The U.S. Department of Education released guidance Tuesday about the obligations that states and school districts have to students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Children with ADHD have legal protections under one of two laws: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that ADHD may fall under the category of "other health impairment."
The other legal protection for these students may come from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 . Section 504, which predates the federal special education law by two years, applies to children who have a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities. For students, one major life activity is learning. This guidance focuses on obligations under Section 504.
Nationally, about 1 percent of the students have 504 plans that spell out educational accommodations, while about 12 percent of students nationwide are covered under the IDEA.
ADHD is one of the most common childhood neurological disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2011 that about 6.4 million children aged 4 to 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD. That accounts for about 11 percent of the children in that age group.
The release of the ADHD guidance was timed to coincide with the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Education Department's office for civil rights noted that, over the past five years, it has received more than 16,000 disability discrimination complaints. More than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against student with ADHD. The department said that the most common complaints are about delayed evaluations or missing accommodations.
In addition to the guidance, the department also released a "know your rights"document for the family members of students with ADHD.