October 26, 2017
The move was taken by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos after President Trump issued Executive Order 13777, which directed federal agencies to eliminate any regulations that “inhibit job creation,” “are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective,” “impose costs that exceed benefits,” or “create a serious inconsistency” with other reforms and policies. The DOE released its short list of regulations up for elimination last June, and opened a brief comment period to allow members of the public to weigh in on the final decision.
Of the 72 documents ultimately selected for elimination, 63 originated in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), while the remaining 9 regulated the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Some of the eliminated policies include “Guidance on Procedural Safeguards and Due Process Procedures for Parents and Children with Disabilities” and “Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Placed by Their Parents at Private Schools.” Several of the documents date back to the 1980s.
Experts say they are still assessing how the move will directly affect students with disabilities. While rescinding the policies does not change federal law, some education advocates worry that it may make it more difficult for schools to appropriately serve children or for parents to advocate for their child’s needs.
“All of these [policies] are meant to be very useful… in helping schools and parents understand and fill in with concrete examples the way the law is meant to work when it’s being implemented in various situations,” said Lisa Jones, the chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. In an interview with the Washington Post, she said she was “particularly concerned to see guidance documents outlining how schools could use federal money for special education removed.”
Some members of Congress also expressed concern about the DOE’s decision.
“Much of the guidance around IDEA [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] focused on critical clarifications of the regulations required to meet the needs of students with disabilities and provide them a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment,” Representative Robert Scott of Virginia said in a statement. “Notwithstanding the actions taken by the Department today, the regulations still remained enforced; however they lack the clarification the guidance provided.”
A critical 2016 ADHD-related guidance — formally called the “Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide on ADHD” — was not selected for elimination. While this may be good news for children with ADHD, several of the rescinded documents provided broader guidance on IDEA as a whole — which may impact how students with ADHD receive accommodations and services.
During her confirmation hearing in January, DeVos appeared unaware that IDEA was a federal law, saying that she believed it was a matter “best left to the states.” When pushed by senators to clarify her views on IDEA, she said she “may have confused it” but that she would be “very sensitive” to the needs of disabled students.