UPDATE: As of 5/15/18, the Department of Education is no longer accepting comments on their proposed change to the regulations. However, we can still keep the conversation going on social media. Please use this toolkit to speak out about this important issue.

In March, we shared data revealing that students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be suspended as students without disabilities, and 1 in 4 black males with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) receive out-of-school suspensions (compared to 1 in 10 white males with IEPs)1.  

The problems don’t end there. Students of color are identified with disabilities and placed outside the general education classroom more often than their white peers with disabilities2.  This means students of color with disabilities have fewer opportunities to access the general curriculum and many of them spend more time out of school than their peers, hindering their academic success3.

This disparate impact on students with disabilities and students of color is alarming, but despite the evidence, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) is trying to rollback protections for these students. NCLD and our partners oppose this. The data tell us that this problem is getting worse, and that the time to act is now. You can do something to help. We need you to speak out and tell the Administration to make sure that schools and districts give all students the education they deserve.

What is happening right now?

In 2016, in an effort to address these disparities for students of color, USED issued the Equity in IDEA Regulations, which are sometimes called the Significant Disproportionality Regulations. These regulations are set to take effect on July 1, 2018, and will ensure that students get necessary services, have the opportunity to learn in the least restrictive environment, and are not removed from the classroom unnecessarily.  NCLD and hundreds of others supported this action, commending USED for taking steps to address the problem.

Now, USED is trying to press pause on these regulations and allow states to wait until 2020 to enact them.  While researchers, educators, advocates, and parents see the disparate treatment of students with disabilities and students of color as an urgent civil rights issue, USED and the Trump Administration have decided that we should wait two more years to address this problem.

Children cannot afford to wait two years. The longer we wait, the more students will be hurt by unfair special education identification, placement, and discipline practices in our schools. The Equity in IDEA Regulations were developed based on an extended public comment period, with input from hundreds of commenters.  According to the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, states are ready to implement the regulations in 2018. There is no time or reason to wait.

What can we do about it?

USED is currently accepting comments from the public about the proposed delay and the impact it will have.  NCLD is planning to submit a comment, and we hope you will join us in telling the federal government that children and educators cannot wait two more years to receive the support and services they need.  

You can help by submitting a comment here on the proposed delay to the federal register by May 14, 2018.

If you are unsure about what to say, use this sample comment to guide your own letter:

I am writing to tell the U.S. Department of Education to not delay implementation of the Equity in IDEA Regulations.  Data show that kids of color and kids with disabilities are not treated equitably in the way they are identified for special education, placed in restrictive classroom settings, and disciplined (including in suspension and expulsion rates).

Children cannot afford to wait two more years to get the help they need. The federal government is reexamining a regulation that the public supports and that states are ready to act on.  Failing to deal with this problem now can lead to students losing two years of access to general education instruction. There is no reason to delay implementation of this regulation.

We hope you will join us in telling USED that this regulation is urgently needed to protect children’s civil rights and should be implemented this year.

1Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2013-2014 School Year (2016)

2 Source:  U,S Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Special Education:  A Multi-year Analysis by State, Analysis Category, and Race/Ethnicity.  (2016).

3Source:  Losen, Daniel J.  The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project.  Harvard University. Disabling Punishment:  The Need for Remedies to the Disparate Loss of Instruction Experienced by Black Students with Disabilities.  (April 2018)

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