June 2022 —
The MLO Minute: “U.S. Department of Education Announces That Section 504 Rulemaking is on the Horizon” by Nancy Potter, Esq. —
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced its intent to amend the regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to “strengthen and protect rights for students with disabilities.” Section 504 is the disability civil rights law that provides protections to elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. It has remained largely unchanged since its enactment 45 years ago.
The Section 504 regulations have not been altered since 1977. While the Department of Education has not yet indicated the particular changes it may propose, recent announcements and publications have highlighted mental health issues and school discipline for students with disabilities. It is likely that these issues may be among those addressed through the regulatory changes.
As part of its effort to amend the regulations, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) in the Department of Education will be soliciting public comments. Instructions for submitting comments is available here. We encourage the families and individuals that we serve to provide input regarding their struggles with Section 504 regulations and what changes they would find helpful.
According to OCR, listening to and soliciting input from people with disabilities who also have mental health needs and their advocates will be part of its process toward improving the Department’s disability rights regulations. While there has not yet been a timeline announced, those who want to participate in the public comment process are asked to submit comments before June 30, 2022.
The attorneys at McAndrews will continue to monitor ongoing developments in this area, particularly as they relate to strengthening and protecting rights for students with disabilities.