In a newsletter written on Friday, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services stated that "a total of 72 guidance documents... have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective — 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)."
Advocates for students with disabilities are in the process of reviewing the move to assess its potential impact. Lindsay E. Jones, chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, noted that the removal of documents outlining how schools can use federal funding for special education is particularly concerning.
"All of these are meant to be very useful…in helping schools and parents understand and fill in with concrete examples the way the law is meant to work when it’s being implemented in various situations," Jones said.
According to Jones, the Education Department held a hearing in February regarding potential changes to special education guidance. She says education advocates and disability rights groups urged officials to keep all 72 guidance documents in place.
“Much of the guidance around [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] focused on critical clarifications of the regulations required to meet the needs of students with disabilities and provide them a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment," Representative Robert C. Scott (D-VA) said in a statement. "Notwithstanding the actions taken by the Department today, the regulations still remained enforced; however they lack the clarification the guidance provided."
The guidance documents included detailed information about the rights of students with disabilities and clarified how federal funds could be used for special education. According to The Washington Post, some of these documents had been in place since the 1980s.
Although it's not uncommon for new administrations to update these documents, Jones says this is the first time she's seen so many eliminated at once.
"If the documents that are on this list are all covered in newer documents that were released — which sometimes does happen — that would be fine," she said. "Our goal is to make sure that parents and schools and educators understand how these laws work, and the department plays a critical role in that."