For millions of concerned people in American public school systems, the school week started off shakily after the Washington Post reported that the Betsy DeVos-led Department of Education pulled 72 guidance documents primarily covering disability rights for students. DeVos, the Department of Education secretary who billed herself as a proponent of “school choice,” was widely and swiftly criticized for this regulatory change. Advocates feared that removing the documents would leave fewer options for students with learning exceptionalities and disabilities.

In an updated report, the Post incorporated the Department of Education’s response. “There are absolutely no policy implications to these rescissions,” Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for Secretary Betsy DeVos, said. “Students with disabilities and their advocates will see no impact on services provided.”

Bill Koski, who directs Stanford University’s Youth and Education Law Project, also told the Post removal of these guidance documents would not change school accommodations for students who are disabled. “It does look like housekeeping to me more than anything else,” Koski said. “I don’t know that it will change practice in any way.”

An education department spokesperson and an education law professor’s predictions for the move’s effect carry significant weight. But, the long-term effects could include more than just the removal of these guidance documents. When decision-makers signal an end to certain formal protections or practices of care and consideration, the everyday implementers might let their feet off the gas.

Then there’s the way the Trump era Department of Education purged the guidance documents first and notified later, which suggests less than good faith for all students in American public schools.

Although the Department of Education pursued disability rights perspectives before making changes in early October, the groups were told about the shift more than two weeks after removal of the guidance documents. Some disability advocates learned as recently as last Friday that the guidance documents were scrubbed. The documents covered the Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

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