Federal governmental agencies charged with oversight of the laws affecting students with special needs in public schools have long tried to convince schools that passing grades should not be the sole trigger for providing supports and specialized instruction. In addition to issuing regulations, these agencies issue “dear colleague” letters addressing specific problems. States report to the United States Education Department Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) with respect to the administration of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and the United States Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) oversees administration of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 applies to schools receiving federal funds.
This week, OCR issued a “dear colleague” letter and resource guide discussing students with ADHD. The good news is that the guide emphasizes that grades are not the entire story. It urges public schools to evaluate students with ADHD for organizational skill difficulties and to implement related services addressing executive function problems. However, I have a mixed response to statement that the guide makes suggesting that a school evaluation could identify students with depression and anxiety. Clearly, the importance of identifying these serious mental health conditions and formulating an appropriate response cannot be understated. However, the diagnosis and treatment plan should be addressed by a professional with the appropriate training, and that is likely not a school psychologist. So, while the OCR guide is positive overall, just realize that qualified professionals should be involved in helping you and your family. Here is the OCR letter: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201607-504-adhd.pdf