TOP TEN ISSUES RE: SECTION 504 Jim Walsh 1. DISCIPLINE • Students identified under 504 are entitled to a manifestation determination prior to a disciplinary change of placement. • Easiest way to get in trouble: identify the student under 504; send to the DAEP without MDR. 2. BROAD COVERAGE • Drop the term “educational need” when discussing 504. • The focus is on ANY “major life activity.” This could be breathing, walking, eating, sleeping. • Many 504 students will do very well academically but have health issues—allergies, asthma, diabetes are common. 3. CHILD FIND • As with IDEA, there is a duty to refer kids when we see indications of possible disability. • Your policy of non-discrimination must be widely disseminated in ways likely to reach parents, providers and students. 4. IMPLEMENTATION • Make sure teachers take 504 plans as seriously as IEPs. • Get the plan initialed to prove that teacher knows about it. • Monitor for compliance. Take corrective action when teachers fail to provide required accommodations. 5. A STRONG COORDINATOR • 504 Coordinator should have authority, not just responsibility. • A random selection of teachers should be able to tell you who the 504 Coordinator is. If they cannot do so, OCR would infer that you have not publicized your policies very well. 6. 504 CONTINUES AFTER SCHOOL • Duty to accommodate applies to ALL school activities, including extracurriculars. • See recent OCR “Dear Colleague” letter about athletics. • Train coaches, sponsors on the duty to provide equal opportunity and accommodations. 7. YOU NEED DATA • Child should not be identified under 504 on parent request alone. You need some data from a qualified person to verify the existence of a physical or mental impairment. • You would not identify a student for special ed without data—same holds true here. • Refer to the guidance in The Blue Book for dyslexia evaluations. 8. EVALUATION • 504 requires you to “evaluate” the student to determine if he/she qualifies. • This does not necessarily mean formal testing by school staff— parents already have information from doctors and other qualified professionals that can be relied upon. 9. HEARINGS • Some one soon is going to request a “504 Hearing” in your district. • Look to your policy to respond— FB Local. • District provides the hearing, appoints a hearing officer. 10. 504 CLAIMS ON THE RISE • The law has changed, giving broader coverage. • Lawyers, advocates and parents are more aware of 504 than they were five years ago. • Many lawsuits cite 504 in an effort to impose liability on districts— bullying, discrimination, etc. • 504 a more attractive tool for plaintiffs than IDEA. WHAT YOU CAN DO • The best way to avoid legal problems with 504 is to comply with 504. • This requires strong leadership and good training. JIM WALSH Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green & Treviño, P.C. P.O. Box 2156 Austin, Texas 78768 Phone: 512-454-6864 Fax: 512-467-9318 Email: [email protected] Web: www.WalshAnderson.com Twitter: http://twitter.com/JWalshtxlawdawg The information in this handout was created by Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green and Treviño, P.C. It is intended to be used for general information only and is not to be considered specific legal advice. If specific legal advice is sought, consult an attorney.