Is there an official formal format when drafting a 504 Plan Form?
So first, let’s start with the basics of a 504 plan. 504 plan accommodations are codified in federal law, specifically the Rehabilitation Act section 504 in conjunction with the Americans WIth Disabilities Act. That section outlines that public and charter schools in all 50 states must provide accommodations for students with physical or mental impairments that substantially limit a major life activity.
Title 34, Part 104 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains the federal rules that implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (CFR).
Suppose a student had some diagnosis or disability that substantially impaired some aspect of their learning within the school environment. In that case, they would qualify for a 504 plan, which includes accommodations.
This federal statute within section 504 doesn’t specify an exact format. You can look at many different formats online, but your school likely has a form they currently use when drafting. But federal law does state what needs to be in the 504 plan. The US Department of Education provides a helpful 504 FAQ for interested families.
We will go over that together and use that as the method when drafting a 504 plan. The other thing I want parents to remember is that they are part of the 504 accommodation team. They’re an equal member as everyone else is and must be included. The school must give them notice of any changes. If they feel like the teacher is the one who’s referring the student for 504 plan evaluation to see if they need accommodations, they must also notify parents or guardians.
They are valued members of the team. It is a misconception that parents are passive and just there as a formality, but that’s not the case. Parents have many legal rights and remedies if the school does not comply with their involvement. Let’s talk about drafting the 504 plan itself.
The 504 plan is straightforward and is typically a relatively short document. People may be more familiar with IEPs, which are much more extensive documentation, and there are many more requirements for an IEP.
A 504 plan form is smaller, condensed, and straightforward. I like them for that reason. And whenever educators or anyone in the school environment receive a 504 plan form, they’re likely to know what they should and shouldn’t be doing and how to help the student better and more quickly than receiving a 20-page IEP.
504 Accommodation Plan Form
Let’s talk about the form or method of drafting.
First, the school information. Who is the school entity? Is it public? Is it a charter school? Who are they?
It would be best if you had the information, the qualifying disability, and any documentation to support that. When a child is diagnosed with a disability or diagnosis, it usually comes from their healthcare provider or therapist. And that documentation is likely to be attached.
There would also be some information about the student, like their name, birthdate, and grade. They were then going in the flow of that information when the plan was taking effect, when it was written and when they would revise it.
Federal statutes say that the team must meet annually. So every year, the plan and the accommodations will have to be reviewed by the team. And then, at the three-year mark, the student will have to go through the evaluation process to ensure they’re still qualifying for the 504 plan.
The Office of Civil Rights has published the Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.
The next section that one needs to include in the 504 is the team members. It is anybody making decisions, coming to the meetings, sharing data, evaluations, or providing accommodations. They all need to be included as team members.
You’ll need their name and contact information. And when they attend the meeting, there will need to be some sort of signature or indication that they have attended. Education and support staff and general education teacher are also on the team. If there’s any admin or a 504 plan coordinator, they’re likely also on the team.
Then for sure, you have the guardian or parent, as we discussed. There are no requirements of who can and can’t be on there, meaning that if therapists or other admin staff are involved with implementing these accommodations, they’ll likely be a member.
So, the team members, their roles, contact information, and whether they are attending the meeting would need to be included. And when we get into the accommodation plan or portion, the best method is to map out first the areas of educational need.
Some possible accommodations that the team could incorporate in a 504 plan include the following:
- Providing assistive technology, such as a computer with speech-to-text software or a communication device
- Modifying the physical environment, such as providing a wheelchair ramp or making classrooms more accessible
- Providing additional support services, such as a personal aide or counseling services
- Allowing extra time for completing assignments or taking tests
- Providing a quiet, distraction-free environment for testing
- Providing written materials in an alternative format, such as large print or Braille
- Allowing the use of a calculator or other assistive device during tests
- Providing a note taker or recorder in class
- Allowing the student to take frequent breaks or have a flexible schedule
The specific accommodations included in a 504 plan will depend on the individual student’s needs. For instance, this could be the general education classroom, transitions in the hallway, and extracurricular activities. It could be specials such as PE, library, and art. I did say cafeteria already and before school or after school. The team would then include all those different areas.
And when we have those areas, we’ll list the accommodations or services the child will receive. The general education classroom may have a sensory tool or toy to help with sensory processing.
What Qualifies For a 504 Plan?
But they’re only allowed to have that in the general education classroom, so that would stay under that category. The lunch cafeteria is a big thing that comes up a lot with sensory issues. They may have accommodation where they’re allowed to eat somewhere other than the cafeteria or have a pair or buddy system within that environment. They would then be listed in the cafeteria during lunchtime, and the special accommodations just for that area.
So we have where the school will give the accommodations and what the actual accommodations will be, but we need to know who is providing those accommodations. Is this a therapist who’s coming in to provide services? Occupational Therapy (OT) services or a teacher gives the student prompts.
If there is an exam or a test, they’re potentially given extra time or a location to go. So, who’s implementing that? That person is essential. And then lastly, the frequency of the accommodation or services. I had mentioned OT therapy. Are they receiving that once a week or twice a week?
Therapy in accommodations is typically written out in minutes rather than on specific days. It’s best to be as straightforward as possible just so that everybody who reads this document will know how to implement those accommodations. And then, as I said, the frequency.
If we’re talking about accommodations in the cafeteria, this is likely every school day where the lunch is. That accommodation needs to happen. Then the plan and date of approval likely need to be signed and approved by all the team members.
504 Plan Form Disagreements
If parents or someone on the team disagrees with what’s in the document, they can file their document or letter explaining what they disagree with and why. They can add that as well. That’s the primary method of how to draft. You must know who’s on the team, their purpose, and the student information, including their diagnosis or disability. And the accommodations themselves are where they will be held.
What are the accommodations? Who’s giving them out or making sure that they’re happening? And what frequency? Is this a daily or a weekly thing? Is it written in minutes? To be as straightforward as possible. So, that’s the primary method. There’s no one right way to put these in the document, but the team must include those elements.
And as I said, each school is different. Typically, the 504 plan coordinator handles most of this, but as a parent or guardian, you’ll know what to expect when looking at the actual 504 plan form.
504 procedural safeguards refer to the legal protections and rights in place to ensure that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education (FAPE) as required by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Some examples of 504 procedural safeguards include:
- The right to an individualized evaluation to determine the student’s eligibility for 504 accommodations
- The right to be involved in the development and implementation of the 504 plan
- The right to an impartial hearing or review if the student’s parent or guardian disagrees with any aspect of the 504 plan
- The right to have the 504 plan reviewed and updated regularly
- The right to the confidentiality of the student’s educational records
These safeguards are in place to ensure that students with disabilities receive the accommodations and support they need to access the same educational opportunities as their non-disabled peers.
What is a 504 plan in simple terms?
A 504 plan is a strategy aimed at assisting students with disabilities in obtaining accommodations in the classroom. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal law forbidding discrimination against people with disabilities, is where this type of plan gets its name.
A 504 plan aims to guarantee that students with disabilities have the same access to educational opportunities as their peers without disabilities. It may entail modifications to the environment, the provision of assistive technology, or the addition of support services. A 504 plan’s specific accommodations are decided upon individually and based on the student’s needs.
What is an example of a 504 plan?
A 504 plan might include the following:
● Giving students a wheelchair ramp to enter the school.
● Giving them extra time to complete tests.
● Giving them a note-taker in class.
These modifications are meant to enable the student to participate fully in the course of study and to be given the same opportunities as their peers who are not disabled. A 504 plan form may include specific accommodations depending on each student’s needs.