- National Center for Youth Law - https://youthlaw.org -

New Complaint Challenges DeVos’s Delay of Equity in IDEA Regulations

[1]NCYL has filed a lawsuit [2] against the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for abdicating their responsibility to protect the civil rights of students. The suit, filed on behalf of The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), alleges that the Department has taken actions that interfere with USDOE’s obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure children with disabilities get the education services they need in the most appropriate setting without regard to their race.

The suit challenges the Department’s decision to delay regulations on significant disproportionality, known as the Equity in IDEA regulations.  According to the complaint [2], the significant disproportionality provision was intended to serve as an early-warning system for possible problems, analogous to a “check engine” light.  When a State identifies racially significant disproportionality in a school district’s identification, placement, or discipline of students with disabilities, the State must review the school district’s policies, practices, and procedures to ensure they comply with the IDEA; engage in an analysis that identifies the factors contributing to the significant disproportionality; and spend a percentage of their IDEA funds on comprehensive coordinated intervention services. There is no requirement that a school district eliminate a significant disproportionality if the disproportionality is not a result of violations of the IDEA but instead reflects differences among different student populations in that community.

It’s well documented that students of color who are wrongly identified as needing special education are improperly placed in restrictive classrooms, lose access to challenging academics, and are subjected to unfair disciplinary measures A delay in implementing the Equity in IDEA regulations will prevent COPAA from bringing these and other harms to the attention of USDOE and the public.