Department of Education to Update Persons with Disabilities Policy

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is seeking public comment on potential regulatory changes related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (Anne Meadows/Flickr)

Federal education officials say they plan to revise the regulations of one of the key laws affecting students with disabilities after leaving them largely untouched for 45 years.

The U.S. Department of Education is considering changes to regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination of persons with disabilities in schools and other programs public and private that receive federal funds.

“While the world has undergone tremendous change since 1977, the department’s Section 504 regulations have remained, with few exceptions, unchanged,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights in the Department of Health. ‘education. “As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of these important regulations this month, it’s time to begin the updating process.”

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The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is seeking public input on the types of changes that are warranted. In addition, the agency said it plans to hold listening sessions in the coming months.

It’s unclear what kind of updates the Education Department is considering, but officials said they intend to “strengthen and protect the rights of students with disabilities.” In particular, the agency has indicated that it wishes to obtain the opinion of people with disabilities.

Section 504 requires that schools provide students with disabilities with free and appropriate public education and that children be provided with various accommodations under the law. Many students with disabilities are eligible for services under Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But, as of the 2017-18 school year, more than 1.38 million public school students with disabilities were being served solely under Section 504, according to federal civil rights data.

The Department of Education has not announced a timeline for updating the regulations. Information on submitting comments can be found on the ministry’s website.

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