According to a new set of resources issued on June 20, 2024, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), medical conditions such as sickle cell disease, epilepsy, and cancer could trigger protections in K-12 and postsecondary schools under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which protects people against disability discrimination. Some of the accommodations listed in the new resources include allowing students with cancer to consume food and water during classes and excusing students with sickle cell disease from class to go to medical appointments. In addition, students experiencing a seizure may have a sudden onset of emotions or display repetitive behaviors, such as twitches and mouth movements.

The new set of USDE resources follow OCR’s February release of guidance for civil rights protections for students with asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Schools could face an OCR investigation if there is a complaint that these rights are being violated.

OCR is responsible for enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin.

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