Scott & Murray on the Rollback of Civil Rights for Students with Disabilities, Students of Color

Scott, Murray urge Department of Education to maintain protections for students of color with disabilities and urge public comment.

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for a two year delay of the Equity in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) rule, which addresses disproportionate identification, placement, and disciplinary treatment of students of color in special education.

When Congress last reauthorized the IDEA in 2004, it sought to correct disparate treatment of students of color with disabilities by requiring states, for the first time, to identify school districts with, and direct federal resources to address gross inequities. Congress knew then, just as it knows now, that students of color are over-identified for special education services, placed in more restrictive settings, and disciplined at higher rates. Despite having had more than a decade to comply with this important IDEA requirement, too many states and districts continually fail to uphold their legal responsibility to address in the identification, placement, and discipline of students of color with disabilities. The Department’s proposed delay rewards that failure, undermines the fundamental goals of the IDEA, and jeopardizes educational opportunity for millions of children of color.

“I am deeply disappointed by the Department’s proposed delay of the Equity in IDEA rule. Clearly, leaving IDEA’s requirement to address significant disproportionality unregulated has done a disservice to millions of students of color with disabilities and exacerbated the ‘school to prison pipeline.’ We cannot continue to ignore these disparities. Regardless of any proposed delay of this rule, states and school districts are still bound by the statutory requirements of IDEA and must continue efforts to reduce disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students of color with disabilities. I urge parents, students, advocates, and special education leaders to submit public comments in support of students, and I urge Secretary DeVos to abandon this proposal and maintain needed protections for students with disabilities. The Department must be accountable for enforcing IDEA and protecting the civil rights of all students,” said Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA).

“Secretary DeVos made it clear in her confirmation hearing that she didn’t understand an important federal law protecting students with disabilities, and this latest move shows that she hasn’t made much progress since. Students with disabilities should absolutely get the support and resources they need to succeed, but the policy that Secretary DeVos is trying to delay is intended to make sure that students aren’t inappropriately pushed into or denied special education, aren’t unfairly subjected to disciplinary action, and aren’t forced into more segregated school settings. This proposed delay would hurt our efforts to increase transparency and information for parents and policymakers, it would continue to push more students of color into the school-to-prison pipeline, and it would be a step backward in our efforts to make sure every student can access the quality education they deserve. Anyone who wants to fight back against Secretary DeVos’ latest attack on the civil rights of our students should make their voices heard in opposition to this delay,” said Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA).

On February 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services announced plans to postpone the compliance date of the “Equity in IDEA” or “significant disproportionality” regulations for K-12 students until July 1, 2020, and for children ages three through five until July 1, 2022. The public have 75 days to comment, which must be received by the Department on or before May 14, 2018. The public may comment by going to www.regulations.gov, enter “2018-04102” into the search window, and selecting “Comment Now”. For more information visit the Federal Register online here.                      


Press Contact

Stephanie Lalle: 202-226-0853 (Scott)
Mairead Lynn: 202-224-5398 (Murray)