NCD Comments to Department of Education Regarding Mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection

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BY ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

February 28, 2017

Stephanie Valentine
Acting Director, Information Collection Clearance Division
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW, LBJ, Room 224-82
Washington, DC 20202-4537
http://www.regulations.gov

Re: Docket Number ED-2016-ICCD-0147: “Agency Information Collection Activities; Comment Request; Mandatory Civil Rights Data Collection”

Dear Ms. Valentine:

These comments regarding the Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), and proposed changes thereto, are submitted by the National Council on Disability (NCD). NCD is an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding policies, programs, practices, and procedures that affect people with disabilities.

We agree with the Department of Education (ED) that the CRDC is a critical aspect of OCR’s enforcement and monitoring strategy to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance do not discriminate on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, and disability. CRDC provides crucial data to OCR in its investigations of complaints alleging discrimination, determinations of whether the federal civil rights laws it enforces have been violated, and in initiating compliance reviews to focus on civil rights compliance issues. CRDC is the only data collection of its kind and without it, OCR could not accomplish its mission.

NCD has previously recognized the importance of ED’s CRDC, with respect to students with disabilities. In our 2015 report, Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students with Disabilities, NCD identified the CRDC as an important source of data on the experience of students with disabilities which assists OCR, advocates, and the schools themselves to identify problems and institute much needed interventions. NCD found that, although CRDC reporting is mandatory, many public schools and school districts grossly underreport data relating to students with disabilities, particularly in several categories relevant to the school-to-prison pipeline, including retention, bullying and harassment, suspensions and expulsions, incidents of restraints and seclusion, and school-based arrests. At the time the report was published, there were no ramifications for underreporting. NCD recommended that ED improve CRDC by:

  • Enforcing the mandatory CRDC reporting requirements to ensure that public schools (including charter schools) and Local Education Agencies (LEAs) submit all data on suspensions, expulsions, incidents of restraints and seclusion, and school-based arrests disaggregated by disability; and
  • Require SEAs to compile disaggregated data on the discipline of infants and toddlers with disabilities receiving services under IDEA Part C.

The CRDC provides vital data related to the legal requirement that LEAs and public elementary and secondary schools provide equal educational opportunity for students with disabilities. ED must continue administering the CRDC and must also ensure that each responsible school district and LEA responds fully and accurately.

Comments on Directed Questions (Attachment A-5)

Public Schools in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the outlying areas: Should OCR extend the 2017-18 CRDC to public school districts in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and/or any outlying area such as American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands?

Yes, OCR should extend the CRDC to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which receives Title I funds from ED. The CRDC should also be extended to any of the outlying areas named above that are legally obligated to provide a free and appropriate public education under United States law.

Treatment of Students with Disabilities Placed in Educational Settings not Operated by the Reporting School District: If OCR does require public schools to report on the experiences of the students they place in private or non-public schools in the 2017-18 CRDC, what data items currently collected by the CRDC about public schools would be appropriate to collect in order to assess compliance with federal civil rights laws enforced by OCR?

OCR should require public schools to report on the experiences of students they place in private or non-public schools. This is particularly important in light of reports that students in such placements are subject to restraint and seclusion.

All data items currently collected by the CRDC relating to students with disabilities should be collected, including, but not exclusively, the following “data groups”:

  • Students with disabilities served under IDEA (DG 980)
  • Students with disabilities served under Section 504 only (DG 981)
  • Discipline of students with disabilities (IDEA and Section 504) table (DG 922)
  • Discipline of students without disabilities table (DG 923)
  • Restraint or seclusion for IDEA students table (DG 959)
  • Restraint or seclusion for non-IDEA students table (DG 960)
  • Suspension instances (DG 1007)
  • Suspension instances—preschool (DG 1008)
  • Special education school (DG 1015).

If you have any questions or wish for clarification regarding any of the above comments, please contact, Joan Durocher, General Counsel at jdurocher@ncd.gov or Ana Torres-Davis, Attorney-Advisor at atorresdavis@ncd.gov.

Respectfully,

Clyde Terry
Chair