Section 504

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers


Questions
1)  What is Section 504?
2)  How does Section 504 apply in schools?
3)  How does a student become identified with a 504 designation?
4)  Who can refer a student for consideration of a 504 designation?
5)  What are the major steps in the 504 process?
6)  My child was not considered eligible for a disability by the Committee on Special Education. Would he automatically qualify under 504?
7)  What is an Accommodation Plan (also known as a Service Agreement)?
8)  What does “reasonable and appropriate access” mean?
9)  In addition to supports that a student may receive, what else does a 504 plan include?
10)  Does the district provide the diagnosis needed for a 504 plan?
11)  Does a medical diagnosis by a health professional automatically result in a student being eligible for Section 504?
12)  What must the medical diagnosis include?
13)  How are parents included in their child’s 504 process?
14)  What paperwork is part of the 504 process?
15)  What is done when my child moves from elementary to middle school?
16)  We are moving into the district and my child has an active 504 plan from another district. Does that plan automatically transfer over into Chambersburg School District?
17)  We continue to reside in the district but my child is moving to another building within the district. How does this affect his 504 plan?
18)  My child is a Chambersburg resident but enrolled in a non-public school. Would 504 apply?
19)  My child is moving to the high school and I expect that they will experience difficulty. Can I get a 504 Plan before the transition to a higher grade?
20)  As a parent, what if I disagree with the district’s 504 decision about my child?
21)  What is needed to continue my child’s 504 Plan from year to year?
22)  My child has a serious medical condition that results in many absences from school. Could she have access to accommodations?
23)  My child doesn’t qualify for a 504 or special education plan but benefits from special accommodations. Can any adjustments be made in their classes or on testing?
24)  My child has a hearing loss and a 504 plan. Would his 504 plan apply to non-academic and extra-curricular activities?
25)  What is the district’s responsibility for managing the 504 process for all of its students?
26)  How long does it take to get an initial 504 plan?
 
Answers
1)  Q What is Section 504?
A
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in programs receiving federal financial assistance. The act defines individuals with disabilities as those who have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities, have a record of such impairment or are regarded as having such impairment.
2)  Q How does Section 504 apply in schools?
A

Districts that receive federal funding must insure that students who are disabled within the definition of Section 504 are identified, evaluated and provided access to free and appropriate educational services, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.

3)  Q How does a student become identified with a 504 designation?
A

Section 504 regulations require that decisions regarding eligibility, programs, related services, and accommodations be made by a group of persons knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options.

The Pupil Services Team (PST) or Core Team (CT) in each district building serves as the assessment team for Section 504 referrals. PSTs/CTs are comprised of staff in various areas (multi-disciplinary) and chaired by a building administrator, psychologist or other staff member.

4)  Q Who can refer a student for consideration of a 504 designation?
A
Referrals may come from professional staff, parents, public agencies (health, welfare, educational), physicians, self-referrals or as a result of diagnostic screenings or evaluations.
5)  Q What are the major steps in the 504 process?
A
1. 

When the PST or CT receives a written referral, it sends the parents a copy of the Board of Education policy regarding Section 504 and Notice of Meeting invitation to discuss the

reasons for referral and plans to assess the student.

2.

The Team asks the parent to give written consent for the district to evaluate their child by means of formal testing or a review of existing information, records or evaluations.

3.

The parent provides the district with medical or specialist documentation to support the

medical condition, the need for a 504 plan and recommended accommodations.

4.

Team members conduct appropriate evaluations to determine if there is any cause to

suspect a disability. Reports from outside sources will not be accepted in place of the district conducting it own assessments.

5.

If a disability is suspected, the PST/CT may request a referral to the Special Education Department for a complete evaluation.

6.

If the PST/CT determines the student does not evidence a disability requiring a referral to the Special Education Department (or) if the special education evaluation determines a student who is referred does not have a disability as specified in Pennsylvania Special Education Law, the PST/CT will then consider if the student is disabled under Section 504 and, if so, will draft an Accommodation Plan.

