New DOE Guidance Helps Schools Support Students With Disabilities And Avoid Discriminatory Use Of Discipline

CATEGORY: Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education
DATE: Aug 30, 2022

On July 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released new guidance which aims to help public elementary and secondary schools fulfill their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline.  In releasing this new guidance, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona noted: “Too often, students with disabilities face harsh and exclusionary disciplinary action at school.  The guidance we’re releasing today will help ensure that students with disabilities are treated fairly and have access to support and services to meet their needs – including their disability-based behavior.

We also expect that districts utilize the federal American Rescue Plan dollars to build capacity, provide professional learning opportunities for educators and school leaders, and hire additional staff.  These resources will also help schools live up to their legal obligations, support an equitable recovery for all our students, and make sure that students with disabilities get the behavioral supports and special education services they need to thrive.”  The guidance describes schools’ responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) to ensure nondiscrimination against students based on disability when imposing discipline.  Specifically, the guidance explains how compliance with Section 504’s requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities can assist schools in effectively supporting and responding to behavior that is based on a student’s disability, and that could lead to student discipline.  By using Section 504’s procedures to identify and meet the behavioral, social, emotional, and academic needs of students with disabilities as required for FAPE, schools can help prevent or reduce behaviors that might otherwise result in discipline.

The new resources include:

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