Center for Civil Rights Remedies joined by 32 organizations and 19 scholars urge Department of Education to Address Racial Discipline Disparities among Students with Disabilities
Background: In 2004, a bipartisan Congress amended the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and made addressing racial disproportionality in special education a "priority area" for monitoring and enforcement. CRP’s research on racial inequity in special education helped inform the debate. Congress amended IDEA with a provision that required states to review district data on students with disabilities, and if the state found a district to have "significant disproportionality" by race or ethnicity in identification, placement, or discipline, the district would have to invest in addressing the issue. Specifically, identified districts are required to divert 15% of their Part B IDEA funds to "comprehensive coordinated early intervening services" (CEIS) particularly for the students in the subgroups that were over-identified.
Despite some modest efforts by a handful of states and districts, these provisions have not been properly implemented. In 2013 the Government Accounting Office issued a report that said DOED was letting states use a definition for significant disproportionality in special education that guaranteed that the states would not find any districts with this issue.
Over the years, CRP has highlighted the shortcomings and encouraged more meaningful action by the Department of Education. Most recently we have highlighted persistent and outrageous racial disparities in the use of out of school suspensions. This request for information begins what we hope will become substantive regulatory actions, or guidance from the federal government to states, to improve implementation of the provisions on racial disproportionality and ensure more effective use of the funds for CEIS.
The letter contains the Center for Civil Rights Remedies’ research-based response and was joined by 32 organizations and 19 individual scholars. In addition we understand that many other civil rights groups sent letters of their own with similar recommendations.
In sum, the letter proposed that OSERS:
- Create a model definition of significant disproportionality against which state definitions would be evaluated and approved or rejected;
- Encourage voluntary use of IDEA funds for CEIS to address significant racial disproportionality through: a) providing incentives for district-level public reporting of data describing the degree of disproportionality in all three areas; b) stepping-up federal enforcement of the requirement that states report racially disaggregated data to the public; and c) explicitly encouraging the voluntary use of CEIS funding to address possible root causes of racial disproportionality including to address the possible contribution of implicit racial or ethnic bias;
- Ensure that the students whose experiences of racial or ethnic disparities trigger required expenditures for CEIS actually receive the benefits;
- Create a new two-part indicator for monitoring and enforcement to ensure state compliance with the letter and spirit of 20 U.S.C. sections 1418(a) and (d); and
- Address the related shortcomings of indicators 4b, 9, and 10.
In addition please find CCRR’s summary of discipline data reporting indicating that 49 states are likely out of compliance.