Guidance released from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) helps public elementary and secondary schools fulfill their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline. These 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.
The new resources reflect the concern, particularly in light of the prevalence of student mental health issues associated with the pandemic, that some students with disabilities are not receiving the supports and services necessary to address their educational needs, including their disability-based behavior. The guidance makes clear that schools do not need to choose between complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and keeping their school community – including students and staff – safe.
The new resources include:
In developing this guidance and these resources, OSERS and OCR drew from experience with enforcing and administering federal laws relating to students with disabilities, including Section 504 and the IDEA. They also considered information shared by members of the public in response to the June 2021 Request for Information Regarding the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline. Section 504 prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating based on disability, and the IDEA guarantees that children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE emphasizes special education and related services designed to the needs of children with disabilities and prepare them for further education and employment services and independent living.
School Discipline Information
Educators must consider positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports, as well as positive academic and social learning opportunities to address student behavior when it impedes their learning or the learning of others.
Information on the Discipline Incidents Data Collection.
Lisa Joy Bateman