Federal education officials are fielding an increasing number of complaints related to disability discrimination in the nation’s schools.

More than 3,900 complaints based on disability were filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights during the 2014 fiscal year, the most recent period for which statistics are available.

Though that’s somewhat fewer than the department received in 2013, it represents a sharp rise over five years. By comparison, less than 3,000 complaints were filed in 2009.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The uptick comes as the Education Department deals with an overall surge in complaints to its Office for Civil Rights, which is tasked with ensuring equal access and prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age in education programs.

Nearly 10,000 complaints were reported to the agency last year compared with about 6,300 in 2009. The agency reviews each case but does not necessarily act on every matter.

“There are likely a number of factors causing the increase, including the public’s increased awareness of civil rights laws and the public’s confidence in the Office for Civil Rights enforcement of those laws,” said Dorie Nolt, press secretary at the Department of Education, in a statement to Disability Scoop.

The Education Department is requesting an additional $30.7 million for next year in order to hire 200 more staffers to handle the influx of cases.

Disability issues account for the majority of civil rights complaints filed with the Education Department. The Office for Civil Rights said it is working more efficiently by using “expedited case review procedures” to address a portion of these complaints that focus on only a single issue.

Beyond responding to individual charges, the Education Department indicated in its budget request that plans are underway to “issue further guidance protecting students with disabilities from discrimination, including unfair discipline practices and restraint and seclusion.”

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.