Section 504 Plans
As a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 ensures that all individuals live free of discrimination. These federal laws and protections extend to students in California’s public school districts, providing children with disabilities or medical conditions equal access to a free and appropriate education by requiring adjustments to a student’s educational environment should they qualify.
What is a 504 Plan?
A Section 504 Plan is an agreement developed between a school and a child’s guardians to provide the child with a disability or medical limitation with appropriate accommodations through their school district to ensure their academic success and complete access to the learning environment.
Similar to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a 504 Plan is intended to remove any barriers that might limit a student from learning or participating fully in their education. The 504 Plan is developed by the 504 team and describes in detail the specific accommodations that the school will provide to support the student’s education in a general education setting. However, a 504 Plan does not offer a student services such as occupational, physical, or speech therapies.
A 504 Plan has a much broader definition of “disability” than the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which determines eligibility for an IEP. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 simply states a “student with a disability is defined as a student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment.” Such a broad definition allows extra support to students who may not qualify for special education services but still need accommodations in an educational setting.
Whether a child qualifies for an IEP or a 504 Plan will depend on the specific circumstances of the child’s needs. Often, students who do not qualify for an IEP can seek accommodations under a 504 Plan. As mentioned above, in order for a child to be protected under Section 504, a student must:
- Have a condition that presents a specific everyday challenge and limits their ability to participate in daily activities.
- Provide a doctor’s note or other record of their condition.
Some conditions that qualify for a 504 plan include:
- Ability to care for one’s self
- Performing manual tasks
Examples of limitations that may qualify for 504 accommodations:
- Short-term disabilities
Evaluations for Eligibility
Evaluations for 504 Plan eligibility must be completed by the school district at the parent’s request. To initiate the evaluation process, reach out to your child’s teacher to connect with the school’s 504 Coordinator or Director of Special Education and provide your request in writing.
Providing the school with additional documentation that demonstrates your child’s needs including medical diagnosis, report cards, private evaluations, and schoolwork can help evaluators make the most informed decision. Recommendations of accommodations for your child from their pediatrician, a specialist, psychologist, or psychiatrist can also be beneficial in assisting the evaluation process. The school will evaluate your child through observation, parent interview, review documentation, and teacher interview to discuss the student’s challenges in the classroom in order to make the determination if accommodations are required to support the child’s learning.
While the 504 evaluation process is not as strict as an IEP evaluation, it is important to understand the rights your child has as a student and the responsibilities the school district has to your child. Work with an experienced education rights attorney to ensure all documentation is complete and that your child receives the accommodations they need to be successful.
504 Education Plans & Accommodations
Parents and guardians can meet with the school staff following the evaluation process to learn if the child is eligible for a 504 Plan. If the student is eligible, a 504 team will be put in place to determine specific accommodations. Depending on the needs of the child, accommodations may include:
- Preferential seating
- Read-aloud exams or tests
- Use of speech-to-text tools
- Frequent trips to the nurse
- Visiting the guidance counselor
- Schedule adjustments
Unlike IEP assessments, if a parent disagrees with the outcome of the school’s 504 evaluation, they cannot request an Independent Educational Evaluation. They can request a meeting with the school in order to reach a resolution. Likewise, if a parent believes the school or teachers are not complying with the 504 plan in place, they can request a meeting to evaluate the implementation and success of the plan.
How We Can Help
Being involved in your child’s education is paramount to their long-term success as a student, however, education evaluation processes can be complex and require a specific understanding of student rights and educational law. Working with an experienced education rights attorney can remove uncertainty from the 504 evaluation process through guidance, education, and advocacy.
The Law Offices of Jennifer Chang believe in protecting students’ rights to a free and appropriate education under both federal and state laws. If your child is eligible to receive accommodations to fully access their learning environment, education rights attorney Jennifer Chang will fight vigorously on your child’s behalf. Her offices are located in California in Los Angeles, Buena Park, and San Jose.