Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
How to Develop A Student 504 plan:
Common Questions and Answers
1. What is 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973/Public law 93-112 is a comprehensive law that addresses the rights of handicapped persons (hereafter referred to as persons with disabilities except when quoting the law) and applies to all agencies receiving federal financial assistance. Eliminating barriers to education programs and services, increasing building accessibility, and establishing equitable employment practices are thoroughly and specifically addressed in Section 504 regulations. Section 504 states: No otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his/her handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. The regulation makes it clear that the failure to provide a free appropriate public education to a student with disabilities covered by Section 504 is discrimination which violates the Act.
2. Who is responsible for the enforcement and investigation of compliance with Section 504?
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for the enforcement and investigation of compliance with Section 504. Federal financial assistance to a local school district is contingent on compliance with Section 504 and other civil rights laws. OCR may determine that federal funds should be withheld from local school systems that are not in compliance with civil rights legislation.
For Bulloch County Schools, Leslie Schlierf , the executive director of Student Support Services is the Student Program Accessibility/Section 504 and ADA Coordinator. Superintendent Charles Wilson is the Facilities Accessibility/Section 504 and ADA Coordinator. Director of Human Resources Phillip Tremble is the Personnel Issues/Section 504 and ADA Coordinator.
3. Who is eligible for 504?
In 1973, when the Rehabilitation Act was passed, "handicap" was the acceptable term for a mental or physical impairment. Today, the term "disability" is preferred and promoted. Under the provisions of Section 504, either term refers to a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. To qualify for protection under the law, the individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as caring for one self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, or working. Examples include Tourettes Syndrome, epilepsy, sickle-cell anemia, asthma, or a serious long-term illness or injury, if there is a resulting impact on a major life activity such as learning.
4. How are students with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder handled?
When a school is informed that a student has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the school is required to utilize appropriate educational strategies.These strategies can be documented through the use of the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. RTI is a model in which a student with academic or behavioral difficulties is provided one or more research based interventions. The student's progress is monitored frequently to evaluate whether or not interventions are sufficient to assist the student in making progress. If, after a determined period of time, the student does not progress in spike of the interventions, referral to a 504 team to determine eligibility will be made.
For example, if behavior is the manifestation of the condition, then the successful development of a behavior management plan that meets the school's obligations under the federal law. If the student is manifesting attention problems, which are affecting learning, the school can develop strategies to address those within the regular classroom. In cases in which the ADD results in behavior or attention problems which are so severe that they cannot be accommodated within the regular classroom, Section 504 requires the school to provide special services which will enable the student to benefit from an educational program. Students with ADD or ADHD might qualify under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as a student suffering from another health impairment (OHI). The school should determine if a referral to special education for consideration of OHI eligibility is appropriate.
5. Who determines if a student is eligible for 504?
Referrals begin at the local school level and are made to the 504 Contact Person. After the RTI process has been followed and a determination is made that the student is unable to progress, then the 504 team is convened to determine whether the student is eligible of a 504 accommodation plan.
6. How does the Student Support Team determine if a student is 504 eligible?
To qualify for protection under Section 504, the individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning or working. Three questions to consider in determining whether a person's impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities: (1) What is the nature and severity of the impairment? (2) How long will it last or is expected to last? (3) What is its permanent or long-term impact or expected impact? Temporary, non-chronic impairments that do not last for a long time and which have little or no long-term impact usually are not considered to be disabilities.
7. What is a Section 504 Plan?
A Section 504 Plan is an educational plan describing what accommodations, special services, or related aids and services will be provided to meet the individual educational needs of the eligible student as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met. Although a written plan is not required by federal regulations, it is advised. It makes good sense that the plan be in writing. Parents should be notified and a copy of parental rights provided to them. A format for a plan is on a printable page at the end of this information.
