UPDATE: The Law Center is monitoring the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s (PDE) implementation of this new federal regulation, which will require changes in its current practices. PDE informed us in early February 2017 that they will post on their website a draft policy for implementing the new regulations; once that draft is available, we will issue another update and will gather input in order to submit comments to PDE.
In the final month of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Education finalized a rule to address the disproportionate placement and disciplining of students in special education programs on the basis of race and ethnicity. The new rule requires states and school districts to use a standardized methodology to identify such disproportionate actions.
The Law Center welcomes this new rule. We provided comments on this rule on behalf the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference and Concerned African American Parents in May 2016.
The disproportionate placement and discipline of students in special education are long-recognized problems in American public education.
Misplacement into special education can result in social isolation and diminished self-esteem in the affected students. Moreover, low academic expectations may sabotage students’ educational progress and opportunities for college or career advancement. Academic studies have confirmed that the over-identification of African-American students for special education programs is particularly problematic in predominantly white, wealthy school districts.
Disproportionate discipline and expulsion based on race has been identified as part of the “pipeline to prison” problem.
The new regulations will improve current practices, by adding needed specificity for making determinations of significant disproportionality and for remedying the problem once it is identified. The regulations strike a needed balance between allowing states and school districts some discretion in how they calculate disproportionality and requiring them to exercise that discretion within reasonable, well-delineated bounds.
We and our clients express our full approval of the adoption of this rule which went into effect January 18, 2017.
Click here to read a “Dear Colleague” letter from the U.S. Department of Education about the rule.