Special Education

Ed. Dept. Explains Special Education Guidance Cutbacks After Outcry

By Christina A. Samuels — October 24, 2017 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Last week, the Education Department announced it was rolling back 72 guidance documents—63 that came from the office of special education programs, and nine from the Rehabilitation Services Administration—as part of a larger Trump administration initiative to clear the federal books of “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective” regulations.

Special education advocates and Democratic operatives, already highly skeptical of the Education Department’s actions around special education and students with disabilities, got angry. VERY angry.

The Council for Parent Attorneys and Advocates said in a statement it was “disappointed in the way [the office for special education and rehabilitative services] has made this announcement, because the process undertaken lacks complete transparency to the public.” The organization said the department should have made it clear why the revocations were needed.

That was one of the more measured responses. The Democratic National Committee sent out an email saying that “Betsy DeVos’ decision to rescind guidelines outlining rights for students with disabilities is shameful and immoral.” Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia and the top Democrat on the House education committee, said the decision was “the latest in a series of disturbing actions taken by the Trump Administration to undermine civil rights for vulnerable Americans.”

On Tuesday, the Education Department tried again. It released the same list of rescinded regulations, but now the list includes explanations of just why these particular documents were targeted. As I noted last week, the guidance and memos are decades old, were created for a limited purpose, or have been superseded by newer laws and regulations.

“There are no policy implications to these rescissions,” said Liz Hill, a department spokeswoman. “Students with disabilities and their advocates will see no impact on services provided.”

But this dustup demonstrates how disability advocates are on a hair trigger when it comes to this administration—and they have been from the start, when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stumbled during her confirmation hearing over questions of special education policy.

And though these particular guidance documents are just old, the department has made substantive changes in policy that angered many civil rights, including ending an Obama-era policy of seeing whether individual civil rights complaints might be caused by systemic violations, and requirements that schools allow students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender identity.

This won’t be the last time the department pares down regulations: in addition to combing through guidance on its own, the department also solicited comments from the public about what regulations it believes are unnecessary. But, as I noted before, there are certain bedrock regulations, such as those related to parental consent to initial evaluation or initial placement in special education, least restrictive environment, timelines, and attendance of evaluation personnel at individualized education program meetings. The text of the law says that those regulations can’t be “procedurally or substantively lessened” without Congressional action.

Photo: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks at the Council of the Great City Schools Annual Legislative/Policy Conference in Washington in March.—Jose Luis Magana/AP-File

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Opinion 20 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences This Year
Embed student voices and perspectives into the classroom is one piece of advice educators offer in this third pandemic-affected school year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
Special Education Schools Must Identify Students With Disabilities Despite Pandemic Hurdles, Ed. Dept. Says
Guidance stresses schools' responsibilities to those with disabilities, while noting that federal COVID aid can be used to address backlogs.
2 min read
School children in classroom with teacher, wearing face masks and raised hands
Special Education Attention Deficit Rates Skyrocket in High School. Mentoring Could Prevent an Academic Freefall
Twice as many students are diagnosed with ADHD in high school as in elementary school, yet their supports are fewer, a study says.
4 min read
Image of a child writing the letters "ADHD" on a chalkboard.
Special Education Opinion Q&A Collections: The Inclusive Classroom
Ten years of posts from experienced teachers of students with learning differences.
2 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."