8. What are a parent's rights under Section 504?
They are not the same nor as extensive as those provided under IDEA. They are listed on a printable page here and must be made available to parents of children who have a 504 plan. Section 504 Rights
9. What are some examples of special services in the classroom and facility?
Below are samples in the areas of communication, organization/management, alternative teaching strategies, and student precautions.
10. What are the guidelines for special test accommodations under Section 504?
A Section 504 Plan must be on file for each student for whom modifications in standardized testing will be made. The plan should outline instructional modifications appropriate for the student during regular classroom instruction. Testing modifications consistent with these instructional modifications should also be outlined in the plan. It is not appropriate to make testing modifications unless the appropriate documentation is on file.
Special Services in the Classroom and Facility
As individual students are identified, the classroom teacher may need specific training in the area of the identified disability (for example, training from a school nurse on danger signs of an impending asthma attack, or training from a physical therapist on correct positioning of a student who uses a wheelchair). The following classroom/facility special or related aids and services are examples of ways in which students with disabilities may be successfully assisted within the regular education environment.
A. There may be a need to modify parent/student/teacher communications. For example:
- develop a daily/weekly journal
- develop parent/student/school contacts
- schedule periodic parent/teacher meetings
- provide parents with duplicate sets of textsB. There may be a need to modify staff communications. For example:
- identify resource staff
- network with other staff
- schedule building team meetings
- maintain on-going communication with building principalC. There may be a need to modify school/community agency communication. For example, with parent consent:
- identify and communicate with appropriate agency personnel working with student
- assist in agency referrals
- provide appropriate carryover in the school environment
A. There may be a need to modify the instructional day. For example:
- allow student more time to pass in hallways
- modify class scheduleB. There may be a need to modify the classroom organization/structure. For example:
- adjust placement of student within classroom (such as use of a study carrel, arrange proximity to teacher)
- increase/decrease opportunity for movement
- determine appropriate classroom assignment (such as open versus structured)
- reduce external stimuliC. There may be a need to modify the district's policies/procedures. For example:
- allow increase in number of excused absences for health reasons
- adjust transportation/parking arrangements
- approve early dismissal for service agency appointments
III. Alternative Teaching Strategies
There may be need to modify teaching methods. For example:
- adjust testing procedures (such as length of time, oral administration, tape recorded answers)
- utilize materials that address the studentâ€™s learning style or modality impairment (such as visual, tactile, auditory)
- adjust reading level of materials
IV. Student Precautions
A. There may be a need to modify the classroom/building climate for health purposes. For example:
- use an air purifier in classroom
- control the temperature
- accommodate specific allergic reactionsB. There may be a need to modify classroom/building use to accommodate equipment needs. For example:
- plan for evacuation of students who use wheelchairs
- schedule classes in accessible areasC. There may be a need to modify building health/safety procedures. For example:
- administer medication
- apply universal precautions
- accommodate special diets
Special Services and Related Aids
Services special and related aids must be appropriate to the needs of a specific student and must be designed to meet the individual needs to the same extent that the needs of students without disabilities are met. They may include:
- Interpreters for students with deafness
- Books on tape for students with significant vision problems
- Accessible restrooms
- Assignment sheets
- Tests and quizzes given orally
- Extra time for tests and exams or division of exams into parts
- Note taking assistance
- Peer tutoring
- Extra study time for vocabulary
- Acceptance of typed or dictated work
- Repetition of directions by student
- Preferential seating
- Use of study carrel
- Oral reading on a voluntary basis
- Use of a calculator
- Provision of defined limits
- Use of positive reinforcement
- Allowance for frequent breaks
- Modification of physical education program for a student with asthma
- Shorten school day
- Allowance for service dogs
- Allowance for students with diabetes to eat snacks
- Evacuation plan for a student with a mobility impairment
- Specialized transportation
- Accessible parking
- Acoustically appropriate environment
- Modification of attendance incentive policy
- Administration of medication according to district policy
- Use of word processor or computer for written work
- Special diet
- Homebound instruction during illness
Section 504 Notice of Student and Parent Rights
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly referred to as "Section 504," is a nondiscrimination statute enacted by the United States Congress. The purpose of Section 504 is to prohibit discrimination and to assure that disabled students have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to non-disabled students. For more information regarding Section 504, or if you have questions or need additional assistance, please contact your local system’s Section 504 Coordinator at the following address:
Leslie Schlierf, Executive Director of Student Support Services (504 Coordinator)
Bulloch County Board of Education
150 Williams Road
Statesboro, Georgia 30458
The implementing regulations for Section 504 as set out in 34 CFR Part 104 provide parents and/or students with the following rights:
1. Your child has the right to an appropriate education designed to meet his or her individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students. 34 CFR 104.33.
