New guidelines have been issued by the US Department of Education to prevent schools from discriminating against the increasing number of students who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The department sent a letter to school districts and is posting a “know your rights” document on its website detailing that schools must follow existing civil rights law to classify students who have the disorder and provide them with services to assist them with their learning, writes Joy Resmovits for the Los Angeles Times.
The move came after many years of complaints from parents who point out that their children have not been given the services they need and that schools have not protected their kids from bullying.
The Education Department, having received approximately 16,000 complaints on these issues over five years, decided that schools have asked for and need clarification of what they are responsible for under the law.
“Many … [teachers] are not familiar with this disorder,” Catherine Lhamon, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, wrote in the letter. “The failure to provide needed services to students with disabilities can result in serious social, emotional and educational harm.”
The number of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD has risen dramatically in the last ten years. Since 2011, 11% of kids ages 4-17 were found to have this disorder, says the CDC, with boys twice as apt as girls to suffer from the neurobiological disturbance.
It is challenging to diagnose the disorder since it has no biological markers. The line between a kid just being animated and a child who has ADHD can be fuzzy, and the cost of services for assisting just one student can be several thousand dollars annually.
The 1973 federal law states that schools are responsible for identifying and supporting students with the disorder. Educational aids could include highlighted passages in textbooks, allowing extra time for test-taking, or recording lectures. Parents are allowed to ask the school to evaluate their children for ADHD.
The US Department of Education writes on its website that schools may not assume that students who are doing well in the classroom might not still be significantly limited in principal areas, such as learning, reading, thinking, and writing. Such a student can have a disability.
The explanation by the DoE includes providing parents with the right to appeal decisions concerning students with disabilities, including ADHD.
The DoE was not the only department to send guidance on the disorder this year. Nicole Gorman of Education World reports that the CDC sent information to professionals asking them to suggest behavioral treatment before rushing to prescription medications when treating young people.
Shelley Jackson of Rincon Hill News writes that the CDC has estimated that a minimum of six million boys and girls are diagnosed with ADHD every year. About one-third of this number are kids between the ages of two and five.