Regulating Ethnic & Disciplinary Disproportionality in Special Education

by Justyn Howard, Esq.

There has been a concerning trend within special education programs nationwide revolving around the overrepresentation of students of color within the special education population.  Even more disturbing is the reporting of how often these students of color are disproportionately and unfairly disciplined.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education, John B. King Jr.’s amendment to the regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), seeks to address multiple issues of equity within disability programs nationwide.  Specifically the regulations seek to establish a standard methodology all States must use to determine whether significant disproportionality based on race or ethnicity is occurring.  The new regulations also require States to address significant disproportionality when it comes to disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, using the same statutory requirements to address significant disproportionality in the identification and placement of children with disabilities.  Further, the regulations clarify the requirements for school districts and States for the review and revision of their policies, practices, and procedures when significant disproportionality is identified, while also requiring districts to identify and address the contributing factors causing such significant disproportionality.   School districts receiving federal financial assistance must comply with these new regulations by July 1, 2018.

As there are inevitable changes forthcoming from our new U.S. Secretary of Education, it was imperative that these regulations be put in place to hold districts and States accountable to the communities they serve.   We encourage you to research the issues related to these new regulations and inquire with your school district about what steps it’s taking to comply with the new amendments to the IDEA.

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