2. Your child has the right to free educational services except for those fees that are imposed on non-disabled students or their parents. Insurers and similar third parties who provide services not operated by or provided by the recipient are not relieved from an otherwise valid obligation to provide or pay for services provided to a disabled student. 34 CFR 104.33.
3. Your child has a right to participate in an educational setting (academic and nonacademic) with non-disabled students to the maximum extent appropriate to his or her needs. 34 CFR 104.34.
4. Your child has a right to facilities, services, and activities that are comparable to those provided for non-disabled students. 34 CFR 104.34.
5. Your child has a right to an evaluation prior to a Section 504 determination of eligibility. 34 CFR 104.35.
6. You have the right to not consent to the school system’s request to evaluate your child. 34 CFR 104.35.
7. You have the right to ensure that evaluation procedures, which may include testing, conform to the requirements of 34 CFR 104.35.
8. You have the right to ensure that the school system will consider information from a variety of sources as appropriate, which may include aptitude and achievement tests, grades, teacher recommendations and observations, physical conditions, social or cultural background, medical records, and parental recommendations. 34 CFR 104.35.
9. You have the right to ensure that placement decisions are made by a group of persons, including persons knowledgeable about your child, the meaning of the evaluation data, the placement options, and the legal requirements for least restrictive environment and comparable facilities. 34 CFR 104.35.
10. If your child is eligible under Section 504, your child has a right to periodic reevaluations, including prior to any subsequent significant change of placement. 34 CFR 104.35.
11. You have the right to notice prior to any actions by the school system regarding the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child. 34 CFR 104.36.
12. You have the right to examine your child’s educational records. 34 CFR 104.36.
13. You have the right to an impartial hearing with respect to the school system’s actions regarding your child's identification, evaluation, or educational placement, with opportunity for parental participation in the hearing and representation by an attorney. 34 CFR 104.36.
14. You have the right to receive a copy of this notice and a copy of the school system’s impartial hearing procedure upon request. 34 CFR 104.36.
15. If you disagree with the decision of the impartial hearing officer (school board members and other district employees are not considered impartial hearing officers), you have a right to a review of that decision according to the school system’s impartial hearing procedure. 34 CFR 104.36.
16. You have the right to, at any time, file a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Section 504 Hearing Procedures
Right to Due Process. In the event a parent or guardian wishes to contest an action or omission on the part of the District with regard to the identification, evaluation, or placement of a disabled child under §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (§504), the parent has a right to an impartial hearing before an impartial hearing officer.
Initiation of Due Process Procedures. A parent who wishes to challenge a District’s action or omission with regard to the identification, evaluation, or placement of a disabled child must submit a written request for a hearing to the District’s Special Student Services Division. Such written request must make clear that the parent is seeking a hearing under §504 before an impartial §504 hearing officer. If an intent to seek a hearing under §504 is not clear, a District representative may contact the parent to clarify the request and the issues to be resolved. A District representative may also contact the parent to ascertain if the parent is interested in participating in mediation.
