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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

ADHD now classified as a specific disability under federal civil rights law

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD

from a Press Release on July 26, 2016
U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “The Department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education.”
Over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. The most common complaint concerns academic and behavioral difficulties students with ADHD experience at school when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services.
Today’s guidance provides a broad overview of Section 504 and school districts’ obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities, including students with ADHD. The guidance:
  • Explains that schools must evaluate a student when a student needs or is believed to need special education or related services.
  • Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
  • Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
  • Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.
In addition to the guidance, the Department also released a Know Your Rights document that provides a brief overview of schools’ obligations to students with ADHD.
The mission of OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information about OCR and the anti-discrimination laws that it enforces, please visit its website and follow OCR on twitter @EDcivilrights.
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article from LA Times on the Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD.
The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines aimed at preventing schools from discriminating against the growing numbers of students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

article by Joy Resmovits for the Los Angeles Times | July 26, 2016

In a letter to school districts and a “know your rights” document to be posted on its website Tuesday, the department said schools must obey existing civil rights law to identify students with the disorder and provide them with accommodations to help them learn.

The guidelines come in response to years of complaints from parents who say that their children have been denied needed services and that schools have failed to protect them from bullying. The Education Department, which has received roughly 2,000 such complaints over the last five years, said schools have requested clarification of their responsibilities under the law.

“Many … [teachers] are not familiar with this disorder,” Catherine Lhamon, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote in the letter. “The failure to provide needed services to students with disabilities can result in serious social, emotional and educational harm.”

The number of children being diagnosed with ADHD — a neurobiological disorder characterized by impulsivity, hyperactivity or inattentiveness — has soared over the last decade.

As of 2011, 11% of children ages 4-17 were diagnosed with the disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Boys were more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD.

California does not specifically track the number of students with ADHD, instead grouping most of them in the broader category of “specific learning disability.” As of Dec. 1, 2015, 288,294 students were in that category.

The rising rate of diagnosis has been controversial. There is no biological marker for the disorder. Kids can be diagnosed after showing symptoms such as carelessness or distraction over six months. But the line between quirky and disability can be fuzzy.

The rise of ADHD can be expensive for school districts, as the services for a single student can cost several thousand dollars a year. Some research though has found that there are hidden costs to not treating the disorder.

Under a 1973 federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, schools are responsible for identifying students with the disorder and supporting them by recording lectures, highlighting passages of textbooks or giving them extra time on tests.

The guidelines make clear that school districts should evaluate students who may have the disorder even if they show high academic performance. Parents are entitled to ask that a district evaluate a student.

Jeffrey Katz, a Virginia-based clinical psychologist who works on public policy for the nonprofit Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, has seen students who have been missed by school districts.

For Maryland tax attorney Ingrid Alpern, co-chair of the nonprofit’s public policy committee, that lack of diagnosis for her son was painful.

It was only in third grade that a teacher told her that her son probably had the disorder. “I could have kissed that teacher,” she said. “It took all the way to third grade for the district to offer him a 504 plan.”

Before then, the school made her son eat lunch in the principal’s office.


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