U.S. DOE Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Students with ADHD and Section 504: A Resource Guide  – (07/26/16) U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issues Guidance clarifying the obligation of schools to provide FAPE for students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Over the last five years, OCR has received more than 16,000 complaints that allege discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary education programs, and more than 10 percent involve allegations of discrimination against students with ADHD. The most common complaint concerns academic and behavioral difficulties students with ADHD experience at school when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services.

This guidance provides a broad overview of Section 504 and school districts’ obligations to provide educational services to students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.

The guidance:

  • Explains that schools must evaluate a student when a student needs or is believed to need special education or related services.
  • Discusses the obligation to provide services based on students’ specific needs and not based on generalizations about disabilities, or ADHD, in particular. For example, the guidance makes clear that schools must not rely on the generalization that students who perform well academically cannot also be substantially limited in major life activities, such as reading, learning, writing and thinking; and that such a student can, in fact, be a person with a disability.
  • Clarifies that students who experience behavioral challenges, or present as unfocused or distractible, could have ADHD and may need an evaluation to determine their educational needs.
  • Reminds schools that they must provide parents and guardians with due process and allow them to appeal decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities, including students with ADHD.

Know Your Rights

In addition to the guidance, the Department also released a Know Your Rights Document that provides a brief overview of schools’ obligations to students with ADHD.


The mission of OCR is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. Among the federal civil rights laws OCR is responsible for enforcing are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Title IX of the Education Act of 1972; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

More Resources

Learn about OCR and the anti-discrimination laws that it enforces.

Protecting Students With Disabilities – Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities

Wrightslaw’s page on Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Leave a Reply

6 Comments on "U.S. DOE Releases Guidance On Civil Rights of Students with ADHD"

Notify of

Hi. I am a teacher. If I suspect that a student who shows many signs of ADHD: Difficulty sitting in her seat, difficulty focusing, disorganization, difficulty waiting her turn, barges in while I am helping another student, etc., etc. should be evaluated by her pediatrician….what can I legally say to the parents? This seems to be a slippery slope legally.

I am a parent and I would always appreciate the professional observations from a teacher. My suggestion is to say, what I heard from my child’s teacher, “in my experience often these behaviors/symptoms are an indication of something else going on such as ADHD. I suggest you seek an evaluation from a pediatrician.” I think any parent would really appreciate it — school districts not so much because it can lead to a request for special education services which the school district may view as an expense.


There is a Child Find mandate. So technically if you suspect a student may have a disability you must refer the student for a school evaluation. Many parents would appreciate you talking to them, so the parents can ask for the school evaluation.

How do I get this information mailed to me.To give to school?