View Full Version : US Dept. of Education - Guidance on ADHD & Civil Rights in Schools

07-27-16, 01:52 AM
The US Department of Education has released a letter to school professionals and a "resource guide" on addressing the needs of students with ADHD (and protecting their civil rights) in schools.

Here's the press release. (

Here's the "Dear Colleague" letter with the guidance to schools. (

I've only done a quick skim so far, but here are some highlights:

ADHD qualifies as a disability under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and in 1999 language was added to clarify that students with ADHD may qualify as "Other Health Impaired" under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Schools often fail to identify, properly evaluate, or accommodate students with ADHD, and these cases make up a substantial chunk of education-related civil rights complaints.

Good grades alone do not automatically imply that a student is unimpaired or ineligible for accommodations or services in an educational setting. How long do things take, do tasks require exceptional effort, does the student need to use elaborate strategies or get help to do things that other students don't? Those are also relevant.

"School districts violate [their legal] obligation when they deny or delay conducting an evaluation of a student when a disability, and the resulting need for special education or related services, is suspected." Delaying evaluation repeatedly in order to try assorted "interventions" isn't OK -- try the interventions, but don't put off the evaluation.

"Nothing in Section 504 limits coverage or protection to those whose impairments concern learning." Students could be impaired in "concentration" or "organization" or other areas even if "learning" seems OK based on grades/knowledge, and they would still be eligible for protections under Section 504.

Even if a student takes medication, and it works well, that doesn't mean the student no longer has a disability.

A medical evaluation isn't strictly necessary before schools can provide services to a student suspected of having a disability. If the school decides a medical eval is needed, they must make an eval available to family for free (though families can opt for private assessment).

Schools should be careful not to stereotype students based on culture, gender, or even disability in referring for evaluation of disability... A boy shouldn't be assumed not to have ADHD simply because he's not hyperactive if he has other symptoms indicative of it. Smart kids can have disabilities. Kids from traditionally "quieter" or "more outspoken" ethnic groups shouldn't be overlooked or problems written off as "culture".

"School districts cannot simply group together a few aids and services and provide them in a blanket fashion to any student with ADHD." Needs assessment must be individual and done by people who really know the student.

School is responsible for implementing accommodations / services under Section 504 -- burden should not be on K-12 students or their families to inform teachers and ensure that stuff happens as it's supposed to.

Schools need to be clear about due process, inform parents in timely manner if they deny evaluation/services, and provide info about appealing decisions.