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Disability Discrimination
Policy Guidance

image title: Protecting Students: Disability DiscriminationOCR’s policy guidance materials serve an important function: to notify schools and other recipients of federal funds of their legal obligations and the ways OCR enforces federal civil rights laws, helping them to comply with the law. In some instances, the guidance OCR issues directly responds to emerging trends in discriminatory behavior, as reflected in the Civil Rights Data Collection, requests OCR receives for technical assistance, and complaint investigations. Also, when precedent-setting cases in the courts clarify specific elements of application of the law, OCR utilizes "Dear Colleague" letters and accompanying supplementary materials to help ensure that the general public understands how the decisions apply to schools, districts, and educational institutions of higher learning. When appropriate, OCR issues guidance jointly with other civil rights offices, such as the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Learn about different types of guidance documents, including how to comment on significant guidance. Educational institutions may use OCR’s policy guidance to help adjust their own policies and practices to enhance civil rights protections for students and avoid committing civil rights violations, which may eliminate the need for OCR enforcement. And students, families, and communities may utilize this guidance to better understand students’ civil rights.

Below, in reverse chronological order, are policy guidance materials related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

 


Date  

Title of Document


 
2016
 

 December 28, 2016

 

Office for Civil Rights Releases Guidance about the Rights of Students with Disabilities in Public Charter Schools

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) jointly issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) and separate question and answer guidance documents to help educators, parents, students, and other stakeholders better understand the rights of students with disabilities in public charter schools under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In addition, OCR and OSERS jointly issued a fact sheet that provides a brief overview of the guidance.

  • Read the Press Release
  • "Dear Colleague" letter PDF (107.78K)
  • OSERS Frequently Asked Questions PDF (561.96K)
  • OCR Frequently Asked Questions PDF (593.96K)
  • Fact Sheet PDF (91.72K)

 December 28, 2016

 

Office for Civil Rights Releases Guidance on the Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Schools

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued legal guidance to school districts as to how the use of restraint or seclusion can result in discrimination against students with disabilities, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In addition, the Department also released a “Fast Facts” document that provides a brief overview of the guidance.


 December 28, 2016

 

Office for Civil Rights Releases a Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued a resource guide to help parents and the public elementary and secondary school community  understand student rights’ and school district responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), a Federal civil rights law that prohibits disability discrimination.


December 12, 2016

 

Office for Civil Rights Releases Guidance on the Prevention of Racial Discrimination in Special Education

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance addressing the interplay of the Title VI prohibition against discrimination on the basis of race/color/national origin in the administration of special education in public schools.


 October 14, 2016

 

Guidance on Helping Students with Diabetes

 

Updated version of "Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel," published by the National Diabetes Education Program (a program of the National Institutes for Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) with input and support from the Office for Civil Rights.


 July 26, 2016

 

Office for Civil Rights Releases ADHD Guidance

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).  The guidance—in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter and accompanying Resource Guide—provides a broad overview of Section 504 and school districts’ obligations to students with ADHD, including appropriately evaluating and providing services to such students, and ensuring due process. In addition, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document that provides a brief overview of the guidance.


 
2015
 

 March 18, 2015

 

Guidance Addressing the Risk of Measles in Schools while Protecting the Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities

 

The Fact Sheet addresses how school officials can implement recommendations and resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  related to protecting children and their families from measles without discriminating on the basis of disability, particularly in the case of students who are medically unable to receive a vaccine because of a disability, and explains what school officials must do to ensure continuity of learning if a student is legitimately excluded from school.  Other resources on measles can be found at rems.ed.gov/KeepSchoolsSafeFromDiseases.aspx.

  • Fact Sheet PDF (146K)


 
2014
 

December 16, 2014

 

Implementing CDC’s Ebola Guidance for Schools while Protecting the Civil Rights of Students and Others

 

The Fact Sheet addresses how school officials can implement Ebola guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  without discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, or disability; explains what school officials must do to ensure a continuity of learning if a student is legitimately excluded from school; and reminds school officials of their responsibility to respond to bullying and harassment.  Other resources on Ebola can be found at www.ed.gov/ebola-response.

  • Fact Sheet PDF (158K)


December 8, 2014

 

Guidance on Protecting Civil Rights in Juvenile Justice Residential Facilities

 

"Dear Colleague" letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Vanita Gupta, U.S. Department of Justice, concerning the applicability of Federal civil rights laws to juvenile justice residential facilities. The letter provides a reminder that juvenile justice residential facilities receiving Federal funds are subject to the same Federal civil rights obligations as all other public schools, and highlights some of the legal requirements related to access to academic coursework and career and vocational training, students with disabilities, English language learners, and the administration of discipline.

  • "Dear Colleague" letter PDF (676K)


November 12, 2014

 

Guidance on Effective Communication for Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools

 

“Dear Colleague” letter and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ) and Parent Fact Sheet from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Michael K. Yudin, and Vanita Gupta, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice, concerning effective communication for students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities in public elementary and secondary schools.

  • "Dear Colleague" letter PDF (159K)
    Carta a los Estimados Colegas PDF (159K)

  • FAQ PDF (418K)

  • Parent Fact Sheet PDF (103K)
    En español PDF (103K)


October 21, 2014

 

Guidance on Bullying of Students with Disabilities

 

"Dear Colleague" letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon, concerning the obligation of elementary and secondary schools to respond to the bullying of students with disabilities, including those students who are not eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act but are entitled to services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The guidance discusses the actions schools must take when bullying interferes with the education of a student with a disability who is bullied on any basis, and provides insight into how OCR analyzes complaints involving bullying of students with disabilities.

  • Press Release

  • "Dear Colleague" letter PDF (363K)
    Carta a los Estimados Colegas PDF (388K)

  • Fact Sheet PDF (88K)
    En español PDF (40K)


May 14, 2014

 

Guidance on Charter Schools

 

The letter provides a reminder that charter schools are subject to the same Federal civil rights obligations as all other public schools, and highlights some of the legal requirements related to admissions, student discipline, students with disabilities, and English language learners.

  • "Dear Colleague" letter PDF (179K)
    Carta a los estimados colegas: Escuelas Chárter PDF (186K)


 
2013
 

June 12, 2013

 

Guidance to Health-Related Schools Regarding Hepatitis B Discrimination

 

Joint OCR/DOJ/HHS "Dear Colleague" letter, addressing the rights of students with hepatitis B in postsecondary medical, dental, nursing, and other health-related programs. The letter discusses the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the participation of students with hepatitis B in health-related schools, and how the CDC recommendations relate to the federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, color, and national origin.


April 24, 2013

 

Guidance on the prohibition against retaliation under Federal civil rights laws

   

“"Dear Colleague" letter from Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter clarifies the basic principles of retaliation law and describes OCR’s methods of enforcement.



January 25, 2013

 

Guidance on Schools' Obligation to Provide Equal Opportunity to Students with Disabilities to Participate in Extracurricular Athletics

 

"Dear Colleague" letter from Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Seth Galanter, addressing equal access to extracurricular athletics for students with disabilities. The "Dear Colleague" letter provides an overview of the obligations of public elementary and secondary schools under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and the Department’s Section 504 regulations; cautions against making decisions based on presumptions and stereotypes; details the specific Section 504 regulations that require students with disabilities to have an equal opportunity for participation in nonacademic and extracurricular services and activities; and discusses the provision of separate or different athletic opportunities.


 
2012
 

January 19, 2012

  Guidance on ADA Amendments Act Amended Legal Standards
   

"Dear Colleague" letter to elementary and secondary education officials with attached Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ), from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali. The "Dear Colleague" letter and FAQ discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (Amendments Act), Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) in the context of students with disabilities attending public elementary and secondary schools. The FAQ addresses the broadened definition of disability and the changes made by the Amendments Act; explores how the Amendments Act affects Section 504; discusses various obligations of school districts, including the requirement to evaluate students to determine eligibility for regular or special education and related aids and services; and addresses how OCR evaluates compliance with Title II of the ADA and Section 504 in light of the Amendments Act.


 
2011
 

May 26, 2011

  Guidance on Use of Electronic Book Readers and Other Emerging Technologies (Follow-Up to 2010 Guidance)
 

"Dear Colleague" letters to elementary and secondary education officials and postsecondary education officials, with attached Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ), from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali. The "Dear Colleague" letters and FAQ follow-up on a June 29, 2010 letter, sent by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to college and university presidents, regarding the use of electronic book readers and other emerging technologies in compliance with civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. The May 26, 2011 "Dear Colleague" letters and FAQ answer questions about the obligations of educational institutions that provide benefits to students by means of these technologies.


