U.S. Department of Education Releases Webinar, Fact Sheet for Protecting Students’ Civil Rights During COVID-19 Response

U.S. Department of Education Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: March 17, 2020
Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

WASHINGTON — The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education released today a webinar on ensuring web accessibility for students with disabilities for schools utilizing online learning during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. In addition, OCR published a fact sheet for education leaders on how to protect students’ civil rights as school leaders take steps to keep students safe and secure. These resources will assist education leaders in making distance learning accessible to students with disabilities and in preventing discrimination during this Administration-wide response effort.

As more schools across the nation shift to distance learning, OCR’s webinar reminds decision makers of their responsibility in making distance learning accessible to students with disabilities, unless equally effective alternate access is provided. Online learning tools must be accessible to students with disabilities, and they must be compatible with the various forms of assistive technology that students might use to help them learn. The webinar advises school leaders to routinely test their online activities to ensure accessibility.

“OCR’s accessibility webinar is intended to remind school leaders at the elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels of their legal obligations to ensure that all students, including students with disabilities, can access online and virtual learning programs,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “Students with disabilities must have access to educational technology utilized by schools, and OCR will continue to work to ensure that no student is excluded from utilizing these important tools.”

In addition, the new fact sheet released by OCR presents information on the rights of students with disabilities during school closures and includes tips for preventing incidents of discrimination. It also includes information on ensuring that no student is discriminated against based on race, color, or national origin. The document reminds schools of their legal obligation to comply with non-discrimination obligations under civil rights laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and provides tools to assist schools in facilitating distance learning for all students.

These communications follow a previous letter from Assistant Secretary Marcus to education leaders on preventing and addressing potential discrimination associated with COVID-19. The Department continues to update www.ed.gov/coronavirus with information for students, parents, educators and local leaders.

For additional resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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Last modified on March 17, 2020

Secretary DeVos Makes Clear Federal Funds can be Used to Support Dual Enrollment, Postsecondary Options for Students and Youth with Disabilities

U.S. Department of Education Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: Sep. 17, 2019
Contact: Press Office
(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

WASHINGTON— U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today made clear that vocational rehabilitation (VR) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds can be used to support dual enrollment, comprehensive transition and other postsecondary education programs for students and youth with disabilities. The Department produced a question and answer (Q&A) guide after the Secretary heard from the field there was confusion about whether and when these funds could be used to help students and youth with disabilities access these valuable educational options.

“All students deserve the freedom to pursue an education that is challenging and allows them to reach their full potential,” said Secretary DeVos. “I hope this information will make clear what the law says and serve as a resource to families, Individualized Education Program (IEP) Teams and State VR agencies as they continue to collaborate and find ways to increase postsecondary opportunities – and success – for students and youth with disabilities.”

Issued jointly by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), the Q&A document describes how State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and State VR agencies may coordinate to assist students and youth with disabilities, including students and youth with intellectual disabilities, in preparing for postsecondary success. The document reinforces the appropriate use of funds under the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

The Q&A will be released today by Johnny Collett, Assistant Secretary for OSERS, at an Education Freedom Tour stop at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) . While at UMKC, Assistant Secretary Collett will visit the Propel Program, a transition program for young adults with intellectual developmental disabilities that allows students an opportunity to explore employment and education on a major university campus.

“The Department is committed to ensuring that students and youth with disabilities are held to high expectations and have the resources and supports needed to expand their learning opportunities and prepare them for success in postsecondary education or careers,” said Collett.

Specifically, the Q&A addresses the following topics:

  • The opportunity for students with disabilities to enroll in postsecondary education programs while still in high school;
  • The opportunity for students and youth with disabilities to enroll in comprehensive transition and other postsecondary programs for individuals with disabilities after leaving high school;
  • The coordination of transition-related services that students with disabilities may receive under the IDEA and under the VR program; and
  • The financial aid available to students with disabilities enrolled in comprehensive transition and postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual disabilities offered at Institutions of Higher Education under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.

The full Q&A is available here: Link

View OSERS Rethink Framework here

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Last modified on September 19, 2019

OSERS announces new OSEP director

By the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

WASHINGTON (Oct. 11, 2018) – The Department of Education announced the appointment of a new special education programs’ director today.

Laurie VanderPloeg will lead the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ (OSERS) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) starting in November.

“My focus will be on developing and supporting an effective system that is going to meet the unique and individual needs of children with disabilities,” VanderPloeg said. “We need to look at the structures we have in place to ensure that each child is prepared for success.”

VanderPloeg started her career as a high school special education teacher at Wayland Union Schools in Wayland, Michigan.

She spent 15 years teaching high school and middle school students prior to earning her master’s degree in special education administration from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Since earning her master’s, VanderPloeg has served as the supervisor of special education for the Grand Rapids Public School District, a special education consultant with the Michigan Department of Corrections, and most recently as the director of special education for Kent Intermediate School District.

Learn more about Laurie VanderPloeg

Last modified on October 11, 2018