On July 26, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued a Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide on Students with ADHD. The Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide confirm that, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, school districts are required to provide equal educational opportunities to students with attention deficit disorder (“ADD”) and students with attention deficient hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”).

The guidance notes that in the last five years, OCR has received over 16,000 complaints alleging disability discrimination at the elementary or secondary level, and ten percent of those complaints involved students with ADD or ADHD. The guidance addresses ways for school districts to avoid such complaints by meeting the needs of students with these conditions.

The key matters identified by OCR in its Dear Colleague Letter and Resource Guide are the following:

  • A diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is considered evidence that a student may have a disability and that such a diagnosis presumes that the student is limited in one or more major life activities;
  • If the District suspects a student has ADD or ADHD, the district must evaluate the student to determine if the impairment substantially limits his or her in a major life activity;
  • School districts should not rely on a student’s grade point average (“GPA”) or high level academic success in considering whether to evaluate a student for special education services because OCR notices that districts often make inappropriate decisions as a result of over-reliance on GPA; and
  • School districts should properly train staff on the requirements of Section 504, including evaluating for ADD and ADHD and which behaviors may be linked to these disabilities.

Consider taking the time to analyze your policies and practices related to identifying and evaluating students with ADD and ADHD, and ensure you are (1) identifying and evaluating students in a timely manner; (2) conducting proper evaluations; and (3) providing appropriate services to meet your Section 504 obligations.