U.S. Department of Education Announces Plans to Strengthen Section 504 in Upcoming Months

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.

This process reflects OCR’s long-standing efforts to eliminate disability discrimination in schools and to advance progress in partnership with people with disabilities and the full educational community. To provide public input, interested parties may go to www.ed.gov/policy/rights/reg/ocr to submit comments. Additionally, OCR will hold listening sessions in the coming months. Parties should be aware that any comments received may be made available to the public, so commenters should avoid including any personal information that they wish to keep confidential. The Department will also rely on prior feedback received in response to an earlier Request for Information regarding the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline and other information to determine appropriate changes in the proposed rulemaking.

Look out for additional guidance from Thompson & Horton LLP regarding this progress in upcoming months. Thompson & Horton LLP will also provide a webinar to discuss any amendments to the Section 504 regulations to ensure effective implementation across Texas school districts. For legal guidance regarding the upcoming changes or assistance in submitting public comments, contact Taylor Montgomery or any member of the Thompson & Horton Special Education Team.