 
2010
 

October 26, 2010

  Guidance on Schools’ Obligations to Protect Students from Student-on-Student Harassment on the Basis of Sex; Race, Color and National Origin; and Disability
 

“Dear Colleague” letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali, concerning recipients' obligations to protect students from student-on-student harassment on the basis of sex; race, color and national origin; and disability. The letter clarifies the relationship between bullying and discriminatory harassment, provides examples of harassment, and illustrates how a school should respond in each case.


June 29, 2010

  Guidance on Use of Electronic Book Readers and Other Emerging Technologies
 

"Dear Colleague" letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Department of Justice, concerning the obligation of colleges and universities to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to emerging technologies in education. The letter, a joint guidance from the Departments of Justice and Education, reminds colleges and universities of the legal standards in regard to accessibility, and applies those standards to electronic book readers. The letter states that it is impermissible under federal law for colleges and universities to use electronic book readers or similar technology in a teaching or classroom environment as long as the device remains inaccessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision and reasonable accommodation or modification for this type of technology do not exist or are not available.


 
prior to 2010
 

January 13, 2009

  Guidance on Assurance of Compliance-Civil Rights Certificate
   

“Dear Colleague” letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Stephanie Monroe, concerning the obligation of recipients of federal financial assistance from, or funds made available through, the Department to submit a signed assurance of compliance with the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act and the other laws OCR enforces. This letter is a subsequent request to recipients for whom OCR has no record of receiving a signed assurance.  The letter contains instructions for completion, and encloses a blank copy of the Assurance of Compliance – Civil Rights Certificate for submission to OCR.


October 17, 2008

  Guidance on Disclosure of Report Cards and Transcripts for Students with Disabilities
 

"Dear Colleague" letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Stephanie Monroe providing recipients with information regarding disclosure of disability on report cards and transcripts for students with disabilities attending public elementary and secondary schools. The purpose of this guidance is to clarify how federal laws apply to statements on report cards and transcripts when these statements identify students as students with disabilities.


July 25, 2008

 

"Dear Colleague" letter Commemorating the 18th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Providing Information for Wounded Veterans

   

"Dear Colleague" letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Stephanie Monroe commemorating the 18th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This letter discusses the broad impact that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the ADA have had on aspects of education. The linked pamphlet “So You Want to Go Back to School” (July 2008) provides information for wounded veterans who are qualified individuals with disabilities under Section 504 and ADA with an overview of their rights and responsibilities regarding academic adjustments, auxiliary aids, and reasonable modifications to school policies and practices at postsecondary institutions.


December 26, 2007

  Guidance on Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs
   

"Dear Colleague" letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Stephanie Monroe addressing the rights of students with disabilities to participate in schools’ and school districts’ accelerated programs, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes or programs.


March 16, 2007

  Guidance on Students with Disabilities and Transitioning to Postsecondary Education
   

“Dear Colleague” letter and “Dear Parent” letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Stephanie Monroe, providing information about the legal rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities as they transition from high school to institutions of postsecondary education.


April 14, 2005

  Guidance on Helping Students with Diabetes
   

Joint "Dear Colleague" letter to Chief State School Officers concerning the document "Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel," co-authored by the Office for Civil Rights and published in 2003 under the auspices of the National Institutes for Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

The publication referenced in this letter was updated in October 2016 and can be found at the link below.


July 28, 2003

  First Amendment
 

"Dear Colleague" letter reaffirming that OCR's regulations and policies do not require or prescribe speech, conduct or harassment codes that impair the exercise of rights protected under the First Amendment.


September 29, 1999

  Guidance on Statewide Assessments and Students with Disabilities
 

Dear Colleague Letter signed by the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Norma V. Cantú, and the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Judith E. Heumann. Subject: Obligation to include elementary and secondary students with disabilities in statewide assessment systems.


September 29, 1997

  Guidance on Schools’ Obligation to Include Elementary and Secondary Students with Disabilities in Statewide Assessment Systems
   

Statewide Assessments and Students with Disabilities: "Dear Colleague" letter signed by the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Subject: Obligation to include elementary and secondary students with disabilities in statewide assessment systems.



   
Last Modified: 12/28/2016