ASAN has submitted our comments on a proposed change to Department of Education regulations. The proposed change would require public school systems to use a specific method for determining whether or not an unusually high or low number of students of color are identified as needing special education. This is referred to as “disproportionality.” The Department has been concerned that, because public school systems all calculate disproportionality differently, they might be missing examples of it in many schools. These changes to the regulations would create a standard way that all public school systems must now calculate disproportionality, making the process consistent and fair.
Tracking disproportionality allows the the Department to make sure that all students with disabilities are able to exercise their right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. ASAN knows that many autistic students of color are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. We think the changes to the regulations could be a powerful tool to protect the rights of autistic students of color.
The Department’s regulations would also require the schools to gather more data on both the rate at which students with disabilities are disciplined by public schools and the placements that students of each race/ethnicity end up in. These changes could go a long way toward exposing a lot the major issues students of color with disabilities face in the public school system, including being sent to segregated placements and disciplined at abnormally high rates as compared to white children with disabilities, or students without disabilites. This information will help advocates and the Department hold schools accountable.
ASAN supports the proposed regulations wholeheartedly and brings up several other issues in the comments that we think The Department should address at the same time. You can download the PDF of our comments here or read them in the embedded reader below.