OCR alerts school districts of the prominence of ADHD-related complaints
On July 26, the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") issued a new Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide reminding school districts of the requirements to find, accommodate, and serve students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder ("ADHD"). Nelson Mullins has reviewed this Letter and Resource Guide and is providing you with this legal update to assist you in your compliance.
In sum, OCR alerts school districts of the prominence of ADHD-related complaints, noting that more than 10% of the 16,000 complaints it receives each year allege discrimination against students with ADHD. The most common concerns relate to the failure to timely and properly evaluate for a disability, the lack of necessary special education and related services, and the need to take into consideration and address students' academic and behavioral difficulties resulting from ADHD.
While the guidance is focused on Section 504, it is equally applicable to special education and the IDEA. In short, OCR's guidance:
- Explains that schools must evaluate a student when a student needs or is believed to need special education or related services.
- Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
- Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
- Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.
Attached is a copy of the Dear Colleague Letter along with OCR's Resource Guide for Students with ADHD and Section 504. If you have any questions or if Nelson Mullins can assist you with compliance in these areas, please let us know.
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