July 26, 2016

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ED issues new guidance re students with ADHD

Today, the U.S. Department of Education released a new guidance document clarifying the obligation of districts to ensure students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are appropriately identified under Section 504. In the press release, ED stated that over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. 

The majority of the complaints revolve around concerns that students are not timely or appropriately evaluated for or provided services for ADHD even if there are known academic or behavioral difficulties.  

The guidance: 

  • States that OCR will presume unless there is evidence to the contrary, that a student with a diagnosis of ADHD needs a 504 plan at a minimum. 
  • Specifies that even if a student is taking medication, the school district cannot consider any ameliorative effects of that medication or any other mitigating measures, when evaluating whether the student needs a 504 plan.
  • Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
  • Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
  •  Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.

ED also released a document for parents explaining their rights, which can be accessed here