Betsy DeVos (AP/Alex Brandon)

Betsy DeVos was "confused" about protections for students with disabilities — so she scrapped dozens

The Trump administration is rolling back guidelines meant to protect students with disabilities


Taylor Link
October 23, 2017 8:50PM (UTC)

Education secretary Betsy DeVos quietly rescinded 72 policy guidelines on the rights of students with disabilities over the weekend, The Washington Post reported.

When pressed by Democratic senators during her confirmation about The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which dozens of the memos deleted by DeVos dealt with, the wealthy heiress and charter school advocate admitted that she had "confused it."

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Devos' latest move comes as the Education Department seeks to follow through on President Donald Trump's executive order “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens.” The presidential action launched a review by department officials into regulations pertaining to disabled students.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services revealed that it had “a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective — 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA),” The Post reported. The document that explained students’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act were one of the guidances rescinded.

Overall, the documents at issue here — some of which had been in place since the 1980s, according to The Post — provided information about the rights of students with disabilities and explained how federal funds could be used for special education.

Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., said in a statement that the documents rescinded by DeVos' department "focused on critical clarifications of the regulations required to meet the needs of students with disabilities and provide them a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment."

"Notwithstanding the actions taken by the Department today, the regulations still remained enforced; however they lack the clarification the guidance provided," The Post reported.

Scott asserted that the latest decision was another example of "disturbing actions taken by the Trump Administration to undermine civil rights for vulnerable Americans."

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Trump's proposed policies thus far have been ruthless to Americans with disabilities.

The various iterations of the health care legislation he supported contained drastic Medicaid cuts that would have affected people with disabilities. ADAPT, a national advocacy group for disabled rights, organized a die-in in June in response to the Senate GOP's healthcare plan.

Policy rollbacks have defined Betsy DeVos' time as education secretary. Her department already scaled back investigations into civil rights violations at the nation’s public schools and universities, another decision made to ease the burden of regulations.


Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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