Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Education Department Issues Guidelines to Protect Students with ADHD

guest post by the CHADD Public Policy Committee

Today the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education (OCR) issued guidance to every public school district in the country about the implementation of Section 504 for students with ADHD. CHADD provided significant input to OCR as OCR was developing this guidance. CHADD, through its public policy committee and its professional advisory board, had ongoing and active discussion with the OCR. We shared the concerns of our members about the implementation of Section 504 and the effects on their children. We provided scientific research and knowledge about ADHD as well as our recommendations for best practices for educating students with ADHD in school and ideas about how to improve the implementation of Section 504 to benefit students with ADHD.

A 2014 survey of CHADD’s membership reinforced our concerns that the Section 504 process in the schools was clearly not working. Parents reported major violations in every step—from referral, to evaluation, to development of a student’s Section 504 Plan, to its implementation and, unfortunately to the frequent suspension and expulsion that became the outcome. The lack of appropriate referral, evaluation, and eligibility practices was particularly problematic, as it suggested that there are likely many children with ADHD that may need Section 504 protection that were not being referred or found eligible for a 504 Plan. In addition, implementation of these plans was especially troubling, with two thirds of parents reporting the plan was not implemented in the classroom.

The statistics and anecdotal reports from parents were consistent with the concerns that parents and professionals involved with CHADD frequently report. The individual stories, albeit brief, were heart wrenching and provided a painful human dimension to the statistics. These students with ADHD were being denied a free and appropriate public education and an equal opportunity for participation in school. The safeguards of the Section 504 regulations were not providing adequate protection from the problems these children experienced.

CHADD urged stronger action from the US Department of Education to ensure that school staff would understand both their obligations under Section 504 and the symptoms of ADHD and best practices for responding to it. Equally important, we urged stronger guidance and enforcement from the OCR to ensure that appropriate safeguards and supports are put in place for all students with ADHD that are or should be eligible for the protections of Section 504.

In its press release announcing the issuance of this guidance, OCR reported that more than one out of every nine complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary schools that OCR received in the past five years involved students with ADHD. OCR stated the most common of these complaints concerned “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.” This verifies the seriousness of CHADD’s concerns about noncompliance with Section 504.
We applaud the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education for their efforts to make sure that the civil rights of students with ADHD are protected in our public schools. We appreciate the guidance on implementation of Section 504 that they have developed for all school districts nationwide.

CHADD will continue to provide feedback to the OCR about the effectiveness of the new guidance. CHADD will continue to provide science-based research findings that address the educational needs of students with ADHD, and CHADD will continue to be a leader in providing high quality teacher training, so that ADHD students and teachers too, will be partners in education.

Ingrid Alpern, JD, LLM
Matthew Cohen, JD
Jeffrey Katz, PhD
CHADD Public Policy Committee


Unknown said...

Is there a link to Dept of Ed recommendations?

The ADHD Blog said...

Links to the guidelines as well as the press release are provided in the blog. Here again is the link to the "Dear Colleague" letter that contains the guidelines: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201607-504-adhd.pdf

Unknown said...

its mandatory by law in every state ??????

Mary Durheim said...

So proud of all of the work done on this by CHADD members. It took a long time but well worth the wait. Now I hope we can get this in the hands of every single campus administrator and all teachers!! Congratulations on a job well done.

Terry M. Huff said...

Well done...applause for CHADD leaders! Knowledge is power! Thank you for sharing this empowering information. Let's actively find ways to get this information into the hands of parents whose first language is not English, and other minorities who may think ADHD is a white middle class disorder.

Unknown said...

I would really like to become involved in this. I have quite the story to tell from bullying to ultimately recommending he be placed in a school with problem children. It was too late for us and my son is not now in school with no GED or Diploma and we are left wondering what we are going to do to get this now 18 year old an education. The teachers, of a very academically/sports driven school never had time for one on one; a 504 was implemented however they left it up to the student to enforce it . . . if he had that ability he wouldn't have needed the 504; and I didn't realize they weren't accommodating him or assisting him; he felt like a number, was bullied and nothing was done. I am looking at various things to do now, however, it is heartbreaking to see a loving young man be treated in such a way and made to feel like a loser . . . I have just read the above and I am in tears because I felt it was something that I did wrong in not being his advocate. His counselor suggested college classes, but I am at a loss, and I don't want any other child being made to feel like mine was and losing out on an education that we technically pay for and never got. I know there is legal action we could take but I will not go in that direction; I work with lawyers and cannot be blackballed in the community; again I just do not want this happening to any other child and if anyone has suggestions on "what do we do now" . . . I would love to hear them!

Thank you for your movement. It is too bad this is not a more recognized problem that people actually believe is an issue and not just bad behavior.