All too often, students with disabilities are subjected to cruel and unusual punishments by school staff and faculty members who lack the training, patience and resources to manage their behavioral challenges.
Take for example, the case of a 13-year-old boy with autism in California, whose face-down restraint by three school employees resulted in his death in 2018; or the 2022 case of a nonverbal first grader in Texas who was being physically abused by his teacher and teacher’s aide for months.
Equally heinous is when school boards cover up the mistreatment of disabled students. For example, earlier this year, the Bedford Central School District Board of Education failed to notify the parents of nonverbal disabled high school students that their naked photos (taken by other students in school bathrooms) were being circulated on social media.
As the 2022-2023 school year looms, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) have established new guidelines for elementary and secondary schools to “support students with disabilities and avoid discriminatory use of discipline.”
According to a press release by the Department of Education, “the newly released resources are the most comprehensive guidance on the civil rights of students with disabilities concerning student discipline and build on the Department’s continued efforts to support students and schools through pandemic recovery.”
Included in the guidelines are the following resources for educators, school administrators, parents and students:
- Supporting Students with Disabilities and Avoiding the Discriminatory Use of Student Discipline under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and an accompanying Fact Sheet.
- Questions and Answers Addressing the Needs of Children with Disabilities and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA’s) Discipline Provisions.
- Positive, Proactive Approaches to Supporting the Needs of Children with Disabilities: A Guide for Stakeholders.
- A letter from Secretary Cardona to our nation’s educators, school leaders, parents, and students about the importance of supporting the needs of students with disabilities.
“All students deserve to have their rights protected, and schools deserve greater clarity on how they can avoid the discriminatory use of discipline,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The guidance we’re releasing today will help ensure that students with disabilities are treated fairly and have access to supports and services to meet their needs—including their disability-based behavior. … These resources will also help schools live up to their legal obligations, support an equitable recovery for all our students, and make sure that students with disabilities get the behavioral supports and special education services they need to thrive.”