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American Foundation for the Blind Statement on the Department of Education Rescinding Guidance Documents on Students' Rights

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Last Friday, October 20, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) announced that it had rescinded 72 federal guidance documents relating to children's rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

OSERS wrote in a newsletter Friday that a total of 72 guidance documents that help clarify students' rights had been rescinded on October 2 "due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective." Of the documents, 63 were from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 came from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

Parents and advocates should know that, as useful as policy guidance documents can often be, they do not have the force of law. And, nothing in these recent steps to rescind the guidance documents impacts what IDEA and the implementing regulations require of states and schools. The IDEA regulations that guarantee that all children are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment remain in effect.

As long-time advocates for the rights of children who are blind or visually impaired, the American Foundation for the Blind is concerned that the communication process was non-transparent, after-the-fact, and provided minimal information. "We certainly hope that future actions from the Department of Education will not be marked by a similar lack of transparency—and that this decision does not foretell any steps the Department could take to roll back actual regulations," said Mark Richert, AFB Director of Public Policy.

Parents of children who are blind or visually impaired rely on the U.S. Department of Education to provide clear, accurate information about their children's rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other civil rights laws.

We will continue to review the 72 rescinded documents in detail, and we agree with our colleagues at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), who note that "OSERS has an obligation to make clear why revocations are necessary."

To Learn More...

OSERS Acting Assistant Secretary Kim Richey, OSEP Acting Director Ruth Ryder, and RSA Acting Commissioner Carol Dobak will host a call tomorrow, October 24, 2017, to provide further information regarding the announcement that 72 guidance documents relating to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective.

Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
Phone: 1-800-369-1982
Passcode: 6213421

Please note that this call is hosted by the Department of Education, not AFB. The presenters will share the Department of Education's point of view, and we are not aware if there will be an immediate opportunity for Q&A or feedback during the call.

To review COPAA's early analysis of the rescinded documents, visit:
https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/copaa.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/docs/accessible_2017/OSERS_Rescinded_Guidance_cha.pdf

To see OSERS's full list of rescissions visit:
https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/copaa.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/docs/accessible_2017/OSERS_list_of_rescinded_guid.pdf

Update: OSERS has provided an updated chart that now includes a column noting "Reasons for Rescinding":
https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/reg/eo13777/eo13777-osers-outdated-guidance-list-reasons-20171020.pdf


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