Civil Rights Groups Urge U.S. Department of Education to Intervene on Race and Disability Discrimination

Media 05.16,16

WASHINGTON – Today, 22 civil rights groups urged the U.S. Department of Education to issue strong regulations to address and prevent widespread discrimination and disparities facing students of color and students with disabilities.

The Department is currently considering how it can stem the massive and longstanding disparities in school discipline and classroom exclusion faced by students of color with disabilities. As part of this rulemaking, the Department is also considering how to prevent the practice of wrongly placing students of color in special education.

In a letter supporting the proposed rules, the organizations said: “This opportunity to address the appropriate identification, placement, and disciplining of students of color with disabilities is of particular interest to the civil and human rights community given our long struggle to ensure educational opportunity, full inclusion, and appropriate supports and services for students with disabilities, boys and girls of color, English language learners, and Native American, low-income, and LGBTQ students. We recognize that often students are members of multiple communities and experience unlawful and unjust discrimination within the intersections of these identities.”

The letter continues, “We strongly support the proposed rules in general as they are intended to improve state and district efforts to mitigate problematic racial disproportionality in special education in the three distinct areas of identification, placement in restrictive settings, and discipline. We strongly support regulations that will prevent states with problematic disproportionality in any of these areas from avoiding addressing the issues at the district level, and welcome the codification of prior guidance provided by the Department which made it clear that states must review districts for racial disproportionality in discipline.”

Below is a quote from Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“Students of color with disabilities live at the intersection of our nation’s most deep-seated educational injustices. These students must contend with an exponential burden of over-punishment, exclusion from the classroom, and segregation that will never be fixed without robust oversight from the Department of Education. Disability rights are civil rights, and these rules will help make sure that fewer students have their futures robbed from them simply because of who they are and how they learn.”

Click here to read the letter.

The full list of signers is below.

  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW)
  • Association of University Centers on Disabilities
  • The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project
  • Collaboration to Promote Self Determination
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
  • Dignity in Schools Campaign
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
  • Education Law Center – PA
  • Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • League of United Latin American Citizens
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities
  • National Council of La Raza
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • National Down Syndrome Congress
  • National Indian Education Association
  • National Urban League
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
  • TASH