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Case Study

Greater Compliance and Collaboration in Section 504 Plans

How Baldwin County Schools increased compliance, reduced grievances and due process hearings, and fostered collaboration among staff, students, and parents in the Section 504 process.

Baldwin County Schools Hero Image

District Background

Before and After Frontline Section 504 Program Management


Compliance Challenges. Section 504 Plans needed updating to ensure 100% compliance with district and federal guidelines.

Inconsistent Processes. Every school had its own way of keeping 504 Plans on paper and in Excel spreadsheets, leading to delays and a lack of visibility, especially when transferring 504 Plans between schools.

Data (In)visibility. The district lacked a systematic way to track learning impairments or monitor trends, which impacted their ability to plan and offer targeted support.


Fewer Grievances. Real-time compliance monitoring and a significant reduction in grievances.

Process Efficiency and Collaboration. Frontline’s system streamlined the management of 504 Plans, significantly reducing the time to process transfers. This has enhanced collaboration among coordinators, other school officials, students, and parents, ensuring that the right support is provided promptly.

Data Visibility. Baldwin County can quickly drill into the data to guide decision-making, including staffing plans and determining what each school may need to provide the accommodations and support students need.

32,000 students fill the classrooms on 43 campuses in Baldwin County Schools. Over 1,000 of those students qualify for accommodations under Section 504. Dionne Dunton, Instructional Support Supervisor, and Crystal Baugh, Section 504 School Resource Counselor, oversee the program and work with the 65 or so Section 504 Coordinators in the district.

Baldwin County is quite diverse, and Dionne says that working with parents in the Section 504 process can vary a lot: “The way that we engage in conversations and the way that we offer support may look different, it may sound different, because parents come to the table with varying degrees of knowledge about the Section 504 evaluation process. Some have more resources, they’ve done their homework, they’re getting outside testing. Other families just know they need something and rely on us to guide them through the process to get the support they need for their student.”

Dionne Dunton Photo

“Utilizing Frontline has saved our district time, increased collaboration, and ensured compliance while helping us maintain sustainability.”

Dionne Dunton,
Instructional Support Supervisor

The Challenge

Non-compliance and Grievances

Previously, many Section 504 Plans in Baldwin County missed district-recommended timeframes or information. This was largely because the district used a paper-based system to manage the process. “The entire process, everything from the procedural safeguards being given to parents, the referral process, the data collection, the input, the minutes, all of those questions that have to be answered through the qualification process, it was all done with paper and pencil.”

Non-compliance can lead to increased complaints and grievances submitted by parents to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). “Utilizing Frontline for Section 504 has minimized parent complaints and this year we have been able to avoid parents escalating complaints to OCR.”

Inconsistency Between Campuses

Each campus had its own way of keeping track of Section 504 Plans. “If something was in question and we had to go back and pull the paperwork, it looked different in every school,” Dionne remembers. “Every time a new student in our county qualified under Section 504, they would send an email and it was input into an Excel spreadsheet. They had a paper folder that was this thick and that’s how it was all kept.”

Previously, when a student transferred between schools, coordinators would have to wait for a courier to bring the paper file — a time-consuming process. “Frontline Education has helped us to shorten the length of time required to transfer information from one school to another.”

No Data Visibility

Dionne says that tracking learning impairments across the district was a complex endeavor. “We have seen an increase in students who qualify, who have dyslexia or ADHD, but there was no easy way to track the increase. It was difficult to determine which areas we may need to offer some additional professional development or coordinate with our district dyslexia supervisor to ensure that we have collaborative conversations to best meet the student’s need.”

The Solution: Frontline’s Section 504 Program Management

For years, the team in Baldwin County has relied on the forms provided by Dave Richards and Jose Martín of the Richards Lindsay & Martín law firm, who are exclusive partners of Frontline Education. Dionne and Crystal rave about the information they learn from the attorneys at Section 504 conferences. “We bring that information back to the district and also incorporate pieces of it into our professional development here,” says Dionne. “As we’re talking through situations, we utilize the resources that Dave and Jose have created in conjunction with district and federal guidelines to provide feedback and recommendations to principals and coordinators.”

Frontline’s Section 504 Program Management software incorporates Dave & Jose’s guidance, and structures its forms, documents, and process to fit those best practices. So when Baldwin County was looking for software to manage the program, Frontline was a natural fit. And, says Crystal, it made it easy for the district’s 504 coordinators to begin using it. “I think it was an easier transition for us going to Frontline because we were already using Dave and Jose’s forms. Frontline mirrors those forms. We were able to have a smoother transition because my coordinators see, ‘Oh yeah, this is the same question, the same verbiage that we were doing before on paper.’”

