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Got Section 504 Questions? We’ve got answers.

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While we await updated guidance from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for Section 504, schools are still doing everything they can to stay in compliance with the law. But that’s easier said than done.

In an effort to support the education community, we recently hosted a webinar with leading education law attorneys Jose Martín and Dave Richards, both of whom are leaders in the Section 504 space. You can still watch it on demand here.

Before we start, we’d love to hear from you: what Section 504 questions do you have?


Let’s Get Into It

  1. Do you have to have a medical diagnosis to have a 504?


    You do not need a medical diagnosis (it’s illegal to require one to initiate an evaluation for 504). If the Section 504 Committee identified an impairment as part of its evaluation, this identification is an educational determination only as permitted by Section 504, and not a medical diagnosis for purposes of treatment. 


  2. When is it appropriate to move from a Health Care plan to a 504 for a food allergy?


    Anytime the allergy requires any more than the most minimal precautions or emergency measures. Err on the side of providing allergy measures under a 504 plan.
  3. What about a child with Sickle Cell Anemia? How do you decide between a Health Care Plan versus a Section 504 Plan?

    If the child needs regular health-related accommodations or services, you should evaluate the student under Section 504, and if eligible, address a plan to address their health concerns within the legal protections of Section 504. 


  4. The law suggests that “school districts have the obligation to identify” students for a 504 Plan. What does it mean to “have the obligation”?

    Districts have the duty to look for and find students who may be disabled and in need of 504 services, with a coordinated set of notices, referral processes, outreach efforts, and more.


  5. How do you measure the impact of a 504 Plan?
    Based on academic, emotional, behavioral, social, and physical performance and how it appears to be affected by the disability.


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  1. What happens when the child seems to be functioning in the same ways as their peers, but parents want accommodations in a Plan “just in case?” 

    Section 504 plans are provided based on actual present need, not “just in case.” 

  1. Thinking about the “OCR Updates,” what are they? What might they entail? 

    The Office of Civil Rights is responsible for providing guidance on Section 504 requirements. In this case, it’s expected that the latest updates will include strengthening of parent procedural safeguards. It’s important to keep in mind that these updates will almost certainly require more of schools rather than less.  

Did you know?  

Frontline has an exclusive partnership with Attorneys Dave Richards & Jose Martín, nationally recognized CESD Section 504 experts. Behind the scenes, they regularly update our forms to reflect and address changes in law, guidance from the Office for Civil Rights, and rulings from the courts.  Learn More

  1. If a student is regarded as having an impairment and we observe traits of the impairment (i.e. parent reports ADHD but no received diagnosis, and the 504 team observes behaviors consistent with ADHD) are we ok to implement the plan based on what is being observed? 

    If various sources of data available to you indicate that ADHD is present, a 504 committee can qualify the child despite the lack of a private diagnosis. 

  1. If an evaluation is completed to look at possible special education eligibility but under federal guidelines, the student doesn’t meet the criteria for eligibility, can the 504 team use the DSM-5 guidelines for a diagnosis to trigger the development of a 504 Plan based on the findings in the evaluation?

    Potentially yes, if the special education evaluation determines there is some impairment, even if not sufficient for IDEA eligibility. The DSM is a guiding resource, but a variety of sources of data must point to the presence of impairment and substantial limitation on a major life activity. 

  1. Must (or should) evaluation for a 504 Plan for a learning-based impairment utilize standardized assessment? 

    It’s not required but is allowed if the parent/guardian consents. 

  1. Does a Section 504 evaluation have to be a report like a special education report?

    No. As long as the committee documentation reveals a decision based on careful consideration of various sources of data, the evaluation is sound under §504. 

  1. Could mental health conditions be considered a reason for a 504 Plan?

    Mental health conditions are impairments that can substantially limit the major life activities of learning, thinking, concentration. So yes, mental health conditions could qualify. 

  1. Does the Plan need to be reviewed annually?

    While best practice perhaps, not required. But the 504 Plan must be reviewed at least every three years, or more frequently if conditions warrant. 

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  1. We have several students who had 504 Plans due to dyslexia, and have gone through all the dyslexia protocol and are now in high school. Could the committee look at dismissal from Section 504 if they are making good progress? 

    Not if their dyslexia still requires some accommodations in the classroom in order for the student to have an equal opportunity to learn. 
  1. Should a 504 Plan include a shortened day if parents say a child is having meltdowns when he gets home because he can’t handle the full day even though when at school these behaviors don’t occur at all? 

    Probably not advisable to agree to a shortened school day in such a situation, as it severely limits student access to curriculum. Other supports such as student and/or parent counseling may be advisable. 
  1. If a student has all A’s but struggles with testing anxiety, how can the school see a substantial limitation? 

    If the anxiety is significantly affecting the student before and during the test in a way that is detrimental and affects thinking and concentration, they could qualify. Legislative history indicates that the Congress wanted to emphasize that high-functioning students could nevertheless qualify under Section 504. 
  1. What should I do if a parent insists that the child’s disability is affecting them at home, but it is not at all impacting the child in school?

    Section 504 Plans are intended to address the impact of a disability at school in order to provide equal access to education, so in the case mentioned above, the child may not qualify.  
  1. Does a Section 504 Plan or IEP apply during after school activities? Sports, after school care, etc. 

    Yes. Section 504 is about nondiscriminatory access, and that may mean reasonable accommodations in order to access extracurricular activities and nonacademic services. See 34 CFR 104.37. 
  1. If utilizing a variety of data that already exists, is consent required for a 504 evaluation? 

    For initial evaluation, or reevaluations that will include testing, parental consent is required.  
  1. Can we use standard psycho-educational assessments, like formalized rating scales or a brief achievement assessment, in combination with other data sources, as part of the evaluation for 504 with parent consent? 

    Sure, as long as you have the parent’s/guardian’s consent. 
  1. If a change needs to be made to 504, can it be amended? Or do you need to do an annual review? 

    You can have a brief review meeting rather than a full annual review. 

Frontline’s software for Section 504 Program Management is the only solution where you can access Dave and Jose’s Section 504 forms. You can learn more about Frontline Section 504 Program Management here.