Parent Participation and Representation. A parent has the right to participate, speak, and present information at the hearing and to be represented by legal counsel or any type of advocate of his or her choice at his or her expense. If a parent is to be represented by an attorney at the hearing, he or she must inform the District’s Special Student Services Division of that fact in writing at least seven (7) calendar days prior to the hearing date. Failure to notify the §504 Coordinator in writing shall constitute good cause for continuance of the hearing date. (See “Continuances,” below.)
Appointment of a Hearing Officer. The District will appoint an impartial Hearing Officer to preside over the hearing and issue a decision. The Hearing Officer shall not be a current employee of the District.
Scheduling of Hearing. The District’s §504 Coordinator shall set the hearing date and time in writing. Such hearing date shall be within thirty (30) days after the parent’s hearing request is received by the District, unless a continuance is granted for good cause. (See “Continuances”, below)
Continuances. Upon a showing of good cause, the Hearing Officer, at his or her discretion, may grant a continuance of the hearing date and set a new hearing date.
Conduct of Hearing. The hearing shall be closed to the public. The parties are free to provide the Hearing Officer with information or opinions as to the validity and weight to be given the information presented to him or her. As part of their presentation, the parties may submit any reports, evaluations, correspondence, notes, or any other documents that may support their positions and that the Hearing Officer will admit at his or her discretion.
Recording. The entire due process hearing will be audio recorded. The parent may obtain a copy of the audio recording at his or her request. If a parent proceeds to appeal the hearing decision (See “Appeal Procedure” below), the District will prepare a written transcript of the hearing tape recording to be offered to the court as an exhibit.
Witnesses. Witnesses will be questioned directly by the party who calls them. Cross-examination of witnesses will be allowed. The Hearing Officer, at his or her discretion, may ask questions of the witnesses. As moving party, the parent may present his or her case first.
Closing of Hearing. The Hearing Officer may make an oral ruling at the conclusion of the hearing or take the case under advisement, but must in all cases issue a written opinion addressing and ruling on all issues raised by the Parent and indicating what corrective action, if any, the District must take. The decision must be issued to both parties within fifteen (15) days after the hearing.
Remedies and Relief. The Hearing Officer must confine his or her orders and rulings to those matters which involve identification, evaluation, or placement of children under §504 and to the provisions of the regulations implementing §504. A Hearing Officer may not award attorneys’ fees as part of relief granted to a parent.
Appeal Procedure. If not satisfied by the decision of the Hearing Officer, any party may appeal the hearing decision to a court of competent jurisdiction.
Complaints to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). At any time, a parent may file a complaint with OCR if he or she believes that the District has violated any provision or regulation of §504. The filing of a complaint does not affect the hearing process or the timelines set forth above. OCR addresses §504 complaints separately and independently of the local hearing process, in accordance with the guidelines set forth in OCR’s Complaint Resolution Manual.
§504 Coordinator. For general questions or concerns, the District’s §504 Coordinator may be contacted as noted below:
Leslie Schlierf, executive director of Student Support Services (504 Coordinator)
Bulloch County Board of Education
150 Williams Road
Statesboro, Georgia 30458
Phone: 912-212-8581 or 8580
Submission of Written Documents. Initiation of a hearing, notification of the intent to be represented by an attorney, or submission of any other written documents pertinent to a hearing request should be sent to Leslie Schlierf at the above address.
Section 504 Procedural Safeguards
1. Overview: Any student or parent or guardian (“grievant”) may request an impartial hearing due to the school system’s actions or inactions regarding your child's identification, evaluation, or educational placement under Section 504. Requests for an impartial hearing must be in writing to the school system’s Section 504 Coordinator; however, a grievant’s failure to request a hearing in writing does not alleviate the school system’s obligation to provide an impartial hearing if the grievant orally requests an impartial hearing through the school system’s Section 504 Coordinator. The school system’s Section 504 Coordinator will assist the grievant in completing the written Request for Hearing.
