Newsroom

NSBA Challenges a "Dear Colleague Letter" from Justice and ED

DCL on Communication Needs of IDEA-Eligible Students
March 5, 2015

Alexandria, Va. (March 5, 2015) – The National School Boards Association, the leading advocate for public education, today challenged a recent “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) on how to appropriately meet the communication needs of IDEA-eligible students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. The DCL to which the NSBA objects was jointly issued by three federal agencies and offices — the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights — on Nov. 12, 2014.

At issue is the Departments’ reliance on a single court decision reached by the Ninth Circuit, K.M. v. Tustin Unified Sch. Dist., to impose a national standard. While Tustin requires both an IDEA analysis and a Title II effective communication analysis to meet the communication needs of students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities, among federal courts that have weighed this issue, the Ninth Circuit decision is widely considered to be an outlier. In its comments, NSBA presents case law that argues against the expansive view of the law that the DCL puts forward, warning that it risks:

  • Encouraging litigation by erroneously declaring a legal standard in only one of the 11 federal circuits to be the law across the country;
  • Dismantling the collaborative IEP process by replacing the educational determinations of a team of school experts and parents with parental preference, regardless of a student’s educational needs;
  • Disrupting activities, services, and programs for students by failing to assess whether aids and services are proven and effective, risk being interruptive to others, or are otherwise educationally ineffectual; and
  • Burdening schools, administratively and financially, by failing to establish clear, appropriate, and judicially recognized legal standards.

“It is time to put a stake in the ground to challenge misguided policy issued absent an open, transparent process,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association. “The Departments’ continued issuance of guidance absent public comment is not serving the best interests of students, parents, or schools, and it imposes greater expense and liability across school districts.”

“Well-meaning but ill-informed expressions of policy, especially without the benefit of formal public comment from affected stakeholders, confuse rather than aid the legal landscape and make the work of schools and parents in ensuring students receive appropriate education needlessly difficult,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., Associate Executive Director and General Counsel, National School Boards Association. “We stand ready to work in partnership with the Departments to inform the policy determinations they make. Considering the perspective of school boards and their counsel before guidance such as the latest DCL issues will best serve the Departments’ and NSBA’s joint interest in meeting the educational needs of students. ”

###

Available for interview:

  • Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association
  • Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., Associate Executive Director and General Counsel, National School Boards Association
  • Michael C. Zola, Associate Executive Director, Federal Advocacy and Public Policy, National School Boards Association

Please arrange media interviews through Linda Embrey, NSBA Public Advocacy and Communications, lembrey@nsba.org.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is the leading advocate for public education and supports equity and excellence in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents state school boards associations and their more than 90,000 local school board members throughout the U.S. Learn more at: www.nsba.org.

Go to top