The U.S. Department of Education released three new sets of guidance today to assist the public in understanding how the Department interprets and enforces federal civil rights laws protecting the rights of students with disabilities. These guidance documents clarify the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of educational institutions in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn.
The guidance released today includes a parent and educator resource guide; a Dear Colleague letter (DCL) and question and answer document on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools; and a DCL and question and answer documents on the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools.
The Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), provides a broad overview of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). The guidance describes school districts’ nondiscrimination responsibilities, including obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities, and outlines the steps parents can take to ensure that their children secure all of the services they are entitled to receive.
Among other things, the Section 504 Parent and Educator Resource Guide:
The second guidance package released by OCR addresses the circumstances under which use of restraint or seclusion can result in discrimination against students with disabilities, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department’s May 15, 2012, Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document suggested best practices to prevent the use of restraint or seclusion, recommending that school districts never use physical restraint or seclusion for disciplinary purposes and never use mechanical restraint, and that trained school officials use physical restraint or seclusion only if a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others. The DCL and question and answer document released today offer additional information about the legal limitations on use of restraint or seclusion to assist school districts in meeting their obligations to students with disabilities.
The third guidance package released today was developed by OCR and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). The jointly-issued Dear Colleague Letter and question and answer documents will help update educators, parents, students, and other stakeholders to better understand the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools under Section 504 and IDEA. These documents provide information about how to provide equal opportunity in compliance with Section 504 in key areas such as charter school recruitment, application, admission, enrollment and disenrollment, accessibility of facilities and programs, and nonacademic and extracurricular activities. The documents are responsive to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s 2012 report, Charter Schools: Additional Federal Attention Needed to Help Protect Access for Students with Disabilities, which included the recommendation that the Department issue updated guidance on the obligations of charter schools.
The Section 504 Charter guidance:
The IDEA Charter guidance:
In addition to these documents, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document designed for parents to provide a brief overview of the rights of public charter school students with disabilities and the legal obligations of charter schools under Section 504 and the IDEA.
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
The 4 Equity Assistance Centers are funded by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They provide assistance in the areas of race, gender, national origin, and religion to public school districts to promote equal educational opportunities.
Region I | Region II | Region III | Region IV |
How to File A Complaint: Equal Access Act
Gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and similar student-initiated groups addressing Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender (LGBT) issues can play an important role in promoting safer schools and creating more welcoming learning environments. Nationwide, students are forming these groups in part to combat bullying and harassment of LGBT students and to promote understanding and respect in the school community. Although the efforts of these groups focus primarily on the needs of LGBT students, students who have LGBT family members and friends, and students who are perceived to be LGBT, messages of respect, tolerance, and inclusion benefit all our students. By encouraging dialogue and providing supportive resources, these groups can help make schools safe and affirming environments for everyone.
But in spite of the positive effect these groups can have in schools, some such groups have been unlawfully excluded from school grounds, prevented from forming, or denied access to school resources. These same barriers have sometimes been used to target religious and other student groups, leading Congress to pass the Equal Access Act.
In 1984, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Equal Access Act, requiring public secondary schools to provide equal access for extracurricular clubs. Rooted in principles of equal treatment and freedom of expression, the Act protects student-initiated groups of all types. By allowing students to discuss difficult issues openly and honestly, in a civil manner, our schools become forums for combating ignorance, bigotry, hatred, and discrimination.
The Act requires public secondary schools to treat all student-initiated groups equally, regardless of the religious, political, philosophical, or other subject matters discussed at their meetings. Its protections apply to groups that address issues relating to LGBT students and matters involving sexual orientation and gender identity, just as they apply to religious and other student groups.
Although specific implementation of the Equal Access Act depends upon contextual circumstances, these guidelines reflect basic obligations imposed on public school officials by the Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The general rule, approved by the U.S. Supreme Court, is that a public high school that allows at least one noncurricular student group to meet on school grounds during noninstructional time (e.g., lunch, recess, or before or after school) may not deny similar access to other noncurricular student groups, regardless of the religious, political, philosophical, or other subject matters that the groups address.
How to File a Complaint of Violations of the Equal Access Act
There is no government body tasked with specific oversight of the Equal Access Act. However, several federal and state agencies do have authority to handle complaints based on civil rights violations. Complaints may be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office or on the Connecticut state level with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
The Educational Opportunities Section enforces federal laws that protect students from harassment or discrimination. The Section is responsible for enforcing Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion in public schools and institutions of higher learning; the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 which, among other things, requires states and school districts to provide English Language Learner (ELL) students with appropriate services to overcome language barriers; and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits disability discrimination. The Section also plays a significant role in enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of federal funds); Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex by recipients of federal funds); and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (both of which address disability discrimination and appropriate disability-related services).
The Educational Opportunities Section accepts complaints of potential violations:
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Educational Opportunities Section, PHB
Washington, D.C. 20530
In order to properly respond to a complaint, the Section requests that complainants provide their name, address, and the name of the school/school district/university where the alleged discrimination occurred. Additional information regarding how to file a complaint is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/
United States Attorney’s Office – District of Connecticut
US Attorney’s Office
New Haven Office
Connecticut Financial Center
157 Church Street
New Haven, CT 06510
Fax: (203) 773- 5376
* for a list of U.S. Attorneys in other states go to http://www.justice.gov/usao/us-attorneys-listing
Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (Connecticut)
25 Sigourney Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Connecticut Toll Free 1-800-477-5737
Agency Mission: The mission of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) is to eliminate discrimination through civil and human rights law enforcement and to establish equal opportunity and justice for all persons within the state through advocacy and education.
Statutory Authority: Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 814c. Link directly to the Connecticut General Statutes at: CT General Statutes 2011
It is the statutory responsibility of the Commission to:
Connecticut law prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation such as schools. If students have been denied an opportunity for equal access in a place of public accommodation based on their protected class status, they may be able to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Disability law is an area of law that overlaps with many other areas of law –
including employment law, administrative law, elder law, consumer law,
construction law, insurance law, school law, health law, social security law,
and civil rights law. Individuals with disabilities are a protected class under
civil rights laws, and it is the one protected class that anyone can join,
usually involuntarily, at any point in their lives.
It is my hope that this book, which is a very broad brush look at disability
law, will find its way into the hands of both individuals who have disabilities
and entities that have obligations under various disability laws. This book is
meant to provide basic information about disability rights, as well as
resources for finding out more.
Southwest ADA Center
Go to the ADA National Network DISABILITY LAW HANDBOOK
Posted by Rohmteen Mokhtari, June 26, 2013
With all the media attention on the Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality rulings, some parents and teachers may initially feel a little anxious about discussing the topic with their children or students.
Sometimes talking to children about LGBT issues seem difficult, in part, because as adults we haven’t had a chance to consider what we want to say and how we would respond to questions. Often when discussing a new topic, we rely on past experiences to help us out. However, many of us don’t have much experience talking about LGBT topics. Therefore, our past experience doesn’t help us out.
Fortunately, with just a little forethought and preparation this can be a great teachable moment.
read more …………….