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UNITEDSTATESDEPARTMENTOFEDUCATION

OFFICEFORCIVILRIGHTS

DearColleague:

DEC26 2007

THEASSISTANTSECRETARY

I am writing to adviseyou of an issueinvolving studentswith disabilitiesseekingenrollmentin

challengingacademicprograms,suchasAdvancedPlacementandInternationalBaccalaureate classesor programs(acceleratedprograms).Specifically,it hasbeenreportedthat someschools andschooldistrictshaverefusedto allow qualifiedstudentswith disabilitiesto participatein suchprograms. Similarly,we areinformedof schoolsandschooldistrictsthat,asa conditionof participationin suchprograms,haverequiredqualifiedstudentswith disabilitiesto give up the servicesthathavebeendesignedto meettheir individualneeds.Thesepracticesareinconsistent with Federallaw, andthe Office for Civil Rights(OCR) in theU.S. Departmentof Education will continueto actpromptly to remedysuchviolationswherethey occur.

As you know, OCR is responsiblefor enforcingtwo Federallawsthatprotectqualified individualswith disabilitiesfrom discrimination.OCR enforcesSection504of theRehabilitation Act of 1973(Section504)andits implementingregulationsat 34 CFR Part 104,which prohibit discriminationon thebasisof disabilityin programsor activitiesreceivingFederalfinancial assistance.OCR is alsoresponsible,in theeducationcontext,for enforcingTitle II of the Americanswith DisabilitiesAct of 1990(Title II) andits implementingregulationsat 28 CFR Part35, which prohibit discriminationon thebasisof disabilityby entitiesof Stateandlocal government.Although this letterdiscussesaspectsof the Section504regulation,Title II providesno lesserprotectionsthandoesSection504. Also relevantaretherequirementsof the Individualswith DisabilitiesEducationAct (IDEA), which is administeredby the Department's Office of SpecialEducationPrograms(OSEP). TheIDEA providesfundsto Statesandschool districtsin orderto assistthemin providing specialeducationandrelatedservicesto eligible childrenwith disabilities. TheIDEA's implementingregulationsarelocatedat 34 CFR Part300. OCR consultedwith OSEPin draftingthis letter.'

As an initial matter, I want to commendthe efforts so many of you have madeto ensurethat placementdecisionsfor all studentsarebasedon eachstudent'sindividual academicabilities regardlessof thepresence,nature,or severityof a disability. I want to ensurethat all of you are awareof the Federalcivil rightsrequirementsdiscussedbelow.

' You may contact OSEP to addressany issuesthat relate specifically to the requirementsof IDEA.

information for OSEP is available online at: http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/monitor/state-contact-

list.html.

Contact

4OOMARYLANDAVE.,S.W.,WASHINGTON,DC2O2O2.ITOO

www.ed.gov

Our missionis to ensureequal accessto education and toprontote educational excellencethroughout the nation.

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DearColleagueLetter:Accessby Studentswith Disabilitiesto Challenging AcademicPrograms

Prohibition Against Disability-BasedDiscrimination in AcceleratedPrograms

The practiceof denying, on the basisof disability, a qualified studentwith a disability the opportunity to participatein an acceleratedprogram violates both Section504 andTitle II. Discriminationprohibitedby theselawsincludes,on thebasisof disability,denyinga qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participatein or benefit from the recipient's aids, benefits,or services,and affording a qualified individual with a disability with an opportunity to participatein or benefit from the aid, benefit or servicein a mannerthat is not equalto that offeredto individualswithout disabilities. 34 CFR 104.4(a),(bxlXi), (bX1)(ii); 28 CFR 35.I 30(a),(b)(1Xi),(bXlXii).

Under Section504 and Title II, a recipient may not utilize criteria or methodsof administration thathavethe effectof subjectingqualifiedindividualswith disabilitiesto discriminationon the basisof disability.34 CFR 104.4(bX4)and28CFR35.130(bX3).A publicentityalsomaynot impose or apply eligibility criteria that screenout or tend to screenout an individual with a disability or any classof individualswith disabilitiesfrom fully andequallyenjoyingany service,program,or activity, unlesssuchcriteriacanbe shownto be necessaryfor theprovision of the service,program,or activity beingoffered. 28 CFR 35.130(bX8).Public schoolstudents with disabilitieswho requirespecialeducationand/orrelatedservicesreceivethem either throughimplementationof anindividualizededucationprogram(IEP) developedin accordance with PartB of theIDEA or aplan developedunderSection504. 34 CFR 104.33. It is unlawful to denya studentwith a disabilityadmissionto an acceleratedclassor programsolelybecauseof that student'sneedfor specialeducationor relatedaidsandservices',or becausethat studenthas anIEP or a plan underSection504. Thepracticeof conditioningparticipationin an accelerated classor program by a qualified studentwith a disability on the forfeiture of specialeducationor of relatedaidsandservicesto which the studentis legally entitledalsoviolatesthe Section504 andTitle II requirementsstatedabove.

Pleasenotethatnothingin Section504or Title II requiresschoolsto admit into accelerated classesor programsstudentswith disabilitieswho would not otherwisebe qualifiedfor these classesor programs. Generally,underSection504,an elementaryor secondaryschoolstudent with a disabilityis a qualifiedindividualwith a disabilityif the studentis of compulsoryschool age. However,schoolsmay employappropriateeligibility requirementsor criteriain determiningwhether to admit students,including studentswith disabilities, into accelerated programsor classes.Section504andTitle II requirethatqualifiedstudentswith disabilitiesbe given the sameopportunitiesto competefor andbenefit from acceleratedprogramsand classes asaregivento studentswithout disabilities. 34 CFR 104.4(bx1)(ii)and28 CFR

3s.13O(bxlxii).

