Thursday, May 17, 2012

Parents’ Right to a Timely and Up to Date 504 Plan At the Start of School

Parents’ Right to a Timely and Up to Date
504 Plan At the Start of School
by Matt Cohen
Publication of a variation of this article is upcoming in the
Next issue of
Additude Magazine

For better and worse, the Section 504 regulations have no provisions addressing when during the year the 504 meeting should take place.   Schools typically hold 504 meetings in the spring in the same time frame as IEP meetings are typically held.  However, there is some what more variability in the timing of 504 review meetings, particularly because they are often initiated throughout the school year.   Some districts adhere to strict policies that the plan must be reviewed a year from the initiation or most recent review date.    This can be problematic, as it is often important to review and revise the 504 plan at the end of the year in preparation for the new year or, at least, at the very start of the new school year. There is nothing in the regulations that requires that 504 meetings be at any particular time of year.    There are a variety of things that parents can do if the school is unwilling to review the 504 plan in time for an up to date  plan to be in place at the start of school. The easiest is to simply provide all teachers with a copy of the current (though somewhat dated) 504 Plan written the prior November when school starts in August or September.   The school should be doing this, but there is no reason why you can't do it as well, just to make sure that the staff get the information.  In all likelihood, this may trigger some reaction from the school, good or bad, but it does assure that the information gets to the staff.   A second option that you have, even given the school's meeting schedule, is to make a request before or at the start of the school year, for a new 504 meeting to occur immediately.  You should probably have some reason other than just wanting the staff to be aware, that you are asking for the meeting, but the school will be in a weak position if they ignore your request.   
(Note that many of these same concerns may also occur in relation to the review of an IEP.   Similar arguments or strategies can also be used to push for an updated review and reconsideration of an IEP prior to or at the start of the school year, even if the school’s review schedule provides for a later review.)
        As the failure to have staff informed of the existence of the plan and unable to implement it effectively denies the student the benefit of the plan, this may represent a violation of the student's right under Section 504 to a "free appropriate public education."  The 504 regulations provide: 

34 Code of Fed. Reg. § 104.33 Free appropriate public education.
(a) General. A recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary education program shall provide a free appropriate public education to each qualified handicapped person who is inthe recipient’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s handicap.
(b)  Appropriate education. (1) For the purpose of this subpart, the provision
of an appropriate education is the provision of regular or special education
and related aids and services that (i) are designed to meet individual educational needs of handicapped persons as adequately as the needs of nonhandicapped persons are met and (ii) are
based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements of
§§ 104.34, 104.35, and 104.36.

Given this right, if all else fails, another strategy is to verify that the staff do not have the information and are not implementing the plan.  Once you have done this, you have the right to file a complaint with the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, charging the school with non-compliance, or to request a 504 hearing from the District.   The first option is less work for you, as OCR does most of the work.  In addition, if the school has to conduct a 504 hearing, they get to appoint the "impartial" hearing officer.   However, my hope would be that either step would lead the school to either change their policy or at least make sure that staff have the plan and are implementing it, without actually having to go all the way through the process.   You might also consider letting the school know of your concern and your intent to take one of these steps and try to work out an agreement for them to solve the problem without actually initiating the complaint or hearing request.  For information about the OCR complaint process, go to:  To file a complaint with OCR, go to:   
A Guide to Special Education Advocacy- What Parents, Advocates and Clinicians Need to Know, Jessica Kingsley Press, 2009, available through our website.
Matt Cohen can be reached at Matt Cohen and Associates, Chicago, Ill., 866-787-9270 or
Matt Cohen, J.D.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Hour (More) In the early morning of an AD/HD Mind

 It is Saturday morning. I awaken an hour before the alarm. It is 5:30 AM...I try to find the clock to see what time it is. Shit, I want to sleep. I need sleep. 

 My eyes hurt from lack of sleep, my throat feels like sand paper from fighting a cold and over use. I have given two speeches, led three IEP meetings, and participated in a long and painful meeting about my mom in the last 72 hours, but my throat has been sore for days. I hope it is just overuse, but maybe I should call a doctor? 

 I fight for lucidity….cursing my inability to sleep. I make coffee and go the the bathroom. I sit on the toilet, counting out my pills for the week (I need my stimulant med refilled), while shaving. Still sitting on my roost.... 

 Dan awakens briefly to pee, (in the other bathroom) disrupted by my activity, despite my effort to be quiet.“Go to sleep, buddy….you don’t have to get up for another two hours"….he pees and returns happily to deep sleep, though I can hear him talking out loud to himself in his sleep. I am jealous. 

 As I count my meds, sitting on the john, my mind shifts rapidly in to high gear. I quickly review what I need to do in the day. First, I need to review and revise my list for the weekend. Already, there are over twenty items, but I am remembering more, including trying to reach the doctor –I need to deal with my throat….and Dan may have broken his nose a few days ago and he may need an x-ray. 

 My mind races. I curse my inability to sleep. My eyes hurt from lack of sleep, but perhaps also from tears from several frustrating events last night, trying to help people I love, but thwarted by things beyond my control. 

 I need to refine my list, but I need to shower, to get Dan ready for bowling and to have my Spanish lesson before I work on my list. Then I will meet Nate for breakfast, perhaps our only chance for private time before he leaves town again….I look forward to the time, but think about his desire to take the 17 year old car with him and how I will respond….and, more importantly, my sadness that he is departing so soon. Oh, and I need to see my folks… 

 As I sit, still planted to the toilet, my mind races to things that have been been percolating in my mind, some for many months, and some just recently.

 An article to set forth a new conceptual model for the Duty to Warn, waiting for me to write it for over a year, but now I have a new idea for the concept, and a new plan for how to get it done….

 An article, new talks, or perhaps a book, based on my presentation Wednesday night, on the parallels and differences between Kubla-Ross’stages of grieving a loved one that is dying or dead and parenting a child with disabilities… 

 The need to review a legal brief that is due soon, to blend my different ToDo lists…..I don’t want to lose those thoughts for the articles…. I need to write them down, but I need to make my list. And I need to visit my folks….I dread it… 

 My mom needs to move from her apartment to the nursing floor. She is upset, confused, scared, lonely, sad, angry, blaming….and still smoking….but I need to see both of them. When to fit it in. 

 Shit. Figuratively at this point. I need to shower quick. Dan’s first alarm is sounding (he has three and often sleeps thru all of them). But I need to write down my ideas for the articles….and I want to write this poem that has suddenly come to me. The clock keeps ticking.

   I race thru my shower, my mind still racing….then I race to write reminder notes for the two articles….

Now I start writing this…is it a poem….an essay…. A diary…..? Why am I writing it….what will I do with it…?   I think I will share it, with whom? It wasn't even on my list. It just popped in to my head. 

 My skype chat beep alerts me that mi maestre escribe sobre mi clase y yo tengo mi clase in trente minutos. Yo necessitar prepararse. It is 8:10. My spanish class starts in 20 minutes. An hour has turned in to more then two....

I need to get Dan up and ready for his bus, but I am not done….and what about my lists….and my eyes still hurt. I need Tylenol….and more coffee, but I need to get dressed and get Dan up and prepared for his bus….

I am not done, but I need to go….but I want to squeeze in just one or two more thoughts, and maybe do something else on the ever multiplying list....a list that grows like rabbits...

My mind races….filled with many things….My mind, by Itself, exhausts me. But at least now I am awake.