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updated: 2/5/2018 2:58 PM

Government seeks delay of Obama rule on race in special ed

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WASHINGTON -- The Education Department is seeking to delay an Obama-era rule meant to counter racial disparities in special education, an official said Monday.

In December 2016, the Obama administration said "students of color remain more likely to be identified as having a disability and face harsher discipline than their white classmates" and issued a rule that required states to intervene if there were strong racial disparities in their districts. The rule was to take effect in July 2018.

Department Press Secretary Liz Hill told The Associated Press Monday that the agency wants to postpone the rule by two years.

Hill said in a statement that federal officials heard concerns about the rule from states, school districts, superintendents and others involved. "Because of the concerns raised, the department is looking closely at this rule and has determined that, while this review takes place, it is prudent to delay implementation for two years. The postponement will be issued for public comment."

She did not elaborate on the feedback received.

The department published its intention to postpone the regulation last fall. It was submitted for review to the Office of Management and Budget office on regulatory affairs last month.

Liz King, director of education policy at the Leadership Conference, called on the department not to delay the rule. King said children of color are often placed in restrictive settings and disciplined out of school and thus denied educational opportunities.

"There is no excuse, there is no need for a delay," King said. "We have in this country a significant problem with the way we treat children of color in our schools, the way that we treat children with disabilities in our schools and especially those children whose lives are at the intersection of disability and race."

Kristen Harper, an expert with Child Trends, a non-profit youth research organization, who worked on crafting the rule under the Obama administration, said it is meant to counter inequities in education.

"The regulation's mandate that states use a standard approach to identify large racial and ethnic disparities is designed to increase transparency, and allow communities to quickly identify states choosing to allow large disparities to continue," Harper said.

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