Cohen: U.S. Department of Education and Memphis City Schools Reach Agreement on Aids and Services for Students with Disabilities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) today announced that the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education has reached an agreement with the Memphis City School District on aids and services for students with disabilities.
“Our children deserve the best quality education possible, especially those who suffer from disabilities,” said Congressman Cohen. “The agreement between the Department of Education and the Memphis City School District will help ensure our disabled children are treated fairly and given proper tools and opportunities to excel in their studies.”
The agreement resolves a compliance review initiated by the department to address whether the district is appropriately evaluating students with food allergies, asthma, diabetes, and other health impairments who have Individual Health Care Plans (IHCPs) to determine if the students are qualified students with a disability as defined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II). OCR also investigated whether there was a difference in the provision of services to health impaired students on the basis of race.
“We look forward to working with the Memphis community to ensure that all students with disabilities, regardless of their race, have equal access to a quality education,” said Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights. “The agreement reached today is an important step in that direction.”
Section 504 requires recipients of federal financial assistance to properly evaluate and provide services to students who are eligible for disability services. If a student has a disability and needs or is believed to need special education or related services, he or she has a right under the regulation implementing Section 504 to an evaluation, placement and procedural safeguards. An IHCP may comply with the provisions of Section 504 if it meets the evaluation, placement, and procedural safeguard requirements of the regulation. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) requires that related aids and services be provided to qualified students with disabilities regardless of race.
Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, the district entered into a voluntary resolution agreement with the district. Under the terms of the agreement:
- The district will contact the parents or guardians of all students to inform them of the district’s obligation to evaluate students who, because of disability, need or are believed to need special education or related services. If a student currently has an IHCP, the district will provide parents or guardians with information regarding the student’s possible rights to evaluation, placement, and procedural safeguards. An IHCP for a student who has a qualifying disability is insufficient if it does not incorporate these rights.
- Additionally, written communication will be provided to all parents during fall 2012 registration explaining the district’s obligation to evaluate students with health related concerns, including students with IHCPs. In both notifications, parents or guardians are encouraged to address inquiries to their school counselor.
- Further, the district will revise and implement policies and procedures to ensure appropriate and prompt identification, evaluation, and placement of students with disabilities, including students with health related concerns such as food allergies, asthma and diabetes and other physical or mental conditions which may impact major life activities..
- Finally, the district will provide mandatory training to all district personnel involved in the referral, identification, evaluation, and placement of students with disabilities under Section 504 and Title II.
The enforcement of Section 504, Title II, and Title VI are top priorities of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
Additional information about OCR is available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.