Call to Action: Department of Education May Eliminate Critical ADHD Guidelines
The Trump administration is planning to rescind a key civil rights protection for students with ADHD. Contact the U.S. Department of Education by September 20 to explain why our children need the “ADHD Guidance Letter” to remain in place.
September 12, 2017
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) may soon eliminate a critical resource that works to secure and standardize the rights of students with ADHD, according to the national non-profit organization CHADD. Now, CHADD’s Public Policy Committee is encouraging Americans to petition the DOE to maintain the 14-month-old protection — formally called the “Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide on ADHD” — before the public comment period ends on September 20, and a final decision is made.
The Dear Colleague letter provides the guidance educators need to identify struggling students with ADHD, and the help districts need to set up supports and services in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A school district’s failure to provide adequate support to students with ADHD could, the letter warned, result in a loss of federal funding.
Among the many clarifications included in the Letter of Guidance are the following, according to former CHADD CEO Ruth Hughes, Ph.D.:
- Students with ADHD and discipline referrals may be eligible for 504 services and a behavioral plan to help with the ADHD-related behaviors.
- Students with ADHD who also perform academically at or above grade level may still be eligible for a 504 Plan.
- Routinely distracted students may be eligible for a 504 Plan based upon inattentive type ADHD.
- An evaluation for 504 may not be delayed because of interventions provided as part of a Response to Intervention initiative.
- And, most importantly, accommodations must be directly and specifically related to the needs of the individual student. No one set of interventions works for all students with ADHD.
“The 2016 Letter of Guidance on ADHD has been an incredibly effective document for ensuring that students struggling with ADHD receive the supports they desperately need to succeed in school,” Hughes said. “And it has helped address the enormous inconsistencies in schools across the country in the eligibility and implementation of 504 Plans.”
This month, the Letter of Guidance is being targeted for elimination as part of President Trump’s Executive Order 13777 — “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda” — which directs federal agencies to eradicate regulations that “inhibit job creation,” “are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective,” “impose costs that exceed benefits,” or “create a serious inconsistency” with other reforms and policies. On June 22, 2017, the DOE announced that the Dear Colleague letter was on its short list of regulations to review for possible elimination.
“This takes us back to the time when 504 Plans were not working for the majority of students with ADHD,” said Hughes, citing a 2014 CHADD survey in which more than two-thirds of the 700 respondents felt the 504 Plan developed for their child was not effective. “Millions of students with ADHD are now in danger of school problems, failure, and discipline issues. By not addressing the core problems, schools also will waste resources and staff time, without being effective for these students. And, most importantly, these young people will be launched on a negative path of failure and poor self-esteem that could be prevented.”
The Letter of Guidance was established to protect the civil rights of students with ADHD from preschool through high school because, CHADD says, the DOE received 11,000 complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability from 2011 to 2016; more than 2,000 of those complaints involved a student with ADHD. Eliminating the guidelines could make these children once again vulnerable to discrimination, writes CHADD president Michael McKay in the organization’s public comment.
“Just last year, one parent in my county was told by four administrators at her school that her son with ADHD either didn’t need or wasn’t eligible for Section 504 Services…. even though he had failed a grade, she was working with him for an hour or more every night at home, and he had a private tutor,” says Chris Dendy, author of Teenagers with ADD and ADHD and A Bird’s-Eye View of Life with ADD and ADHD. “However, she knew the law and knew about the ‘ADHD Guidance letter.’ She picked up the phone and called the Superintendent of Schools. Within days, her son was receiving needed support services. Without this key guidance letter, her son would not have received services.”
CHADD is encouraging citizens to submit their own individual comments on the proposed eliminations to the Department of Education by September 20, 2017.