504 Plan Administrative Procedures
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of the disability by any program or activity that receives or benefits from federal funding. Section 504 requires that disabled students be provided with a free appropriate public education including education with non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.
The following procedures apply regarding the evaluation, identification, and provision of services to students under Section 504.
- 1. Definition of Qualified Individual with a Disability Under Section 504
- 2. 504 Evaluations
- 3. Determination of Eligibility
- 4. Educational Services
- 5. 504 Re-Evaluation
- 6. Termination of Services
- 7. Procedural Safeguards
- 8. Impartial Hearing Procedures
- 9. Grievance Procedure
- 10. Notification of ADA/Section 504 Policy
A person has a disability within the meaning of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if he or she has a mental or physical impairment, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active. The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures (except for ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses).
Major life activities include, but are not limited to, functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and reproductive functions.
Major life activities also include the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
Referrals for consideration for Section 504 eligibility may be made at any time. Referrals may be made by individuals with knowledge of the student’s needs and/or educational programming, including teachers, other staff members, parents, etc. Referrals should be directed to the Director of Special Education, the designated Section 504 Coordinator.
An assessment or evaluation team, consisting of the appropriate student support team members will conduct an individual evaluation of a student initially referred for a Section 504 evaluation. A variety of sources shall be used by the evaluation team to assess whether or not a student is disabled within the meaning of Section 504. Information used by the team may come from standardized measures, interviews with the child and parents, rating scales, observational data, adaptive behavior assessments, teacher records, social and cultural background data, criterion-referenced measures, medical reports and/or records review.
Grades alone shall be an insufficient basis upon which to determine whether a student has a disability. Grades may not be the determinative factor in deciding whether a student with a disability needs special education or related aids or services. Grades shall be one consideration in making a determination and shall not be considered evidence regarding how much effort or how many outside resources are required for the student to achieve those grades.
The assessment shall, when reasonably possible, be completed within sixty (60) school days of the date of the referral by the student support team.
The evaluation procedure shall be:
- Necessary and appropriate to determine the nature and extent of a disabling condition or a suspected condition or to assess general or specific areas of educational need;
- Appropriate for the age and stage of development of each student to whom they are administered;
- Validated for the specific purpose(s) for which they are used and administered in conformance with the instructions provided by their producer;
- Free of racial, cultural, language, or sex bias;
- Selected and administered so as to ensure that when a test is administered to a student with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills, the test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement level or whatever other factors the test purports to measure, rather than reflecting the student’s impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills (except where these skills are the factors which the test purports to measure);
- Written and administered in the native language or conducted in the mode of communication most familiar to the person being assessed, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so; and
- Administered by trained personnel in conformance with the instructions provided by their producer.
If the District declines to evaluate a child under Section 504, it will provide notice to the child’s parents of the procedural safeguards, including the right to challenge the District’s refusal to evaluate the child under Section 504. The designated team will review all submitted documentation, current teacher reports, past records and tests. Additional evaluation tests will be conducted by the District if deemed necessary. Parental consent will be obtained prior to the initial evaluation completed by the District. If a parent declines consent for evaluation, the school District may (but is not required to) use hearing procedures to seek to override the parents’ denial of consent. No single procedure shall be used by the District to evaluate whether or not a student has a disability under Section 504.
The designated team will convene a Section 504 eligibility conference for a student whose evaluation has been completed, within 60 school days of the referral.
The eligibility conference will involve a group of persons knowledgeable about the student, including the student’s parents/guardians. The participants may include the student’s teacher, member(s) of the assessment team, Section 504 Coordinator, School Psychologist, and the School Nurse (collectively called the “504 Team”).
Notice to attend the eligibility conference shall be sent to all 504 Team members, including the student’s parents/guardians, at least ten (10) calendar days prior to the conference. When reasonably possible, the meeting will be conducted within sixty (60) school days of the date of referral for consideration of eligibility.
The 504 Team will determine eligibility under Section 504 and determine what services and/or accommodations are needed to meet the student’s needs as they relate to the educational setting, if any. The Team will base its determination on a variety of sources, including aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social or cultural background, and adaptive behavior.
In order to determine that a student who has been evaluated is a student with a disability under Section 504, the Team must conclude that:
- The student has a physical or mental condition (any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, and endocrine or any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, or specific learning disability);
- The presence of such a physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more of the student’s major life activities; and
- Because of the identified disabling condition, the student is in need of accommodations/adaptations to the regular education environment or support services.
If the 504 Team concludes that the student has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, reasonable accommodations and services shall be recommended in order to provide the student with a free appropriate public education. The evaluation findings, eligibility, and the educational services/accommodations to be provided shall be recorded on the “Section 504 Plan.” This plan shall be generated by the 504 Team and shared with each of the student’s teachers. Parents shall receive a copy of this plan as notice of the student’s eligibility and services. The plan shall include the following:
- A description of the identified disability that substantially limits a major life activity;
- A description of how the identified disability needs to be addressed in relation to school, the educational setting, and extracurricular activities.
- A list of the recommendations/accommodations designed to address the needs; and
- The names of the people responsible for ensuring that the accommodations/modifications are put into effect.
The services and reasonable accommodations described in the Section 504 Plan shall be based on a composite understanding of the student’s characteristics and how the physical and mental condition substantially limits one or more major life activities.
If it is determined that a student is not disabled and/or will not receive special services or accommodations, a written notice of the findings shall be provided to the parents along with a notice of procedural safeguards, including notice of the right to challenge the District’s conclusion that the child is not eligible for a Section 504 Plan and/or services under Section 504.
