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504 Plan Information

                      SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973

 

What is a 504? [FAQ's]

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that appropriate accommodations are made for disabled students.  (This is not the same as an Individual Education Plan for students identified as disabled through Special Education.)  As  part  of the  Rehabilitation  Act  of 1973,  Congress  passed  Section  504,  a civil  rights  law  to protect  people  with  disabilities  by eliminating  barriers and allowing full participation.  While the law does not provide any new money for programs and agencies that comply, it carries the threat of withholding federal funds from those that do not comply.  

 

The process for 504 Plan development and review includes assessment and establishment of eligibility.  A Student Study Team (SST) meeting will be held to discuss the student’s educational needs and to gather evidence of disability and to develop an assessment plan.  Parents will be notified of all assessment, meeting, and plan development.  The law does not require parent participation in the meeting, permission to assess or agreement with the plan. [Elementary Brochure] [Secondary Brochure]

 

Who Qualifies as a “Disabled Student?”

A disabled student is a student who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or (2) has a history of having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or (3) is regarded as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

 

Physical impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculosketal, special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine. 

 

Mental impairment means any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. 

 

Major life activities include, but are not limited to, walking, breathing, learning, seeing, speaking, working, performing manual tasks, hearing, self-care, concentrating, or thinking.  Attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, auditory or visual processing disorder, asthma, and diabetes are common examples.

 

Section 504 specifically excludes certain sexual disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, or psychoactive substance abuse disorders resulting from current use of illegal drugs.  All students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) are covered automatically under Section 504.  Roughly 10-12 percent of the nation’s students currently receive special education services, with a little more than half of them identified as “specific learning disability”.  Because necessary accommodations are included in the IEP, there is no need to write a separate 504 plan.

 

Definition of Substantially

Section 504 regulations do not define the word substantially, but have “left it up to each district to define.”   However, the Office of Civil Rights has said that the term has been interpreted to require an important and material limitation and that school districts must decide whether a particular impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

 

DJUSD interprets substantially limits major life activities as limiting a person’s ability to perform functions such as caring for himself/herself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.  This is not an exhaustive list and no guidelines from the OCR have been issued to limit the scope.  Major life activities also includes major bodily functions such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

 

Substantially limits shall be determined without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures other than ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses.  Mitigating measures include, but are not limited to, medications, prosthetic devices, assistive devices, learned behavioral, or adaptive neurological modifications which an individual may use to eliminate or reduce the effects of an impairment. 

 

Report  card  grades  of A’s,  B’s  and  some  C’s,  standardized  achievement  test  scores  in  the average  range  and  above, appropriate behavior, and regular school attendance do not constitute a disability in learning that is considered substantial.  If the child has problems in only one area, such as written language or math calculation, there is a good chance that the team will find he/she does not have a disability that substantially limits his/her learning.  For 504 purposes, the team will compare the child to the average child without disabilities in the United States, not to his/her own ability level.

 

SCHOOL PROCESS

Referral

A parent/guardian, teacher, other school employee, student study team, or community agency may refer a student to the School Counselor (grades 7-12) or the Principal (preK-6) if they suspect that a student has a disability under Section 504.  If parents require assistance with a referral, school staffs are mandated by district policy to assist with the referral.

 

Student Study Team (SST)

Upon receipt of a referral, a Student Study Team will meet to review and consider all data concerning the student such as aptitude and achievement test scores, teacher recommendations, physical condition, academic progress, attendance, behavior, social and cultural background, and reports collected from school and/or parents.  All evaluations will be non-discriminatory.  Parents and others with knowledge of the student will be invited to attend.

 

If after reviewing and considering the data, the Student Study Team finds evidence of a disability that meets guidelines under Section 504, an evaluation plan will be generated to gather additional information.  The law requires that parents be notified prior to any evaluation or change in placement and that they be given a copy of their procedural rights (Appendix B).   In addition, prior to conducting an initial evaluation of a student for eligibility under Section 504, the district shall obtain written parent/guardian consent.   

 

If it is determined that there is no evidence of a disability and further evaluation is unnecessary, the principal or designee shall inform the parents/guardians in writing of this decision, the reasons for the decision, and the procedural safeguards available, as described in the Notice of Rights on the 504 template [English] [Spanish].

 

Assessment

The evaluation plan indicates the participants of the assessment team and the responsibilities of each member.  The team membership will vary based on the area of suspected disability.  The evaluation must be completed within 60 calendar days and must include assessment/observation by school staff.

 

The district’s evaluation procedures shall ensure that the tests and other evaluation materials:

  1. Have been validated and are administered by trained personnel in conformance with the instruction provided by the test publishers
  2. Are tailored to assess specific areas of educational need and are not merely designed to provide a single intelligence quotient
  3. Reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement or whatever else the tests purport to measure rather than his/her impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, except where those skills are the factors that the tests purport to measure

Section 504 Services Plan

A 504 Services Plan meeting must be held following evaluation and shall consist of persons knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the services/accommodations/placement options.  Eligibility and non-eligibility will be established at the meeting by interpreting evaluation data, and the team shall ensure that information obtained from all sources is carefully considered and documented on the 504 Plan template. The parents/guardians shall be invited to participate in the meeting and shall be given an opportunity to examine all relevant records.  Copies of student records may be obtained pursuant to Education Code section 49065.

 

If the student is found eligible for services under Section 504, the team (including the parents/guardians) will develop a written 504 services plan that identifies the disability and sets forth the specific types of regular or special education services, accommodations, and supplementary aids and services necessary to ensure that the student receives FAPE.  The accommodations and/or services must address the student’s needs related to the identified disability.  There are no legal requirements for what should be included in the plan.

