The U.S. Department of Education can’t delay implementation of a regulation aimed at preventing certain students from being wrongly placed in special education, a federal judge has ruled.

In a decision issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan found that the Education Department acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it delayed what’s known as the “significant disproportionality” rule.

The ruling comes in a case brought by disability advocates last summer after the Trump administration finalized a two-year delay of the rule.

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At issue is a requirement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that states identify school districts with high rates of students from particular racial or ethnic groups who have disabilities, are placed in restrictive settings or are subject to discipline. Traditionally, states used varying measures to assess districts and few were ever called out.

In 2016, however, the Obama administration sought to establish a uniform national standard through the significant disproportionality rule, which was set to take effect in July 2018.

Under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the Education Department issued the delay last July, citing concerns that the rule would incentivize school districts to employ racial quotas to avoid being seen as having significant disproportionality.

But in the ruling this week, the judge determined that worries about quotas had been “thoroughly discussed and dealt with years before.” Accordingly, Chutkan found that the Education Department violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it failed to provide a “reasoned explanation” for delaying the rule and also because it failed to consider the costs of delay.

“Today is a victory for children, especially children of color and others who are at risk for being inappropriately identified for special education,” said Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA, which brought the lawsuit. “The court has sided with the children whom the department had deemed unimportant through its actions to delay implementation of the Equity in IDEA regulations.”

A spokesman for the Education Department told Disability Scoop that the agency is reviewing the ruling and considering its options.

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