Section 504: A Principal’s Checklist
By Perry A. Zirkel
January 2017, Volume 40, Issue 5
Many school principals are not well versed in the “other” federal disability law, Section 504—along with its sister statute, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Yet, the primary impact of and responsibility for Section 504 is in general education. The most common errors include, as a prime example, providing a 504 plan as a parent appeaser or consolation prize without a careful individualized evaluation according to current standards. The results include under-identification of low-income and minority children and over-exposure to not only federal court litigation, but also Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigations.
Consider the following questions as a sample checklist for self-assessment in relation to your school:
- Do you have a knowledgeable and effective 504 coordinator for your school? And has the coordinator provided current information to your staff about court decisions and OCR policies concerning major recent issues, such as bullying, service animals, and retaliation?
- Do you have a grievance procedure at the district or school level for disability issues of students, employees, and others?
- Do you have an eligibility procedure and form that meets current standards, including the ADAAA regulations issued in August 2016? And have you effectively included the school nurse with regard to students with concussions and students on health plans?
- Do you have corresponding defensible procedures and forms for:
- Procedural safeguards notice?
- 504 plan?
- Impartial hearing under Section 504?
- Disciplinary changes in placement?
Perry A. Zirkel is university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University.
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