Months after the U.S. Department of Education was expected to propose new rules for one of the main laws affecting students with disabilities, nothing has materialized.

The agency planned to release what’s known as a notice of proposed rulemaking in August amending regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Section 504 prohibits disability discrimination at schools and in other programs that receive federal funding. In the context of education, the law mandates that students with disabilities be provided a free appropriate public education and various types of accommodations.

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To date, however, the Education Department has yet to issue a proposal and the agency has been mum on a new target date for release.

“While we have no updates on the proposed rule, the department is committed to ensuring all students, including those with disabilities, can thrive and succeed in schools. And our enforcement of key civil rights protections continues,” an agency spokesperson told Disability Scoop.

The delay comes more than a year after the Education Department said that it would update rules surrounding Section 504, which have seen little change since 1977.

The forthcoming proposal is expected to better align with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities and update outdated language while also “addressing persistent barriers to access for students with disabilities in education,” according to the Education Department’s unified agenda.

Many students with disabilities are served under both Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but federal civil rights data indicates that during the 2017-2018 school year over 1.38 million students were covered solely by Section 504.

“It is our understanding that updates to the 504 regs are very much in the works, just taking some time to get through the process,” said Denise Marshall, CEO of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of students with disabilities and their families. “504 provides important protections, however they need to be updated and clarified to combat the continuing exclusion, discrimination and real harms suffered by students with disabilities in the public school system.”

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