Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The IDEA Website Down: Tell the Education Department You Care (UPDATED)

This morning, when Betsy DeVos started her job as Secretary of Education, many people noticed that an entire section of the department's website was missing -- the part about that pesky Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). During her confirmation hearing, Secretary DeVos expressed a lack of understanding about the federal act that protects the rights of students with disabilities -- and even expressed an opinion that the states should decide what rights children should have.

So you can imagine that even with the official explanation from the department, people are skeptical that this was a mere coincidence, since the majority of the website remains intact and online. Is this an attack on special education, or a technical glitch that will soon be resolved? Neither would surprise me.

What You Can Do:

This is a great opportunity to show the leadership and staff at the Department of Education that parents and advocates are paying attention. We have to be a squeaky wheel, and a broken website is a big deal.

1. Tweet to @usedgov and ask when the site will be available.

2. Keep checking, and let me know when it's back. The actual URL is Tweet to me at @mmiller20910.

3. Call the department and tell the staff you want and need this information. Here are a few numbers:
  • Department of Education, 1-800-872-5327
  • Office of the Secretary, 202-401-3000
  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 202-245-7459 (#9 for director) or 202-245-6496
  • Office of Civil Rights, 800-421-3481,
  • Office of the Chief Information Officer, 202-245-6640
Please keep in mind that you will probably reach a non-political staff member. Be polite, but let them know that you are concerned about this, and ask for a specific estimate for when the website will be restored. I've seen firsthand that this is how website issues get fixed -- we need lots of people going to their bosses saying people are asking and/or complaining. If this is truly a technical glitch, it will be easy to fix. If it's not restored soon, that will be a sign of worse things to come.

UPDATE (Feb. 9, 7:30am): I left a voicemail at each of these numbers last night. Today , the voicemail for the Office of the Secretary says, "Sorry, Office of the Secretary is not available. You cannot record a message for Office of the Secretary. This mailbox is full."

Chief Information Officer: "The number you have reached is not in service. This is a recording."

While we still need to call attention to this problem, which is denying families information they need, there IS some IDEA information on the education website at This does not replace the need to restore, but share this with people who need information immediately.

UPDATE TO UPDATE (Feb. 9, 9:00am): The website appears to have been restored. Someone noticed that the blog link doesn't work. Are there other differences?

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