Betsy DeVos Strikes Again, This Time Removing Protections For Students With Disabilities

by Molly McLaughlin

Last week, the Education Department, led by education secretary Betsy DeVos, rescinded 72 policy documents that outline the rights of students with disabilities. Some of the guidelines had been in effect since the 1980s, and formed an essential part of communicating the laws to parents, teachers and students. Students with disabilities and avocates are still exploring what specific effects these changes will have in practise, but less protection for marginalized folks cannot bode well in schools or anywhere else.

These latest rollbacks are part of a broader swathe of cuts led by DeVos, which began when President Donald Trump signed an executive order “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens,” in February. According to The Washington Post, The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services wrote that it had “a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective – 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).” The documents were rescinded as of the October 2.

DeVos’ treatment of the issues that affect students with disabilities is particularly worrying when you consider she actually doesn’t know very much about them. This is the same Betsy DeVos who, during her confirmation hearing in January, admitted that she was “confused” about The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). DeVos also said at her hearing that if she was confirmed as education secretary, she would be “very sensitive” to the needs of students with disabilities. Instead, her department appears to be singularly fixated on destroying the current system, without creating any new guidelines to fill its place. It seems this education secretary is in need of some lessons.

Header image Shealah Craighead [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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