504 Plans - What Parents Need to Know

Although both 504 and IDEA legislation address students with special needs, 504 has become the more global vehicle for accommodating children with unique health impairments.

What is a 504 plan? Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. In terms of educational purpose, the plan is designed to assist students with special needs who are attending their schools regular education program. The 504 plan should not be confused with the Individual Education Program (IEP).

What makes a student eligible for consideration of a 504 plan? The student must be identified as disabled as outlined under Section 504. Does the individual have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities; or have a record of such an impairment; or is regarded (perceived) as having such an impairment. If the answer is "yes" to one or more of the above statements, the individual may qualify for the provisions under Section 504. This would be especially true, if the individual does not qualify for special education services under IDEA (formerly PL 94-142).

What are "major life activities?" “Major life activities” include some of the following: caring for one's self, the performance of manual tasks, breathing, seeing, hearing, walking, working and learning. If any of these activities are substantially limited due to a disability, the individual may be accommodated under a 504 plan.

When should a possible 504 referral be considered? A 504 plan should be considered appropriate when the individual meets the 504 criteria as having a disability and the individual is not being referred for special education services. Other questions to ask might include: 1) Is the student being considered for expulsion? 2) Is retention being considered? 3) Is the student returning to school after a serious injury? 4) Was the student referred for special education services and found not to qualify? 5) Is the student "at risk" of dropping out of school? The team should ask some of these questions to help determine the appropriateness of a 504 plan.

Is there a process that will help place a student on a 504 plan? Basically, there are four steps involved in the development of a 504 plan.

  1. The student is referred by a teacher, parent/legal guardian, school support staff, physician, or therapist. It is possible for the student to initiate a self-referral.
  2. A 504 plan eligibility meeting is scheduled and held.
  3. A 504 plan is developed for the student if the student is deemed eligible by the 504 team.
  4. The team sets a plan review date.

Who are the people involved in the 504 process? The student (where appropriate), parent/legal guardian, teacher(s), principal, district administrator(s), support staff (school nurse, paraprofessionals, speech and language therapist, etc.)

Who becomes responsible for the conditions of a written 504 plan? All parties who sign off on the 504 plan are legally accountable for implementing and providing accommodations to the student as outlined in the 504 plan. A person who disagrees with the plan and refuses to sign may still be obligated to make the accommodations as outlined in the 504 plan. The 504 plan may be altered by sending a written notice to all persons who attended the first planning meeting in an effort to schedule a time for a plan review. Ideally, the plan should be reviewed and possibly modified at the scheduled time for review as indicated in the original 504 plan.

What are some types of accommodations that might be included in a 504 plan? There are any number of possible accommodations that might be included in a 504 plan. Here are some examples:

  • A student may have a special seating assignment to accommodate need(s)
  • A student might need a special medical plan to accommodate administering medication.
  • A student may be permitted to leave the classroom for certain activities
  • A student may be permitted to use a private rest room (mobility and dignity issues)

There are many possible accommodations that a team may consider appropriate for an individual student. It is important to keep in mind that all participants within the scope of the 504 planning meeting share equal value when making recommendations. Any member of the 504 team may be required to carry out certain portions of the 504 plan to be assured that accommodations become a reality.

In order to request an evaluation for a 504 plan, please contact your child’s school counselor. If you have additional questions, please contact our district 504 Coordinator, Gloria Moore at 423-498-7082 or via email at [email protected].

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