FAQs - Civil Rights 504 Accommodations
What is a 504 plan?
A 504 plan is a legal document falling under the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is designed to plan a program of instructional services to assist students with special needs who are in a regular education setting. A 504 plan is not an Individualized Education Program (IEP) as is required for special education students. However, a student moving from a special education to a regular education placement could be placed under a 504 plan.
Are all school districts covered by Section 504?
Virtually all public school districts are covered by Section 504 because they receive some federal financial assistance. Public colleges and universities generally receive federal financial assistance, and most private colleges and universities receive such assistance. There are some private colleges that do not receive any federal assistance, and Section 504 does not apply to them. Title II applies only to public institutions.
Do these laws cover just education programs?
No. They cover all programs of a school or college, including academics, extracurricular, and athletics. Also, the laws apply to the activities of a school or college that occur off campus.
Answers for the two questions above were found at: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/qa-disability.html
How is a student considered for a 504 plan?
A student with a physical or emotional disability, or who is recovering from a chemical dependency, or who has an impairment (i.e. Attention Deficit Disorder) that restricts one or more major life activities.
What are examples of "major life activities"?
Major life activities include caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, and learning.
What is the process for placing a student on a 504 plan?
There are essentially four steps:
- Student is referred by teacher, support staff, parent/legal guardian, physician, or therapist. On occasion, a student may initiate a self-referral.
- A 504 plan meeting is held.
- A plan for the student is developed.
- A review date is set.
Who is involved in the process?
The student, parent/legal guardian, teachers, principals, Pupil Services administrators, support staff (i.e. nurse, counselor, psychologist, language/speech pathologist) as well as the student's physician or therapist may be involved in the placement process including the 504 meeting.
What is the teacher(s) role/responsibility in the 504 placement process?
If you have a concern regarding a child's performance and/or behavior that you believe is caused by a disabling condition, you should initiate a referral after consultation with support staff and/or building administrators. Also, you should participate in any meetings where a 504 plan may be developed. Further, you should be ready to supply pertinent data and documentation such as test scores, discipline referrals, and anecdotal information to assist in the writing of the plan.
What accommodations might be included in the 504 plan?
Examples are presented below:
- A child's seat assignment accommodates a disability.
- A diabetic child may be permitted to eat in the classroom.
- A child may be permitted to go to the office for the administration of medication.
- A student's assignments or testing conditions may be adjusted (i.e. extensions of time, modification of test questions)
Note: This is a team process where all members of the team, not just the teacher, may have responsibilities in fulfilling the requirements of the 504 plan.
What if I disagree with the 504 plan or any of its components? What are my rights?
If you disagree with the 504 plan you can:
Express your views at the meeting and suggest alternatives.
Refuse to sign the plan.
Contact your building steward if you believe the plan alters your terms and conditions of employment.
Once the plan is approved, what are my responsibilities?
You are expected to reasonably follow the strategies written to implement the plan and to participate in the review process.
Can a 504 plan be altered and can I request changes in the plan?
Yes. Make a written request to your building principal for a Pupil Services Team meeting. Send a copy to all who attended the meeting where the original plan was approved. In addition, be sure that there is a planned review date on the original 504 document so that the effectiveness of the plan can be evaluated and adjustments made, if needed, at that time.
If I sign off on a 504 plan, what is my accountability?
You are legally responsible to implement your designated accommodation/strategies on the plan. You are advised to maintain regular and consistent documentation to display that you have attempted to implement the plan. For example: You may keep a file of student, work or write special notations in your grade book, or maintain personal notes. Keep copies of any adjusted tests, assignments, behavior plans, and all notes to and from parents/legal guardians. Again, if the plan isn't working for the student, ask in writing for the assistance of support staff (counselors, nurses, psychologists, etc.). Also, some degree of accountability rests with the parents/legal guardians in following through. Do not accept the burden alone. Again, keep copies of all pertinent documents.
Who may be protected under Section 504, but not under IDEA?
Section 504 is a civil rights law. Section 504 protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. Section 504 ensures that children with disabilities have equal access to an education.
If the child has a disability that adversely affects educational performance, the child is eligible for special education services under IDEA. Children who eligible for special education services under IDEA are protected under Section 504 (but the converse is not true).
If the child has a disability that does not adversely affect educational performance, then the child will not be eligible for special education services under IDEA but will usually be entitled to protections under Section 504.
Are all students with serious medical conditions (anaphylaxis, diabetes, seizures, etc.) required to have a 504 Plan?
Section 504 is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination by ensuring that children with disabilities have equal access to an education. Section 504 requires recipients to provide students with disabilities appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual needs of such students to the same extent as the needs of students without disabilities are met. An appropriate education for a student with a disability under the Section 504 regulations could consist of education in regular classrooms, education in regular classes with supplementary services, and/or special education and related services. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to: (1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The determination of whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity must be made on the basis of an individual inquiry.
See the following link for detailed information on the use of Section 504 in schools: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html
The following questions are addressed in the link:
Can a medical diagnosis suffice as an evaluation for the purpose of providing FAPE?
No. A physician's medical diagnosis may be considered among other sources in evaluating a student with an impairment or believed to have an impairment which substantially limits a major life activity. Other sources to be considered, along with the medical diagnosis, include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social and cultural background, and adaptive behavior. As noted in FAQ 22, the Section 504 regulations require school districts to draw upon a variety of sources in interpreting evaluation data and making placement decisions.
Does a medical diagnosis of an illness automatically mean a student can receive services under Section 504?
No. A medical diagnosis of an illness does not automatically mean a student can receive services under Section 504. The illness must cause a substantial limitation on the student's ability to learn or another major life activity. For example, a student who has a physical or mental impairment would not be considered a student in need of services under Section 504 if the impairment does not in any way limit the student's ability to learn or other major life activity, or only results in some minor limitation in that regard.
What is a 504 plan and how does it differ from an IHP (Individualized Health Plan)?
A 504 plan is a legal document falling under the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a plan for the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student's individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met. An IHP is a nursing document that details the nursing care a student with an IEP will need at school. An IHP is best practice but not mandated. It is a nursing plan of care. It is flexible, as it needs to change to meet students changing needs.