The United States Department of Education rescinded 72 policy documents outlining the rights of students with disabilities in order to clear out what it called, unnecessary, outdated or ineffective regulations.
In a press release, the department said this batch of withdrawals was one move in an administration-wide effort to decrease regulatory burden.
The department appointed a Regulatory Reform Task Force charged with analyzing policies and making regulations. They hope to remove 600 documents from across the department.
After calling and receiving comments from stakeholders, 72 out of 169 documents were chosen for removal.
“Removing these out-of-date materials will make it easier for schools, educators, parents and the public to understand what guidance is still in effect,” the press release said.
Lucy Ireland, an attorney with Disability Rights North Carolina, said there is not currently cause for concern over rescinding the document.
“A lot of the documents they rescinded were just very old,” Ireland said. “We’re still learning the details, but at the moment, there isn’t a specific revision we’re concerned about.”
Senoir Tia Holmes is a co-chairperson of Advocates for Carolina, a student organization that seeks to raise awareness about issues facing students with disabilities. Although she agrees many of the rescinded documents were outdated, she is concerned what the department's actions show about its priorities.
“Never in the history of the GOP have that many documents been rescinded all at once,” Holmes said. “They just took them out of circulation and invalidated a lot of the research and policy creation that has gone into creating educational support for students with disabilities.”
She said she is disappointed in the decision to rescind the documents, rather than encouraging a public effort to update the policies or research better ways of implementing older ones.
In future efforts to revise regulations, Ireland said she would like to see more communication between policy makers and stakeholders that involves a high degree of transparency.
“It is important to us and our stakeholders that going forward, the people who care about these rules are actually going to be able to participate in the process,” she said.
Holmes said the next crucial step is to educate students with disabilities about what rights they have and work to raise public awareness.
“I think a lot of times there are schools that don’t care or remain ignorant about what they have to provide to students with disabilities,” she said.
She said this mass rescinding of documents without communication could potentially open the door for students with disabilities to lose resources and inclusion, particularly in primary and secondary education.
“A lot of students with disabilities are still being put in separate classes,” she said. “A lot of schools don’t allow them to go outside these separate environments.”
Holmes said students at UNC with disabilities face a lot of obstacles that go unnoticed by much of the student body. For instance, students in wheelchairs are unable to participate in the first day of class tradition of drinking out of the Old Well because that site is inaccessible.
Inclusion and disability education are prominent issues that need to be addressed in future Department of Education policies, she said. These are the primary goals of Advocates for Carolina. The group hosts a variety of events throughout the year and is currently planning its November event.
The time to submit comments regarding this portion of revisions has passed. The Department of Education has not released any information on what the next round will entail.
Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major.
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