U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has reportedly been trying to block the implementation of an Obama-era law designed to help disabled minority students, for well over a year now.
According to Raw Story, despite repeated efforts by supporters to force her compliance, DeVos and her team have made several attempts to stall the implementation of federal regulations created by the Obama Administration to effectively address the racial disparities that appear in special education.
When those regulations were established under the 2016 Equity in IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act), states were given until July 2018 to comply, which would mean having an active standardized program in place for monitoring how districts both identified and served minority students living with disabilities.
But just two days short of the deadline, at a time when states should have been gearing up to address the glaring disparities in how Black children with disabilities are treated, DeVos pulled the plug on the endeavor entirely, citing that she had concerns that the methodology could incentivize the use of racial quotas.
This comes months after the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Inc., wrote a letter to DeVos pleading with her not to stop the process writing, “NASDSE does not believe that addressing equity should ever be put on hold.”
According to a report by Department of Education’s 2016 annual report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, Black students are 40% more likely to be identified as having disabilities than peers.
Minority students also disproportionately end up with punitive measures instead of educational support. Just last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that while black students make up about 19% of students with disabilities, they somehow account for 36% of all students with disabilities who are suspended from school.
DeVos’ ongoing efforts to delay the process incited a lawsuit by COPAA (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates), COPAA v. DeVos, in which the Department of Education lost in early March.
While the U.S. Justice Department filed a notice to appeal the outcome in May, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also gotten involved in this matter which they believe has now become a civil rights issue.
This time last year the caucus issued a letter to DeVos and Assistant Secretary for Special Education Johnny W. Collett noting the organization was “deeply troubled by the Department’s response to comments and justification of the delay asserting that racial bias does not exist in special education.”