6)  Q My child was not considered eligible for a disability by the Committee on Special Education. Would he automatically qualify under 504?
A
No. Students who do not qualify as disabled under special education law would not automatically qualify under Section 504 – they must meet the requirements in federal legislation for Section 504.
7)  Q What is an Accommodation Plan (also known as a Service Agreement)?
A
A 504/Chapter 15 Accommodation Plan specifies the adaptations, modifications, supports, strategies and interventions that will enable a student to have reasonable and appropriate access to instruction or the environment. Accommodations may include, but are not limited to, adaptations in communication, organization, management, alternative teaching strategies and precautions for student health or safety. Appropriate services might also include any educational support services except enrollment in a special education class.
8)  Q What does “reasonable and appropriate access” mean?
A
Access means that the student will be able to use and participate in the curriculum and benefit from it to a satisfactory degree. ‘Appropriate’ does not mean ‘perfect’ access. Accommodations are designed to ‘level the playing field’ and are not intended or provided to give the student an additional benefit or unfair advantage.
9)  Q In addition to supports that a student may receive, what else does a 504 plan include?
A
The 504 accommodation plan describes the evaluations used to determine the existence of a disability, the nature of the disability, the effects of the disability on academic performance, accommodations to be made and a date for review/assessment.
10)  Q Does the district provide the diagnosis needed for a 504 plan?
A
No. The district is not responsible for providing evaluations conducted by independent evaluators (e.g. physicians, specialists, audiologists, psychiatrists) to support or provide a diagnosis. Parents are responsible for providing the district with a physician’s diagnosis for conditions that would qualify for a disability under 504.
11)  Q Does a medical diagnosis by a health professional automatically result in a student being eligible for Section 504?
A
No. An official diagnosis alone does not automatically result in eligibility for programs or services under Section 504. A diagnosis should be considered as one piece of the evidence when evaluating the child.
12)  Q What must the medical diagnosis include?
A
A physician’s prescription that gives only a diagnosis does not provide adequate documentation for a 504 plan. In order for the 504 Team to determine if a medical condition meets the federal guidelines for a 504 disability, medical verification must clearly describe how the medical condition impacts the child’s ability to access his/her program, the long-standing nature of the condition and what accommodations need to be provided to address the condition in the academic setting.
13)  Q How are parents included in their child’s 504 process?
A
Parents/guardians are an important part of the team and the process. In addition to providing
acceptable documentation, parents are involved in developing the accommodation plan. Prior parental approval is needed for initial 504 plans. Written parent approval is not needed for a plan’s renewal. Parent attendance is not required at an initial or renewal 504 Plan meeting.
14)  Q What paperwork is part of the 504 process?
A
After a 504 meeting, parents will receive a Notice of Determination of eligibility, the approved Accommodation Plan (if determined eligible) and a copy of Parent/Student Rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These important documents should be kept and referenced for future meetings and as the student moves through school, attends college or gets a job after graduation.
15)  Q What is done when my child moves from elementary to middle school?
A
The district has developed a process for students with 504 plans moving from grade 5 to 6 and from grade 8 to 9. These 504 transition meetings are conducted in late spring with staff from the student’s current and future buildings. Parents and students are encouraged to attend to share information, adjust plans for the new building and remove accommodations that the student no longer needs/uses.
16)  Q We are moving into the district and my child has an active 504 plan from another district. Does that plan automatically transfer over into Chambersburg School District?
A
Students having a current 504 plan who transfer into the district from another district or state have access to accommodations specified in that plan until the district’s PST/CT conducts a 504 meeting. This “transfer intake” 504 meeting should occur with the parents attending within 30 school days of the student’s enrollment. The 504 Team will draft a revised plan for the District 504 Coordinator to review and approve.
17)  Q We continue to reside in the district but my child is moving to another building within the district. How does this affect his 504 plan?
A
All building 504 plans are reviewed and approved by the district office. Students with current 504 plans who are projected to move to another building in the district should have their plans reviewed by receiving staff before the transfer or within 30 days of the move. This will help insure that previously approved accommodations are still appropriate within the new environment. However, even if the plan is not reviewed, it remains in effect until the student’s 504 annual review.
