The Department of Education has rescinded 72 documents regulating the rights of students with disabilities. As reported by The Washington Post, department officials called the documents “outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective” in an email newsletter on Friday:
The special education guidance documents rescinded this month clarified the rights of disabled students in a number of areas, including making clear how schools could spend federal money set aside for special education. Some, such as one titled “Questions and Answers on Serving Children with Disabilities Placed by Their Parents at Private Schools,” translated the legal jargon into plain English for parents advocating for their children. Some of the guidance documents that were cut had been on the books since 1980s.
Advocacy groups had previously asked the department to keep all 72 documents in place. But Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made it clear during her confirmation that not only is she largely unfamiliar with anti-discrimination law and education policy, she is reluctant to make sure publicly-funded schools—including the voucher programs she has advocated for—actually adhere to the laws in question.
By rescinding these regulations, DeVos is complying with the Trump administration’s larger effort to dramatically reduce regulations across all federal departments. But those priorities are informed by inexperience and incompetence and amplified by the belief that regulation harms rather than protects vulnerable people. DeVos herself is no educator. She has no professional experience in the field at all and has only experienced education policy as a fundraiser pushing against public education. There has been no sign during her tenure at the Department of Education that she knows what schooling was like for students with disabilities before the regulations she rescinded were put in place.
But people with disabilities do know. Many of them personally remember those days. DeVos is setting the board for a major civil rights fight.