Education Department Sees Rise In Disability Complaints
In a year when the U.S. Department of Education fielded a record number of civil rights complaints, new data indicates that allegations of disability discrimination are up dramatically.
Nearly 6,000 complaints of disability discrimination were submitted to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights during fiscal year 2016, which concluded in September. That’s up from 4,800 the year prior.
The figures come from an annual report released Thursday detailing a skyrocketing number of complaints received by the Office for Civil Rights, which is charged with ensuring equal access and prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age in education programs.
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Overall, there were 16,720 complaints in fiscal year 2016 compared to 10,392 the previous year. Disability-related complaints accounted for 36 percent of those received in 2016, according to the report.
The vast majority of disability complaints related to the right to a free, appropriate public education, or FAPE, followed by allegations of retaliation and exclusion or different treatment. Several complaints touched on more than one of the 18 categories that are tracked, the agency said.
Over the course of the year, the Education Department said that it successfully resolved 5,232 disability-related complaints.
“We thank our school communities for palpable progress toward realizing the promises Congress has made decade after decade to our nation’s students that their educational experiences should be fundamentally equal,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “Our investigations confirm ongoing need to safeguard those rights, as well as daily commitment from educators across the country to our core democratic value of fairness.”