18)  Q My child is a Chambersburg resident but enrolled in a non-public school. Would 504 apply?
A
Students who are placed in a private or parochial school by their parents are not eligible for 504 plans or services provided by the District.
19)  Q My child is moving to the high school and I expect that they will experience difficulty. Can I get a 504 Plan before the transition to a higher grade?
A
No. A 504 designation and accommodations cannot be given in anticipation of difficulty.
20)  Q As a parent, what if I disagree with the district’s 504 decision about my child?
A
Contact the Assistant Superintendent overseeing Pupil Services to review the situation. Under Section 504, parents of students with disabilities are entitled to notice regarding actions affecting the identification, evaluation of educational placement of their children and may request an impartial hearing if they disagree with the determination regarding a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Unlike special education, 504 does not entitle the student to receive an independent evaluation at district expense.
21)  Q What is needed to continue my child’s 504 Plan from year to year?
A
a. Parents must provide current medical documentation each year for consideration of continued eligibility of 504 plans involving a medical diagnosis. If required documentation is not provided, the PST/CT may notify the parents in writing that the 504 plan is discontinued.
b. School staff are expected to document the student's full and consistent use of accommodations across all or in specified settings in order to continue providing these supports annually.
c. The documented failure of students to need or consistently use 504 accommodations will result in them being removed from a plan or having the plan discontinued.
22)  Q My child has a serious medical condition that results in many absences from school. Could she have access to accommodations?
A
Typically, “home and hospital instruction” is not provided unless the student is absent for an extended period. Students with severe, chronic medical conditions (e.g., cancer requiring ongoing treatment, autoimmune conditions, organ transplant, severe migraine headaches) may experience sporadic, prolonged, variable and unpredictable absences from school due to the symptoms of the illness, the medically indicated treatment, relapses with severe symptoms or scheduled treatments at regional hospitals. Such students may be eligible for 504 plans that may include an alternative delivery system to provide access to the student’s core subjects whenever non-attendance is due to the 504 disability.
23)  Q My child doesn’t qualify for a 504 or special education plan but benefits from special accommodations. Can any adjustments be made in their classes or on testing?
A
As part of best practices and effective instruction, accommodations can be provided to students in the classroom if they do not have a disability designation – e.g. the student can be provided with notes, sit closer to the teacher, be given tests in other forms (explaining instead of writing an answer) to address a special condition or disability. However, accommodations such as extended testing time, having a test administered in an alternate location and repeating directions cannot be provided on high-stakes standardized testing without a formal 504 or special education plan.
24)  Q My child has a hearing loss and a 504 plan. Would his 504 plan apply to non-academic and extra-curricular activities?
A
Section 504 requires the district to offer protected students equal opportunities to participate in non –academic and extra-curricular services and activities.
25)  Q What is the district’s responsibility for managing the 504 process for all of its students?
A
The Supervisor of Education Related Services serves as the District’s Section 504 Coordinator. Building 504 teams, lead by a School-Based 504 Coordinator, send to the Office of Pupil Services required documentation for referrals and 504 plans. The Office for Pupil Services maintains a permanent district file for each student referred and the Supervisor of Education Related Services serves as the district’s 504 Compliance Officer for active 504 plans. Parents should contact their child's School-Based 504 Coordinator for information on the 504 process, for copies of 504 records or with questions/concerns about a specific plan.
26)  Q How long does it take to get an initial 504 plan?
A
The length of time involved depends to a great degree on the completeness of the supporting documentation, the extent of time that the student has had difficulty and the overall impact on the student’s ability to access the educational program. Parents can contact the 504 coordinator or case manager in their child’s building for more information on required documentation. All plans must be initiated or renewed by June 1 of the current year to be active by the opening of school next year. Plans that are not reviewed and approved by the District 504 Coordinator on June 1 are reviewed when school resumes in September.