2. Hearing Request: The Request for the Hearing must include the following:
a.The name of the student.
b.The address of the residence of the student.
c.The name of the school the student is attending.
d.The decision that is the subject of the hearing.
e.The requested reasons for review.
f.The proposed remedy sought by the grievant.
g.The name and contact information of the grievant.
Within 10 business days from receiving the grievant’s Request for Hearing, the Section 504 Coordinator will acknowledge the Request for Hearing in writing and schedule a time and place for a hearing. If the written Request for Hearing does not contain the necessary information noted above, the Section 504 Coordinator will inform the grievant of the specific information needed to complete the request. All timelines and processes will be stayed until the Request for Hearing contains the necessary information noted above.
3. Mediation: The school system may offer mediation to resolve the issues detailed by the grievant in his or her Request for Hearing. Mediation is voluntary and both the grievant and school system must agree to participate. The grievant may terminate the mediation at any time.
If the mediation is terminated without an agreement, the school system will follow the procedures for conducting an impartial hearing without an additional Request for Hearing.
4. Hearing Procedures:
a.The Section 504 Coordinator will obtain an impartial review official who will conduct a hearing within 45 calendar days from the receipt of the grievant’s Request for Hearing unless agreed to otherwise by the grievant or a continuance is granted by the impartial review official.
b.Upon a showing of good cause by the grievant or school system, the impartial review official, at his or her discretion, may grant a continuance and set a new hearing date. The request for a continuance must be in writing and copied to the other party.
c.The grievant will have an opportunity to examine the child’s educational records prior to the hearing.
d.The grievant will have the opportunity to be represented by legal counsel at his or her own expense at the hearing and participate, speak, examine witnesses, and present information at the hearing. If the grievant is to be represented by legal counsel at the hearing, he or she must inform the Section 504 Coordinator of that fact in writing at least 10 calendar days prior to the hearing. Failure to notify the Section 504 Coordinator in writing of representation by legal counsel shall constitute good cause for continuance of the hearing.
e.The grievant will have the burden of proving any claims he or she may assert. When warranted by circumstances or law, the impartial hearing officer may require the recipient to defend its position/decision regarding the claims (i.e. A recipient shall place a disabled student in the regular educational environment operated by the recipient unless it is demonstrated by the recipient that the education of the person in the regular environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily. 34 C.F.R.§104.34). One or more representatives of the school system, who may be an attorney, will attend the hearing to present the evidence and witnesses, respond to the grievant testimony and answer questions posed by the review official.
f.The impartial review official shall not have the power to subpoena witnesses, and the strict rules of evidence shall not apply to hearings. The impartial review official shall have the authority to issue pre-hearing instructions, which may include requiring the parties to exchange documents and names of witnesses to be present.
g.The impartial review official shall determine the weight to be given any evidence based on its reliability and probative value.
h.The hearing shall be closed to the public.
i.The issues of the hearing will be limited to those raised in the written or oral request for the hearing.
j.Witnesses will be questioned directly by the party who calls them. Cross-examination of witnesses will be allowed. The impartial review official, at his or her discretion, may allow further examination of witnesses or ask questions of the witnesses.
k.Testimony shall be recorded by court reporting or audio recording at the expense of the recipient. All documentation related to the hearing shall be retained by the recipient.
l.Unless otherwise required by law, the impartial review official shall uphold the action of school system unless the grievant can prove that a preponderance of the evidence supports his or her claim.
m.Failure of the grievant to appear at a scheduled hearing unless prior notification of absence was provided and approved by the impartial review official or just cause is shown shall constitute a waiver of the right to a personal appearance before the impartial review official.
5. Decision: The impartial review official shall issue a written determination within 20 calendar days of the date the hearing concluded. The determination of the impartial review official shall not include any monetary damages or the award of any attorney’s fees.
6. Review: If not satisfied with the decision of the impartial review official, any party may pursue any right of review, appeal, cause of action or claim available to them under the law or existing state or federal rules or regulations.