In this blog, I’m talking about what a 504 plan for school looks like. First, let’s briefly go over what is a 504 plan. 504 plans are codified in federal statutes, specifically section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which protects students or individuals with disabilities from discrimination. So this would protect the student from discrimination by the school due to some disability or impairment.
504 plans cover any student with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. That’s the eligibility requirement by federal law. All 50 states are required to adhere to that qualification for students for the 504 plan. 504 is the same for any state and any public or charter school. And let’s talk about that a little bit.
There are requirements by federal law of what 504 Plans need to include. It would be the student’s diagnosis, discussing their impairment type, why they are eligible for the 504 plan, the accommodations, and the team members. And sometimes, the document would incorporate the legal term into it. It may be some behavioral intervention plan. That’s what would the 504 plan typically includes. But every school may have a different form that their coordinator will use to draft the 504 plan. And that’s okay, as long as they include those crucial parts mandated by federal law.
If a child is at one school and receiving accommodations, and they move maybe to a different state, you can take the 504 that you had at the past school and give it to the new school. Most of the time, they may change it and put it into their format, but the core parts of the 504 plan will remain the same for all 50 states. It’s written in federal law, so it’s straightforward.
The other thing to remember is that 504 accommodations are for the entire school interaction. It may be transportation to and from school. It could be the transitions between the school day if you’re changing classes and need accommodations in the hallway or while transitioning—specials, so PE, music, and art.
Also, a thing that gets forgetting a lot, and I always mention this in my blogs, and you’ll see them in other blogs, too, is the cafeteria. There can be accommodations for the child in the cafeteria. Restroom, how often a child can use a restroom, and what restroom they can use. Do they need prompts to be able to use the restroom? Things like that. And extracurricular activities. So if you’re doing basketball, cheerleading, soccer, or clubs like debate team, stuff like that, all of that can be included.
The 504 plan covers the time the child leaves to the time they come home from school. Also, hopefully, whenever it’s written, this is only sometimes the case though; one should write it very clearly so that if anyone looks at it within the school, they will know how to implement that accommodation.
The example I’ve given in other blogs is when it says that the accommodation will state that the child will receive extended time on an exam. How much ample time? Is this double or triple?
If you’re looking at it and a substitute comes in, or admin staff comes in to help facilitate the exam, and they see that that child gets extra time, are they allowed to sit there all day long to complete that exam? No one knows because it needs to be written clearly. That’s important, especially when a child might leave one school and go to a different one. You would want straightforward accommodations so the school knows how to implement them.
Also, we can talk about the aspect of a child receiving a 504 plan. The school typically gets a request from the parent or guardian that their child receives accommodations. Sometimes the school can initiate it, but most of the time, it’s the parents or guardians. And so, the school should receive it in writing that the parent would like their child to be evaluated. Typically parents would give the school the diagnosis. Is there some physical or mental impairment? Maybe anxiety, ADHD, or something like that. They would provide that medical information to the school.
Then the school would look at the data they have. These are grades, evaluations from the general education teacher, and see if there is a substantial impairment within the school. If there is, they will decide and say, yes, this child does qualify for accommodations.
At that time, the 504 plan team would meet. So, the school would notify the parents or guardians. They would come together and decide what they must include in the 504 plan. And this is where parents can voice their concerns to the school, make suggestions, and be a valuable part of the team. After this, the school will go ahead and draft the 504 plan.
The parents are going to look at it and agree or disagree. They may ask for an additional evaluation if they disagree. If they disagree with any of the accommodations, they may try to come to a resolution or compromise on the best-fitting accommodations to meet the student’s needs.
And then, the school is going to go ahead and implement those. If parents disagree or feel that the school isn’t fulfilling the 504 plan, so those accommodations aren’t being provided, the parents have rights or remedies against the school to enforce those changes.
And what those typically look like is filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. It is a federal administrative agency. They would then reach out to the school to let the school know that they’re not in compliance or that there needs to be a start to the dispute resolution process. It is basically how the school handles 504 plans.