Special Education Implications of Proposed Title IX Rule: Biden Administration Nods to the Complicated Intersections but Leaves the Hard Work to Schools  

On June 23, 2022, President Biden’s U.S. Department of Education released the much-anticipated proposed Title IX regulations. The proposed regulations are a major step by the Biden administration in its effort to overhaul the Trump-era Title IX regulations. The proposed regulations would make significant changes, including expanding the definition of hostile environment sex-based harassment; removing the requirement for a formal, written complaint; providing more flexibility in the grievance process for K-12 schools; adding new notice and training requirements; and providing explicit protections for LGBTQ individuals as well as students and employees who are pregnant or parenting. Additionally, the proposed regulations acknowledge the intersection between Title IX and special education laws but provide little guidance on how to navigate the complex questions that arise when students with disabilities are involved in Title IX complaints.  

Specifically, the proposed regulations define “student with a disability” and, to help ensure compliance with disability laws, require consultation between the Title IX coordinator and the IEP or 504 team when a complainant or respondent is a student with a disability. That’s it—An acknowledgment that students with disabilities may be involved in Title IX complaints and a directive for the Title IX coordinator to consult with the student’s special education team to figure out how to comply with both laws and meet the needs of the student. 

Great IEP, Consistent Implementation. Now What? Progress Monitoring.

Last week we talked about the importance of consistent IEP implementation. A strong IEP and consistent implementation are the basis for a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). Progress monitoring, while often underappreciated, can be a powerful tool to demonstrate implementation, provide evidence that the IEP is appropriate, and inform the development of the next IEP. Keep reading to see how progress monitoring fits into the IEP process and how teams can do it effectively.

Great IEP, Now What? Implementation.

ARD Committees put a lot of time and effort into drafting clear, ambitious, and supportive IEPs. We attorneys spend a lot of time training teams on drafting legally compliant IEPs, reviewing IEPs, and negotiating IEPs. But what happens next? Implementation is where the magic happens. And implementation lapses are frequently where due process and state complaints happen. Here are five tips to support consistent implementation and avoid trouble.

Don’t Let a Complicated Divorce Complicate the ARD Process

Divorce often complicates everything, including the special education process. Parents of students with disabilities are provided certain rights under the IDEA, but what happens to those rights when parents are divorced? To ensure compliance with the IDEA, school leaders need to fully understand the rights of each parent to participate in their student’s special education program.

Biological and adoptive parents are typically considered “parents” with the right to make educational decisions for their children under the IDEA. When the parents of a student with a disability are divorced and share custody, both parents generally hold parental rights under the IDEA. These parental rights include notice of ARD (IEP) meetings and attendance at ARD meetings, in addition to making educational decisions and filing a State or due process complaint if a dispute arises.

OCR Reviews Use of Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities

On May 24, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced that it resolved a compliance review of a South Carolina school district’s use of restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities. The investigation highlights OCR’s position that frequent or improper restraint and seclusion may deny students with disabilities a free, appropriate public education. As we prepare for the 2022-2023 school year, school districts should conduct a thorough review of their policies and procedures regarding the use of restraint and seclusion to ensure that they are clear, current, and compliant. 

U.S. DOE Emphasizes Obligations to Protect High-Risk Students as Pandemic Improves  

On March 24, 2020, Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education, wrote a letter to educators and parents emphasizing the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to providing services and supports to allow students with disabilities to learn safely alongside their peers during the pandemic.  This letter provides strategies for educators, Districts, and families to enable students with disabilities to participate in in-person instruction and to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment.  

Secretary Cardona first encourages IEP teams to leverage IEP and Section 504 processes to provide protections for in-person learning.  IEP teams (ARD Committees in Texas) and Section 504 committees must address school-related health needs of students with disabilities at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in IEPs and Section 504 plans and place students in the least restrictive environment that meets those needs. IEP teams and Section 504 committees should also consider whether students at a heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19 require a health plan to address preventative and risk-reducing strategies, such as proper sanitizing or physical distancing. When health plans are included in the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan, these documents must be provided to each individual responsible for implementing the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan.