Rochelle’s Special Education Tips
There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel and It Ain’t No Train
Some good news. The NSBA Council of School Attorneys (“COSA”) met last week in Denver, Colorado. One of the speakers was former COSA Chair Tom Wheeler, now Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice. He provided candid remarks to the group of school lawyers regarding the Department’s guidance, litigation and activity involving the nation’s public schools. Mr. Wheeler advised that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice intends to go a different direction than in the past. The Department will be following Supreme Court precedent and not making up the rules as it goes along. Each Dear Colleague letter issued in past years will be scrutinized for legality as was the transgender letter which was recalled as it was based on opinion and not law. Recalling a particularly hostile presentation to COSA a couple of years ago when OCR announced that its enforcement model does not have to comply with Supreme Court decisions, Mr. Wheeler said his office will approach complaints fairly and legally. He anticipates an end to the needless fishing expeditions that have been so costly, time consuming, and wasteful of local school system resources.
This is positive. Mr. Wheeler emphasized this new direction does not mean an end to the prohibition against discrimination, bullying and harassment. So you need to remain proactive and comply with existing laws. But perhaps you will soon see a change in federal investigations of your school systems.