The District shall provide an appropriate program of regular and/or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual educational needs of students with disabilities under Section 504. These students shall be educated with students who do not have disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate to meet the identified needs of the student with disabilities. The student will be placed in the regular education environment unless it is demonstrated that the education of the student with disabilities in the regular education environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.
Students shall be afforded the opportunity to participate with individuals who do not have disabilities in nonacademic and extracurricular activities to the extent appropriate to the needs of the students with disabilities.
Periodically, or before any significant change in placement occurs, a group of persons knowledgeable about the student shall re-evaluate the Section 504 Plan for each eligible student to determine continued eligibility and services. This group need not be the same group of persons who determined initial eligibility. A notice will be sent to the parents informing them of the intent to conduct a Section 504 Re-Evaluation. Parent consent shall be obtained before any additional evaluation tests are conducted as a part of the Re-Evaluation.
The evaluation team shall recommend the termination of a student’s service plan if it determines on the basis of the review of all pertinent information that:
- The student is no longer disabled; or
- The student no longer requires any specialized services to meet the identified needs;
- The student no longer requires any special accommodations; or
- The student can be appropriately educated in a regular classroom environment without special support.
Under Section 504, parents/guardians have the right:
- For the child to participate in school district programs and activities, including extracurricular programs and activities, to the maximum extent appropriate, without discrimination based on disability;
- To refuse consent for the evaluation and placement of the child;
- To have evaluation, placement and other educational decisions regarding the child be based upon a variety of sources and be made by a group of people who know the child, the child’s evaluation data and the relevant placement options;
- To receive prior written notice of any conference held regarding their student’s 504 Plan;
- To give input regarding evaluation, placement and other educational decisions regarding the child;
- To request to review their child’s student records and have representation at all conferences;
- To receive a copy of conference summary report prepared by the 504 Team after each meeting;
- To file a grievance under District’s Uniform Grievance Policy regarding any complaints that allege action prohibited by Section 504, and to appeal any decision under that grievance to the extent allowed by District policy;
- To request an impartial hearing and to have representation at the hearing if you are unable to resolve disagreement with the District relative to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child, and to seek review of the Impartial Hearing Officer’s decision by a court of competent jurisdiction;
- To file a complaint regarding Section 504 with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Illinois Regional Office, Citigroup Center, 500 West Madison Street, Suite 1475, Chicago, IL 60661.
If parents/guardians disagree with the District’s identification, evaluation, or educational placement, including any change or termination of services, under Section 504, they should notify the District’s 504 Coordinator and attempt to resolve their differences informally. If informal procedures fail, the parents/guardians may request a hearing before an impartial hearing officer. The parent’s request for a hearing shall be submitted in writing to the Superintendent within ten (10) days of the date of the decision to be reviewed. The Superintendent shall then appoint an impartial hearing officer within a reasonable timeframe.
The parents/guardians shall be provided with written notice of the hearing, which shall include the time, date and location of the hearing and the identity of the hearing officer. Generally, the notice shall be sent at least five (5) business days in advance of the hearing. The notice shall inform the parents/guardians that they have the right to review any relevant records before the hearing. The parents/guardians shall have the right to be represented by counsel at the hearing and shall have the opportunity to participate in the hearing. The decision of the impartial hearing officer shall be made within a reasonable time period after the hearing has concluded. The hearing officer shall limit his/her decision to the issue or issues presented by the parents in their written request for a hearing. The hearing officer’s decision must be in writing and shall include a summary of the evidence and the reasons for the decision. The decision is to be based solely on the hearing officer’s interpretation of the meaning or application of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Either party may seek review of the Hearing Officer’s decision by a court of competent jurisdiction.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 require that each program, service, and activity offered by the School District, when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to and usable by qualified individuals with disabilities or handicaps.
A “grievance” is any complaint under ADA/Section 504 by an individual with a disability who:
- Meets the essential eligibility requirements for participation in or receipt of the benefits of a program, activity, or service offered by the School District, and
- Believes he or she has been excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of any program, service, or activity of the School District or has been subject to discrimination by the School District on the basis of his or her disability or handicap.
The School District will endeavor to respond to and resolve grievances without the need to resort to the formal grievance procedure established by the District’s Uniform Grievance Procedure. A person who wishes to avail himself or herself of the formal Uniform Grievance Procedure, however, may do so only by filing a written grievance within three hundred sixty-five (365) calendar days of the alleged discrimination.
The ADA/Section 504 Coordinator shall provide a copy of the Uniform Grievance Procedure and the required complaint form to anyone who requests it or expresses a desire to file a formal grievance.
Each grievance involves a unique set of factors which include but are not limited to: the specific nature of the disability; the essential eligibility requirements for, the benefits to be derived from, and the nature of the service, program or activity at issue; the health and safety of others; and whether or not an accommodation would constitute a fundamental alteration to the program, service, or activity or constitute an undue hardship on the School District. Accordingly, termination of a grievance at any level, whether through the granting of relief or otherwise, shall not constitute a precedent on which any other grievant shall rely.
Notice of the District’s policy on nondiscrimination on the basis of disability shall be included in recruitment materials; applications for employment, services or participation in programs and activities; handbooks, manuals, or pamphlets distributed to the public, employees, or students; and Board meeting policies. Notice shall be further provided by the display of informative posters in public areas of the school buildings.
Effective June 10, 2022, school districts must provide qualified interpreters for parents who do not normally speak English, and licensed interpreters for deaf parents, at multidisciplinary meetings, mediations, Section 504 meetings and due process hearings. If you would like to request an interpreter for any of these meetings, please contact Karen Johnson, Administrative Assistant for Special Education at (847) 498-2610 ext. 5130.