On Thursday, July 12, 2018, The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) sued the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos, and Johnny W. Collett, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, for delaying implementation of the Equity in IDEA regulations, otherwise known as the significant disproportionality regulations. These regulations require that states examine their statistics to make sure that special education laws are being applied equally across all racial groups. Studies have shown that students of color are often wrongly under-identified or over-identified for special education. If under-identified, disabled students do not receive the services that they need, are disciplined for behavior related to their disabilities, and are not otherwise provided with the protections to which they are entitled. If over-identified, students without disabilities are wrongly placed in special education and denied access to educational instruction that is appropriate for them. The regulations, written during the Obama administration, are intended to guard against over- or under-inclusion by requiring states to measure whether there is racially significant disproportionality in the way a school district identifies, places, or disciplines students with disabilities. If disproportionality is found, a State must review how the school district implements the IDEA and analyze the factors that contribute to the difference in the way racial groups are treated. If the disproportionality reflects real differences among different student populations and does not result from violations of the IDEA, no further action is required. If, on the other hand, the disparity is unexplained, corrective measures must be taken using a percentage of IDEA funding.
The regulations were supposed to take effect on July 1, 2018. Last week, the US Department of Education announced that it was delaying the implementation of these regulations for two years. COPAA charges that the government offered no reasoned explanation for its decision to delay the implementation date by two years, and failed to consider the cost to parents and students of the delay.