Federal Resources Aim to Support Students with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has launched four new resources intended to empower students with disabilities, their families, and educational institutions in understanding their rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law safeguards students with disabilities from discrimination in schools and higher education institutions that receive federal funding. Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, emphasized that these resources will enhance comprehension of the protections afforded by federal disability rights laws.

The focus of these resources is on medical conditions recognized as disabilities under Section 504, including asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. They provide guidance on identifying when these conditions qualify for protection under Section 504, the necessary adjustments schools may need to make to prevent discrimination, and addressing instances of past discrimination.

Additionally, the OCR has released data from its 2020-2021 Civil Rights Data Collection, which sheds light on the educational landscape for students with disabilities. In the mentioned school year, 8.4 million students with disabilities comprised 17% of total public school enrollment. Among them, 1.6 million students solely received educational aids and services under Section 504.

The data also underscored disparities in the educational experiences of students with disabilities compared to their peers without disabilities. It revealed that students with disabilities were disproportionately subjected to physical restraint or seclusion, disciplinary measures, and had lesser participation rates in Advanced Placement courses, gifted programs, and dual enrollment or credit programs.

These newly launched resources and the accompanying data are readily accessible on the OCR and CRDC websites. Their aim is to furnish valuable information to students with disabilities, their families, and educational institutions, fostering equal access to education and fortifying safeguards against discrimination.

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As continues its commitment to inclusive education and equitable treatment for all students, these resources serve as vital tools in ensuring that students with disabilities receive the support and accommodations they need to thrive academically and socially within the educational system.

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