The Results

Today in Baldwin County Schools, the 504 program runs much more smoothly.

Greater Compliance, Fewer Grievances

“Frontline has been very instrumental in helping us stay on top of dates and support coordinators with timelines and a plethora of things,” says Dionne. “We have a real-time view of compliance data in our county. Real time! We can monitor trends across the county, so that we can help target support and professional development. It also helps us with sustainability, with compliance, because we have been able to create a framework for the county.”

Dionne and Crystal review 504 Plan compliance each day, share monthly lookaheads with the 504 coordinators at each campus, and offer support based on what they see in Frontline. With a clear view of each plan in one centralized location, they can make sure that meetings happen, and communication goes out to parents on time. The results are dramatic: “This year, as a district, thanks to Crystal’s hard work and our collaboration, we have had zero OCR complaints.”

Dionne says the district is also quite happy with the outcome: “Our county is absolutely elated with that sort of data reporting we’ve been able to share.”

Crystal Baugh Photo

“At the district level, we can see what’s going on at all 47 campuses. We can help with making sure that those things stay within compliance as far as the dates are concerned.”

Crystal Baugh,
Section 504 School Resource Counselor

Bringing the Right People to the Table

“It also has helped increase collaboration,” says Dionne. With each eligible student’s information in Frontline, 504 coordinators can bring the right people to the table to have conversations about how to provide the best support. Customizable permission levels let them collaborate with people in other departments like Pre-K coordinators and nursing staff. “It has increased the collaboration among all the individuals who may be able to help make more informed decisions about the direction we need to go to support the student, to ensure that we’re providing what the student needs and not what we think the student might benefit from.”

“We can see when coordinators input a referral or a transfer, we get an idea why this referral is being initiated. Since we have a good idea about why the referral is being initiated, we can better help support student outcomes by bringing the right people to the table to have the conversation to make the best decisions for the student in the meeting.”

Dionne Dunton – Instructional Support Supervisor

Parent Communication

Keeping parents informed — what had previously been an iffy, time-consuming process — no longer requires chasing down 504 Plans from the campus 504 coordinator. Crystal can simply look up the student’s profile in Frontline. “I can see what paperwork has been done, what meetings have been conducted. The minutes are in there from the meetings. I have a right-now view of what happened in that meeting last week,” she says.

Crystal relies on the Collaboration Portal in Frontline to securely share documents with parents. “The collaboration portal has been amazing with sending documents to parents right away, and we’re not waiting for, ‘Did it get lost in the kid’s backpack? Did they really give it to their parent? Where did it go?’ It has helped us a lot with time.”

Staffing and Feeder Pattern Trends

Dionne says that before Baldwin County used Frontline, it was very difficult to monitor feeder pattern trends and keep an eye on the number of students with 504 Plans coming into a particular school. Today, she can quickly access the information the district needs to plan accordingly. “We can really drill down, utilizing the data, to the feeder patterns and the school level and look at those trends, and it helps us monitor the numbers. I have to report that to senior staff on a monthly basis.”

She uses data from Frontline to examine the timeframes throughout the year when most 504 Plans are written, or when eligible students enter or exit a school. “If there is a particular time of the school year where a feeder pattern or school may need additional personnel, I can share that information with senior staff and it will help guide their decision making about what that may need to look like,” she explains. “The real-time data and those trends that we look at are going to help move the needle so that I can ensure that those schools and those principals get the support that they need so they can sustain the 100% compliance that they currently have.”

Coordinators Like It, Too

“The feedback we have gotten [from 504 coordinators] was that they like the streamlined process,” Crystal says. As soon as a student with a 504 Plan is enrolled in a school, that student’s information flows from the student information system into Frontline, so coordinators can immediately see it. No longer do coordinators need to walk around the school getting signatures on the Plan from each teacher. “Now they can send it out through the collaboration portal in a matter of 10 seconds, and I have a timestamp of when that teacher opened it. So now I have that legal paper trail without a piece of paper.”

A Partner in Frontline

Dionne and Crystal say the partnership they have with Frontline — and the support they receive — is part of what makes for a successful program. “We have our Frontline go-to people. That is great for a district this large, that’s a big deal. Our district is massive, and it covers a large area and so that has been huge, that we have our go-to people,” says Dionne.

“Utilizing Frontline has saved our district time, increased collaboration, and ensured compliance while helping us maintain sustainability.”