DeVos rescinds 72 policy guidance documents for those with SEND

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The US Department of Education has rescinded 72 policy guidance documents relating to provision for those with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

The announcement by the Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) says the guidance has been deemed ‘outdated, unnecessary or ineffective’ and has been rescinded as part of the Trump administration’s regulatory reform initiative introduced in February 2017 to ‘alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens’ on the American people.

Sixty-three of the documents are from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and nine from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

The move to rescind so many guidance documents at one time caused consternation among SEND and civil rights activists, although many reserved judgement until they had the opportunity to study the details of what was being scrapped.

Lindsay E. Jones, the chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, told The Washington Post she was particularly concerned to see guidance documents outlining how schools could use federal money for special education removed.

All of these are meant to be very useful … in helping schools and parents understand and fill in with concrete examples the way the law is meant to work when it’s being implemented in various situations.

The concerns reflect the fact that many special need and disability advocates see US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as unsympathetic to guidance designed to protect vulnerable minorities. In February she rescinded guidance that directed schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity, and in September guidance on how schools should investigate allegations of sexual assault.

Publications like the Conservative Daily Post, have defended DeVos’s actions:

The biggest impact comes from revoking specific restrictions on how individual schools can spend their special education allotments. By pulling nit-picking restrictions imposed during the Obama era, schools are now free to spend their special-ed dollars as they see fit.

The Education Department also responded to critics by saying that its actions would have no effect on services provided to students with disabilities.

Elizabeth Hill, DeVos’s Press Secretary, is quoted as saying:

There are absolutely no policy implications to these rescission. Students with disabilities and their advocates will see no impact on services provided.

Professor Bill Koski, the respected Director of the Youth and Education Law Project at Stanford University, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he had reviewed many of the documents on the list and did not believe the move would effect how schools accommodate students with disabilities.

It does look like housekeeping to me more than anything else. I don’t know that it will change practice in any way.

Koski said.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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