THE SECTION 504 PROCESS
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a civil rights statute which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
- All reasonable efforts are made to identify disabled students who are eligible for services under Section 504/ADA.
- According to Section 504, a person may be considered to have a disability if the individual has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities.
- Students protected under Section 504, are a part of the regular education population.
REFERRALS to SECTION 504:
When is a referral made to Section 504?
When a disability is suspected a referral to Section 504 is considered. The existence of a disability may be considered when:
- Retention is being considered.
- A student shows a pattern of not benefitting from teacher instruction.
- A student has a serious illness or injury.
- A student is evaluated and does not qualify for special education services.
- A student is exited from special education services.
- A student exhibits a chronic health condition.
- When a student has been identified as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) or deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and educational performance is affected.
- When a Parent frequently expresses a concern about the student’s performance.
Students may have academic, behavior and/or attendance difficulties for a variety of reasons, many of which may be unrelated to a disability. The RTI process will help to differentiate students who require more direct instruction from those with a disability substantially limiting their academic success. In determining eligibility, information about what interventions have already been implemented will be critical.
- Referrals are accepted from parents, professional staff (individuals or teams) and/or community agencies.
The primary concern(s) and the subsequent interventions/strategies are identified and documented.
- For a student with behavioral/emotional issues, behavioral observations and behavior charts/plans/incentives are expected to have already been developed in addressing that student’s needs; an FBA and BIP would be ideal. This information will be used in determining the student’s eligibility. We need to know what has worked and what hasn’t worked when we’re creating an effective 504 Accommodation and Plan.
- For a student with academic issues, we would want the most recent test scores and performance in the classroom; is the student below grade level…how far below? What Tier II/III interventions have been tried?
- For a student with health issues, we would want medical documentation of the diagnosis, current medical treatment and any restrictions we need to abide by within the school environment.
All medical documentation, academic and behavioral data are submitted to the 504 Point Person.
- The documentation must document the disability, the team’s concerns and the student’s needs.
- Once a 504 Referral is completed and all the data has been submitted to the 504 Point Person, a 504 Eligibility Meeting is scheduled (see below).
PRIOR TO A 504 MEETING:
- A 504 Referral Form is submitted to the 504 Point Person (for newly referred students);
- The 504 Point Person sends the parent a Section 504 Parent Notice informing them of the scheduled 504 meeting. A copy of Section 504 Parent Rights is attached to the written invitation;
- Arrange for any necessary interpreters or accommodations for meeting participants.
- The 504 Team includes an administrator and all staff persons knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the data or the appropriate accommodations addressing the disability. Once the meeting is scheduled, invitations are sent to the administrator, the classroom teacher and all staff working with the student (e.g., Guidance Counselor, Social Worker, School Nurse, ELL teacher, Teachers for the Visually or Hearing Impaired, Physical or Occupational Therapists). If unable to attend, staff members are encouraged to submit updates with any recommendations.
What to Bring:
- The 504 Teacher Data Form is completed and submitted to the 504 Point Person. Data must be provided, substantiating the child’s disability and how that disability limits a major life activity. Data may include medical documentation, student’s grades, disciplinary reports, Performance Plus information, health information, standardized test scores, teacher’s observations and RTI documentation.
DURING a 504 MEETING:
What to Do In Determining Eligibility:
- Review the documentation that identifies the student’s physical or mental impairment.
- Review all documentation related to the student’s academic, behavioral and/or health concerns.
- Determine eligibility for Section 504, based on whether the data substantiates that the identified impairment is having a substantial negative impact on the student’s academic performance as compared to the average student in the general population or is preventing the student from having equal access to the school environment and/or activities.
What to Do In Developing a 504 Accommodation Plan:
- If eligible, the 504 Team will develop an Accommodation Plan, which attempts to “level the playing field” in accommodating the student’s limitation(s) and needs.
- It is critical that appropriate data be collected to document the concerns and to determine the student’s needs. The accommodations should have a direct relationship to the data documenting the impact of the disability.
- The accommodations a student receives are individualized, based on information and data used in the evaluation and eligibility determination process.
- The goal of accommodations is to ensure that students with a disability have the opportunity to participate and access the general education curriculum and extracurricular activities to the same extent as an average, non-disabled peer.
- The plan should indicate how, where, and by whom the accommodations will be provided.
Annual Meetings or Program Reviews:
- Review pertinent information regarding the impairment and the student’s academic progress and functioning in the academic setting; include relevant medical, academic and/or behavioral data.
- Determine if the student continues to be in need of Section 504 Accommodations. If the team determines that the student no longer needs accommodations, remember to consider the effects that the accommodations may have had on his or her academic performance. For example, if a student’s “average functioning” is directly related to the accommodations provided by the Section 504 Accommodation Plan, then the student should continue to receive these accommodations.
- Complete the appropriate 504 Eligibility and Placement form.
- Develop the most appropriate 504 Accommodation Plan, (see above guidelines).
- If student is not eligible, the 504 Team may consider developing a School Plan or monitoring student’s progress; if a pattern of declining performance develops a referral to the RTI process may be indicated.
AFTER a 504 MEETING:
- Notify the parent/guardian (if not present). Send parent/guardian a copy of the 504 Packet along with Section 504 Parent Rights.
- Ensure that the student’s current teachers and all appropriate staff are aware of the meeting outcomes and that they are provided with a copy of the 504 Accommodation Plan.
- Ensure that the parent/guardian has a copy of the Section 504 Parent Rights and a copy of the current 504 Packet.
- Copies of the entire 504 Packet are (1) given to the parent, (2) placed in the student’s cum and (3) placed in the school’s 504 Binder. Central Office holds the original.