Interpretations of Rosa’s Law Confusing: Clarification From the DPC

There has been some confusion among intellectual and developmental disability advocates over varied interpretations of the language in Rosa’s Law and how it will be implemented at local, state, and federal levels. The Disability Policy Collaboration has offered some clarification on key points in the legislation to help chapters of The Arc respond to questions by their constituents.

Rosa's Law Signing image 1

President Barack Obama speaks at the official ceremony of the signing of Rosa’s Law Friday, October 8.

Quick Facts about Rosa’s Law

  • The term “mental retardation” will be replaced with the term “intellectual disability” in federal health, education, and labor statutes. Rosa’s Law applies only to programs under the jurisdiction of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, such as IDEA, vocational rehabilitation, ADA, health care, and a few others.
  • The law does not require any terminology change in state law. However, since many of the affected federal laws relate to state programs, the states will likely begin using the new term for these programs. More importantly, when a program covered by Rosa’s Law, such as IDEA, is reauthorized, any rules to implement the changes will then use “intellectual disability” instead of “mental retardation.”
  • While most states have changed some terminology voluntarily and by statute, the changes vary in scope. For example, the vast majority of states have changed the names of their respective state agencies, using the term “developmental disabilities” in the agency name. But many of the programs overseen by these agencies still use the term “mentally retarded” (for example: Intermediate Care Facilities for Persons with Mental Retardation (ICF/MR)).

A goal of The Arc is to get a similar bill introduced in the 2011-2012 Congress, which will apply to other programs that are just as important to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, namely Medicaid.

To download these quick facts as a PDF, click here.

Bullying in Schools Could Violate Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Department of Education issued guidance last week to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws. The guidance comes in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to schools, colleges and universities, explaining educators’ legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment. President Obama also recorded a message about the problem broadcast on YouTube.

The White House and Department of Education also announced next steps to address bullying and harassment in schools. Early next year, the White House will host a conference to raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment. This conference will build upon efforts led by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to spark a dialogue on the ways in which communities can come together to prevent bullying and harassment.

“We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” said President Obama. “We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of harassment.”

Following the release of today’s guidance, the Department plans to hold technical assistance workshops around the country in early 2011 to help educators better understand their obligations and the resources available to take prompt and effective steps that will end harassment and bullying in schools and on college campuses.

The Obama administration launched a Stop the Bullying Now campaign and www.bullyinginfo.org, a national database of effective anti-bullying programs. Read the “Dear Colleague” letter here or hear the President’s message here (or view it above).