On October 21 the U.S Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights issued guidance to schools reinforcing the fact that bullying is not to be tolerated in our schools. The guidance included a reminder that this applies to those students with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act outline school’s responsibilities to take immediate action to investigate any allegations of bullying and to take steps to stop the bullying and ensure prevention of any reoccurrence. All programs that receive federal funding are mandated to bar discrimination on the basis of disability.
Unfortunately, in our nation’s schools and in Wyoming schools, discrimination and bullying of students with disabilities does not always come from students, but from teaching staff and administrators. One in three of all children arrested have a disability and those with emotional disabilities are three times more likely to be arrested before they leave high school than other students.
What we know is that children who are forced into the “school to prison pipeline” are less likely to graduate, less likely to be gainfully employed and more likely to end up in the adult prison system.
Wyoming has one of the highest rates of physically restraining students with disabilities in the nation. Less than 15% of Wyoming students have been diagnosed with a disability, yet 93% of students physically restrained are disabled students. These numbers show a shocking inability of our education system to effectively assist Wyoming children with disabilities to have productive healthy lives. Click here to see your school district’s disciplinary data.