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What do schools owe to students with disabilities? The Fed plans to update the rules

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 What do schools owe to students with disabilities?  The Fed plans to update the rules

The U.S. Department of Education plans to update regulations on school responsibilities under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a basic federal law that prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities.

The announcement came because the ability of schools to meet the needs of students with disabilities during distance learning – and to make up for any progress lost due to service failures – was main focus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Education announced on Friday its intention to update the rules, outlining a public discussion process 45 years after the rules were first published.

“While the world has undergone tremendous changes since 1977, the regulations of section 504 of the Department have remained, with some exceptions, unchanged,” said Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights.

The agency did not specify what changes would be considered, but said in a statement that it wanted to “strengthen and protect the rights” of students by including the voices of people with disabilities in the process.

What this civil rights law requires

Section 504 is a civil rights law that requires schools to provide free relevant public education – or FAPE – to students with a wide range of physical, emotional, developmental and intellectual disabilities, meeting their needs through individual plans outlining housing. Such conditions may include extra time for tests, changing classroom locations, changing homework, or using special technologies to help students with processing problems.

Section 504 differs from the Education for People with Disabilities Act, which requires schools to create individual education programs that describe services for students with more disabilities. list of disabled people which includes dyslexia, autism and deafness or blindness. In many cases, students with disabilities are protected by both laws.

Lawyers for students with disabilities and their families say the process of providing housing at the school can be difficult and confusing.

They also complained that schools were not moving fast enough to meet the need for compensatory services – services that address lost progress during placement gaps – as the pandemic resumed.

Plans to update the rules of section 504 came a week after the Department of Education announced permission with Los Angeles schools after deficiencies in the area’s special education offerings during the pandemic and its plans to assess the need for compensatory services as part of its recovery will be identified. This agreement has delighted supporters seeking change.

Instructions for commenting on changes that may be made to the regulations of Section 504 are here.

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