Even as the overall number of civil rights complaints to the U.S. Department of Education dropped dramatically, new figures show that claims of disability discrimination are on the rise.

Metrics released earlier this month as part of President Donald Trump’s annual budget request show that complaints to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights related to everything from race to sex discrimination in schools declined 23 percent last year.

At the same time, however, disability discrimination claims went up markedly. Figures provided to Disability Scoop from a soon-to-be-released annual report show that the civil rights office received 6,577 complaints of disability discrimination in fiscal year 2017, which ended Sept. 30. That’s up from 5,936 such complaints the prior year.

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Liz Hill, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said it’s unclear why disability complaints jumped.

“OCR has not conducted an analysis of its complaint receipts, including why there may have been an increase in disability complaints filed,” Hill said. “It is possible that students and other members of the public have become better informed about the resources available to them and about OCR’s work, which, in turn, may have contributed to the increase in the number of complaints filed.”

As in past years, disability complaints made up the largest percentage of those received by the civil rights office in 2017, accounting for more than 40 percent of cases.

In addition to disability, the Office for Civil Rights is tasked with ensuring equal access and prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex and age in education programs.

Just recently, the Education Department made public a regularly-updated list of all pending claims against schools and colleges that are being investigated by the Office for Civil Rights. Currently, there are 4,709 cases of alleged disability discrimination under investigation.

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