 

If the 504 team determines that no services are necessary for the student, the record of the team’s meeting shall reflect whether or not the student has been identified as a disabled person under Section 504 and shall state the basis for the determination that no special services are presently needed.  The student’s parent/guardian shall be informed in writing of his/her rights and procedural safeguards. 

 

Section 504 Files

A copy of the student’s Section 504 plan shall be kept in his/her student record and electronic documentation shall be added to the student information system.  Proof of disability (i.e. testing, doctor’s notes) should be kept in a secure file at the school site and should follow the student to a new school.  This information cannot be kept in the student’s permanent record.  The student’s teacher(s) and any other staff who provide services to the student shall be informed of the plan’s requirements.  If a student transfers to another school within the district, the principal or designee at the school from which the student is transferring shall ensure that the principal or designee at the new school receives a copy of the plan prior to the student’s enrollment in the new school.  SST documentation and 504 Plan denials should also be kept in the student’s permanent record.

 

Review and Reevaluation

The 504 team shall monitor the progress of the student and, at least annually, shall review the effectiveness of the student’s Section 504 services plan to determine whether the services are appropriate and necessary and whether the student’s needs are being met as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students.  In addition, each student with a disability under Section 504 shall be reevaluated at least once every three years. 

 

A reevaluation of the student’s needs will be conducted before any subsequent significant change in placement.    Examples of actions that might constitute a “significant change in placement” triggering a reevaluation include, but are not limited to, expulsions, suspensions that exceed 10 school days within a school year, or removal from a fully integrated curriculum to a resource room, home instruction, independent study, or continuation school.  The 504 Team will hold a meeting to gather complete information (in writing) on progress, appropriateness of placement and accommodations, to determine whether current services, accommodations, and placement are appropriate.  In the case of suspension and/or expulsion, the meeting will also determine whether the behavior was a manifestation of the student’s identified disability.

 

PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS

 

The law does not require parent participation in the meeting, permission to evaluate, or agreement with the 504 plan.  The law does require that the superintendent or designee notify the parents/guardians of students with disabilities of all actions and decisions by the district regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of their children.  He/she also shall notify the parents/guardians of all the procedural safeguards available if they disagree with the district’s action or decision, including an opportunity to examine all relevant records, and an impartial hearing in which they have the right to participate.   

 

Informal Resolution

If a parent/guardian disagrees with any district action or decision regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of his/her child under Section 504, it is strongly recommended that the parent/guardian meet with the school person or persons immediately involved in an attempt to informally resolve the complaint.

If  the complaint  is  not  resolved as  a  result  of  that  meeting(s)  the parent/guardian  may, at his/her discretion, but within 30 days of the district’s action or decision, request an administrative review of the action or decision.  The District 504 Coordinator shall designate an appropriate administrator to meet with the parent/guardian to attempt to resolve the issue and the administrative review shall be held within 14 days of receiving the parent/guardian request.  If the parent/guardian is not satisfied with the resolution of the issue, he/she may request a Section 504 due process hearing.

 

Due Process Request

The parent/guardian shall submit a written request to the District 504 Coordinator within 30 days of receiving the district’s decision or, if an administrative review is held, within 14 days of the completion of the review.  The request for the due process hearing shall include:

  1. The specific nature of the decision with which he/she disagrees
  2. The specific relief he/she seeks
  3. Any other information he/she believes is pertinent to resolving the disagreement

Mediation of the Complaint

Within 5 school days of receiving the due process request, the District 504 Coordinator shall informally discuss with the parent or guardian the possibility of using mediation. If all parties agree to mediation and the selection of the mediator, the Coordinator shall make all arrangements for this process. All parties must agree to make the mediator a party to related confidential information and agree to “ground rules” which insure confidentiality and impartiality.  Should the issue(s) be settled in mediation, the procedures shall conclude.  Should the issues(s) not be settled, a due process date shall be scheduled.

 

Due Process

Within 30 days of receiving the parent/guardian’s initial due process hearing request, or following the conclusion of failed mediation, the District 504 Coordinator shall select an impartial hearing officer.  This 30-day deadline may be extended for good cause or by mutual agreement of the parties. 

A hearing officer selected by the District must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. Be qualified to review District decisions relating to Section 504
  2. Not be an employee of, or under contract with, DJUSD or the SELPA of which the District is a member in any capacity other than that of a Hearing Officer
  3. Not have any professional or personal involvement that would affect his or her impartiality or objectivity in the matter

Within 45 days of the selection of the hearing officer, the Section 504 due process hearing shall be conducted and a written decision mailed to all parties.  This 45-day deadline may be extended for good cause or by mutual agreement of the parties.

Any party to the hearing shall be afforded the following rights:

  1. Be accompanied and advised by counsel and by individuals with special knowledge or training relating to the problems of students with disabilities under Section 504
  2. Present written and oral evidence
  3. Question and cross-examine witnesses
  4. Receive written findings by the hearing officer stating the decision and explaining the reasons for the decision
  5. Obtain written or electronic verbatim record of the hearing prepared at the expense of the individual requesting such record
  6. Prohibit the introduction of evidence at the hearing that has not been disclosed to the other party or parties at least five (5) school days prior to the hearing, except for good cause shown
  7. Receive of notice from the other party or parties at least 10 school days prior to the hearing that they will utilize the services of an attorney, except for good cause shown

The hearing officer shall render a decision pursuant to the legal standards set forth in 34 C.F.R. Part 104.  If desired, either party may seek a review of the hearing officer's decision by a federal court of competent jurisdicti

 

For more information, see 504 Plan Manual [English] [Spanish]