are communicated to college and university administrators, colleges and universities themselves, and to individual students with disabilities. As a result of this review, the U.S. Department of Education intends to remove several important disability-specific policy statements from the OSEP website.
Disability policy statements allow disability-related accommodations to be explicitly stated on a school’s own policies and procedures. Without these statements, students and their parents would not know what accommodations to ask for, and thus would have no way of knowing which accommodations they have been denied. For example, if a school refuses to grant a disabled student the services he or she needs, then the student and his or her parents could sue the school for discrimination under Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Disability policy statements also offer students and parents legal guidance if they are being discriminated against for having disabilities or learning disabilities, and if they wish to file a complaint about their treatment at the hands of their school. With the current policies being revoked, however, many schools may not have these policy statements on their own policies and thus will not have them on their own policies if they do not have them themselves.
In other words, while disability policy statements have been in place for many years, schools and universities are now legally obligated to provide students with disabilities the same type of education as their non-disabled peers. Schools will not have to follow a set of policies for disabled students that were first introduced during the Eisenhower administration, but instead will need to create their own policies that apply to their students. These policies will be in accordance with Title IV of the ADA.
However, while the Department of Education was required to review the disability policy statements before issuing this notification, it is important to remember that they may only be effective until Congress has passed legislation to reinstate them. This means that if the U.S. Congress is unable to pass legislation authorizing disability-specific policies, then the Department of Education may not have the power to withdraw the existing ones.
Thus, while disability policy statements are important for ensuring that disabled students have the same opportunities to attend school as other students who do not have disabilities, it is also important to remember that these policies are not written in stone. They are open to interpretation. If Congress decides to remove these policies from the Department of Education’s website, students, and their parents need to take their cues from the courts’ interpretation of the law.
However, the Department of Education is not legally obligated to reissue disability policy statements and may not be able to make these statements available to the public. As a result, it is critical for parents and students to understand how important these statements are and what they mean to them.
As previously mentioned, the disability policy statements that were issued in January may have been ineffective until Congress took action. Therefore, parents and students need to look for disability policy statements that will be effective until Congress takes action. Parents should also be aware that the Department of Education is not legally obligated to issue new disability policy statements unless they are required to by a court order.
If the Department of Education cannot make a disability policy statement, then it should be possible for parents and students to obtain disability-specific policies written by their state government. To help parents and students understand disability laws in their state. Disability-specific policies are available at various websites, as well as from disability advocates, so parents, and students can find them easily and quickly. In fact, disability advocacy groups will usually have a list of websites where parents and students can find disability-specific policies.
Finally, students and parents need to realize that disabilities need access to quality education. And that there are many disability policies available. This includes disability-specific schools and other educational venues.