Furthermore,a recipient'sprovisionof necessaryspecialeducationandrelatedaidsandservices to qualifiedstudentswith disabilitiesin acceleratedclassesor programsmustbe consistentwith the Section 504 andTitle II requirementsregardingfree appropriatepublic education(FAPE).

' The term "related aids and services" asusedhere is intendedto include both the Section 504 requirementsat 34 CFR 10a.33(c)and the equivalentrequirementsunder the IDEA, i.e. related services,supplementaryaids and services,programmodifrcationsandsupportsfor schoolpersorurel.See34 CFR 300.34,300.42,and300.320(a)(4).

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DearColleagueLetter:Accessby Studentswith Disabilitiesto Challenging AcademicProsrams

Free Appropriate Public Education

In general,conditioning participation in acceleratedclassesor programsby qualified students with disabilities on the forfeiture of necessaryspecialeducationor related aids and services amountsto a denial of FAPE underboth Part B of theIDEA and Section504.

Section 504 requiresa recipient that operatesa public elementaryor secondaryeducation programor activity to provideFAPE to eachqualifiedpersonwith a disabilitywho is in the recipient's jurisdiction, regardlessof the natureor severityof theperson'sdisability. 34 CFR 104.33(a).Under Section504,theprovisionof an appropriateeducationis theprovisionof regular or specialeducationandrelatedaids and servicesthat satisfy certainprocedural requirementsandthat are designedto meetthe individual educationneedsof personswith disabilitiesasadequatelyastheneedsof personswithout disabilitiesaremet. 34 CFR 104.33(bX1)(i).Schooldistrictsmay createaplan or otherdocumentto provide studentswith disabilitieswith FAPE pursuantto Section504. The Section504FAPE requirementmay alsobe met through the implementationof an IEP developedin accordancewith Part B of the IDEA. 34 CFR 104.33(bX2).

Part B of the IDEA requiresthat FAPE be madeavailableto eligible studentswith disabilities in certain ageranges. The IDEA definesFAPE as specialeducationandrelated servicesthat: are providedfreeof charge;meetStatestandards;includean appropriatepreschool,elementary school,or secondaryschooleducation;andareprovidedin conformitywith aproperlydeveloped IEP. 20USC $ 1a01(a)(9);34CFR300.17.'

Participationby a studentwith a disabilityin an acceleratedclassor programgenerallywould be consideredpart ofthe regulareducationor theregularclassesreferencedin the Section504 and theIDEA regulations. Thus, if a qualified studentwith a disability requiresrelatedaids and servicesto participatein a regular educationclassor program, then a school cannotdeny that studenttheneededrelatedaidsandservicesin an acceleratedclassor program. For example,if a student'sIEP or plan underSection504providesfor Braille materialsin orderto participatein the regular educationprogram and sheenrolls in an acceleratedor advancedhistory class,then shealsomust receiveBraille materialsfor thatclass. The samewould be true for otherneeded relatedaidsandservicessuchasextendedtime on testsor theuseof a computerto takenotes.

Conditioning enrollment in an advancedclassor program on the forfeiture of neededspecial

the principle of individualized

determinations,which is a key proceduralaspectof theIDEA, Section504 andTitle II. As noted

above,underSection504,theprovisionof FAPE is basedon the student'sindividual education

educationor related aids and servicesis also inconsistentwith

t Among other things, an IEP must contain a statementof the specialeducationand related servicesand supplementaryaids and servicesto be provided to the child, or on behalf of the child, and a statementof the program modifications or supportsfor school personnelthat will be provided to enablethe child to advanceappropriately toward attaining the annualgoals; to be involved in and make progressin the generaleducationcurriculum and to participate in extracurricular and other nonacademicactivities; andto be educatedandparticipate with other children with disabilities and thosewithout disabilities. An IEP alsomust contain an explanationof the extent, if any, to which the child will not participate with children without disabilities in the regular classand in theseactivities.

34CFR300.320(a)(a)-(s).

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DearColleagueLetter:Accessby Studentswith Disabilitiesto Challenging AcademicPrograms

needsas determinedthrough specific procedures--generally,an evaluationin accordancewith Section504requirements.34 CFR 104.35.An individualizeddeterminationmay resultin a decision that a qualified studentwith a disability requiresrelatedaids and servicesfor someor all of his regular educationclassesor his program. Likewise, theIDEA containsspecific procedures for evaluationsand for the developmentof IEPs that require individualized determinations. See 34 CFR 300.301through300.328. Therequirementfor individualizeddeterminationsis violated when schoolsignore the student'sindividual needsandautomatically deny a qualified student with a disabilityneededrelatedaidsandservicesin anacceleratedclassor program.

I urge you to usethe information provided in this letter to continueto evaluatewhether your

schooldistrict is in compliancewith theseanti-discriminationrequirements.OCR remains willing to continuesupportingyou in theseefforts. We providetechnicalassistanceto entities that requestassistancein voluntarily complying with the civil rights laws that OCR enforces. If

you needadditionalinformationor assistanceon theseor othermatters,pleasedo not hesitateto contactthe OCR enforcementoffice that servesyour stateor territory. The contactinformation for eachoffice is availableonline at:http://wdcrobcolp0l.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm.

I thank you in advancefor your cooperationandassistancein this important matter.

StephanieJ. Monroe AssistantSecretaryfor Civil Riehts