Understanding Section 504 Plans
There are primarily three bodies of federal law that protect the rights of children with disabilities. The first, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) governs "Special Education" as schools know it today. This law, while quite comprehensive, only provides direct programming for children with one of thirteen categories of disabilities, when in fact there are literally
The second body of law, which protects the rights of children with disabilities, is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA primarily provides for accessibility of the physical structure of a school. This includes washrooms, access to playgrounds, lift buses, etc. The ADA also prohibits discrimination against the disabled in school programming.
The third body of disability law is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law prohibits discrimination against the disabled in all programs that receive federal funds, including public schools. Section 504 is a far-reaching law that extends protections to individuals with disabilities in most aspects of their lives. The procedures outlined in this report address Section 504 as it applies to schools.
STUDENT IDENTIFICATION AND EVALUATION
Section 504 defines an individual with a disability as anyone who experiences a "mental, psychological or physiologic disorder that interferes with an individual's civil right to one or more major life activities." The list of major life activities includes: caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating.
Identifying students who qualify for a 504 Plan is usually not complicated. Some children, even though a disability can be documented, are not eligible for special education services under IDEA. These students could be evaluated to determine the need for a 504 Plan. Some examples could include students with health needs (e.g. life threatening allergy), with communicable diseases (e.g. HIV), with drug and alcohol dependency, who have been dismissed from or do not qualify for special education due to a lack of discrepancy, and those with ADHD (when not covered by IDEA).
In addition to school-identified concerns, a parent can document through testing by outside professionals that their child has a disability that interferes with learning (e.g. life threatening allergy).
When parents or school personnel identify a concern for which a 504 Plan might be appropriate, the principal will convene a meeting of a 504 planning team. The team, varies from student to student, and generally consists of the parent, the classroom teacher and any other school personnel with knowledge of the student that might be helpful (e.g. building nurse, psychologist, social worker, learning behavior specialist etc.). The 504 planning team then will determine if the child is disabled within the meaning of Section 504. Information used by the team may come from standardized measures, interviews with the child and parents, rating scales, observational data, adaptive behavior assessments, teacher records, social and cultural background data, criterion referenced measures, medical reports and/or records reviews. Upon its determination that a child is eligible under Section 504, the 504 planning team must determine what instructional accommodations or modifications are needed to meet the child's needs as they relate to the general educational setting.
WHEN SHOULD A 504 PLAN BE CONSIDERED?
There are four primary cases when a 504 Plan should be considered.
When an IEP team determines that a child no longer requires an IEP and a 504 Plan is needed to document the necessary general education accommodations or modifications to assure ongoing student success.
When an IEP team has conducted a case study and a student is found ineligible for special education under IDEA, the team will consider whether a disability under 504 is indicated.
When there is an identified disability not covered by special education (remember, while there are literally hundreds of different types of disabilities, special education law only covers thirteen specific types of disabilities).
When a parent approaches a teacher with concerns that his/her child may have a disability that requires special instructional accommodations or program modifications.
The 504 planning team shall then prepare a 504 Plan for an eligible disabled student. The 504 Plan provides the reasonable instructional accommodations and modifications to which the student is entitled, based on the student's individual needs. Once the Plan has been developed, the general education team (including specialists and related arts teachers) is responsible for implementing the Plan.
To be in compliance with section 504, the 504 planning team must review the Plan at least annually to determine the nature and type of accommodations and instructional modifications they shall provide, or to review for continued eligibility if necessary. If a child's individual learning needs change from the previous year, the 504 planning team will meet to review and adjust the Plan if necessary. Any team member, including the parent, may call a 504 Plan review at any time.
A reevaluation of each initial evaluation will normally be conducted every three (3) years or more frequently if conditions warrant.
TERMINATION OF SERVICES
The evaluation team shall recommend the termination of a student's 504 Plan if it determines on the basis of the review of all pertinent information that:
The student is no longer disabled; or
The student no longer requires any specialized services to meet the identified needs; or
The student no longer requires any special accommodations; or
The student can be appropriately educated in a general education
There are times when the school and the parent disagree about the development or implementation of a 504 Plan. The first place to resolve a disagreement is at the building level. The building principal serves as the 504 coordinator for her/his building. Any concerns shall be addressed with the principal first.
If the concern cannot be satisfactorily addressed at the building, the issue can then be brought to the District Coordinator of 504 Plans. The Administrator of Student Services serves as the District Coordinator of 504 Plans and can be reached at the Mikaelian Education Center 847.256.2450. The District 504 Coordinator will meet with the child’s 504 planning team, which includes the parent, and review the relevant information. At the meeting a determination will be made about the appropriateness of the Plan and the reasonableness of the accommodations. The 504 Plan may be revised at that meeting.
When appeal to the Administrator of Student Services does not resolve a conflict, the parent has the right to request a “due process hearing” by contacting the Superintendent. At this point the school identifies an impartial hearing officer who will hear the case. The impartial due-process hearing officer will review information provided by the school and the parent, and will also hear any witnesses provided. The due process hearing officer will make the final determination.