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 |
The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) released joint guidance reminding states, school districts and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential. The guidance, fact sheets, and other resources (including translated versions of the guidance and fact sheets) are available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/ellresources.html.
Schools’ Civil Rights Obligations to English Learner Students and Limited English Proficient Parents
The obligation not to discriminate based on race, color, or national origin requires public schools to take affirmative steps to ensure that limited English proficient (LEP) students, now more commonly known as known as English Learner (EL) students or English Language Learners (ELLs), can meaningfully participate in educational programs and services, and to communicate information to LEP parents in a language they can understand.
The following materials include information for students and parents, OCR guidance and resources for education officials about their obligations to EL students and LEP parents, and added resources with related information.
For Students and Parents
For Education Officials
U.S. Department of Education Resources
U.S. Department of Education Funded Resources and Partnerships
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan issued the following statement today, recognizing the anniversary of Title IX on Sunday, June 23:
“Forty-one years ago, with the enactment of Title IX, Congress took an important step forward on the march toward equality. Since its inception in 1972, Title IX has helped ensure equal opportunity for girls and boys, and women and men, in every aspect of their education.
“As the father of two young children, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of ensuring that our nation’s youth have the opportunities they deserve to make the most of their own lives. Whether it’s in the gymnasium or in the classroom, we know that kids prosper when the full range of educational opportunity is provided to them.
“Thanks to Title IX, we’ve made great progress in creating pathways to success, but we must reaffirm our commitment to uphold its important principles. The Department of Education will continue to work hard to ensure equal access for students of both sexes to schools and programs that will prepare them for college and career, particularly in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math; to athletic opportunities, and all the benefits that flow from them; and to safe learning environments, free from sexual harassment and sexual violence. The Department will also continue to protect the rights of pregnant and parenting students.
“More work lies ahead in ensuring that our daughters have the same opportunities as our sons, and we will keep up the fight for progress so everyone has a fair shot at success.”
A) Notice of Nondiscrimination
The Title IX regulations require that each recipient publish a notice of nondiscrimination stating
that the recipient does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs and
activities, and that Title IX requires it not to discriminate in such a manner.19 The notice must
state that inquiries concerning the application of Title IX may be referred to the recipient’s Title
IX coordinator or to OCR. Itshould include the name or title, office address, telephone number,
and e-mail address for the recipient’s designated Title IX coordinator.
The noticemust be widely distributed to all students, parents of elementary and secondary
students, employees, applicants for admission and employment, and other relevant persons.
OCR recommends that the notice be prominently posted on school Web sites and at various
16 34 C.F.R. § 106.9.
17 Id. § 106.8(a).
18 Id. § 106.8(b).
19 Id. § 106.9(a).
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locations throughout the school or campus and published in electronic and printed publications
of general distribution that provide information to students and employees about the school’s
services and policies. The notice should be available and easily accessible on an ongoing basis.
Title IX does not require a recipient to adopt a policy specifically prohibiting sexual harassment
or sexual violence. As noted in the 2001 Guidance, however, a recipient’s general policy
prohibiting sex discrimination will not be considered effective and would violate Title IX if,
because of the lack of a specific policy, students are unaware of what kind of conduct
constitutes sexual harassment, including sexual violence, or that such conduct is prohibited sex
discrimination. OCR therefore recommends that a recipient’s nondiscrimination policy state
that prohibited sex discrimination covers sexual harassment, including sexual violence, and that
the policy include examples of the types of conduct that it covers.