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On December 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education released new final regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). The regulations are aimed at addressing “significant disproportionalities” in special education. By July 1, 2018, state boards of education must develop and implement a standard methodology for determining whether significant disproportionality is occurring in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities based on race and ethnicity.

In addition, the final regulations clarify that States must address significant disproportionalities in disciplinary actions, as well as the requirements for review and revision of policies, practices, and procedures when significant disproportionality is identified. School districts are required to identify and address factors contributing to significant disproportionality (e.g., mis-identification, under-identification, over-identification) as part of comprehensive “coordinated early intervention services” (“comprehensive CEIS”) and make these services available to children from age 3 to grade 12 with or without disabilities.

Also on December 12, the U.S. Department of Education released a Dear Colleague Letter and two Fact Sheets on racial discrimination in special education. These documents provide guidance to school districts on ensuring that all students, regardless of race, color, or national origin, have equitable access to general and special education services. In particular, the guidance documents focus on ways school districts can prevent racial discrimination in referrals for special education, evaluations, and the provision of special education services under both IDEA and Section 504.

The U.S. Department of Education documents are available as follows: Dear Colleague Letter HERE; Fact Sheet re: Equity in IDEA HERE; and Fact Sheet re: Preventing Racial Discrimination in Special Education HERE. Additional information also is available in the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) Superintendent’s Weekly Message (December 20, 2016).

Please contact Jen Deutch or Stephanie Jones with your inquiries.