On May 6, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education announced its Intent to Strengthen and Protect Rights for Students with Disabilities by Amending Regulations Implementing Section 504, the landmark disability civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in schools and postsecondary institutions. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) plans to gather public input on possible amendments to Section 504 to determine how to best improve current regulations to assist students with disabilities. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month and in accordance with President Biden’s strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis, OCR will also gather input from individuals with disabilities who have mental health needs and their advocates.
With the federal government and state and local governments lifting mask requirements, it feels like we may be coming to the end of a two-year masking nightmare in schools. As cases begin to decline, schools across the country are allowing staff and students to come to school mask-free. When it comes to medically-fragile students, however, the risks of COVID-19 may continue for a long time after the rest of the world has moved on from the virus. What responsibilities remain for schools to require masking in the school environment to protect students with disabilities?