What is a 504 Plan?

There are several ways that schools can meet a student’s educational needs, and having a 504 plan is one way to do so. You might wonder what a 504 plan consists of and why some kids need one at some point in their education journey.

Meeting a child’s educational needs can be a challenge at times; however, understanding how to use a 504 plan can help parents navigate these challenges. Typically, 504 plans may start as early as elementary school and can begin or continue in middle and high school, depending on the student’s needs. This post discusses one way parents can support their child in conjunction with the school.

what is a 504 plan

What is a 504 education plan?

A question often asked is what a 504 plan in education is. A 504 plan enables schools to assist students with disabilities, allowing them to learn in a typical classroom environment. The 504 plan is named after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which protects disabled individuals from discrimination in federally funded programs like public schools.

504 plans are protected under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Under this civil rights act, students are entitled to free and suitable education in the public domain (FAPE). Parents and students are protected and encouraged to obtain a 504 plan when necessary.

Purpose of a 504 education plan

The purpose of a 504 plan is to create a written agreement between a school and parents. This agreement dictates accommodations during school hours. A designated coordinator maintains the plan and shares the written agreement with teachers and principals. 

The goal of a 504 plan in education is to ensure equal access to education for students with disabilities by removing learning barriers.

Who’s Eligible?

There are different reasons why a 504 plan may be necessary at some point in a student’s life. Any student is eligible for a 504 plan, and a student’s need determines eligibility. Examples of accommodations under a 504 plan may include extended time during testing, preferential seating, assistive technology, speech therapy, or physical accommodations like wheelchair ramps.

Some families address behavioral concerns or accommodations through a written plan. For instance, a child receiving physical or occupational therapy may qualify for a 504 plan to receive temporary accommodations. The plan may also provide accommodations related to medical conditions, such as allowing students to take medication during the school day or providing a special diet. 

Evaluation process

Some school districts have a process to determine whether a 504 plan process is necessary. Additionally, sources like assessments, medical recommendations or diagnoses, and in-class performance can also help decide if a 504 plan is necessary. 

Requesting and getting a 504 plan may vary depending on the school. Some schools use a short evaluation to help determine if a student qualifies for such a plan. A psychologist can sometimes help in the evaluation process. 

The evaluation process determines how much the disability or impairment impacts the student’s learning ability. It also focuses on determining a student’s ability to participate in the school program. The evaluation results determine whether the student meets the eligibility criteria under Section 504.

Developing a 504 plan

A plan is created once a student is identified as having a disability or impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A team of qualified professionals that includes the student’s parents, teachers, and other school personnel develops a 504 plan. The school personnel is responsible for developing an individualized 504 plan that outlines accommodations and modifications for a student.

 The components of a 504 educational plan may vary, but for the most part, these plans contain specific information. The plan typically includes the following:

  1. A description of the student’s disability and how it affects their learning.
  2. A list of accommodations that are necessary to help the student learn.
  3. The names of the individuals responsible for implementing the accommodations.
  4. A plan for monitoring and evaluating the student’s progress.

Implementation

A plan’s implementation may vary depending on the accommodation. For instance, if a student’s accommodation refers to extra time, then extra time is given during testing. When a plan is related to a student’s health condition, a nurse might need to provide a related accommodation or medicine. 

A plan coordinator in the school may be responsible for sharing the plan each school year. I caution parents to remember that sometimes we need to share the plan information with teachers. This ensures that the accommodations are provided. Students may also need to advocate by reminding teachers of the designated accommodations. 

I know from experience that each year, I’ve had to remind my daughter’s teachers about her 504 plan as she moves from grade to grade.  In some instances, classroom teachers acted surprised to learn from me about her plan. 

Review and revision

An annual review helps to ensure the plan meets the student’s needs. Updates reflect any changes in the student’s disability or accommodation. A team of school members reviews the plan to make necessary changes or if a plan is still necessary. Some schools may require an updated medical note to show that the student continues to qualify for certain accommodations. A re-evaluation may also be necessary, depending on the accommodation. 


Conclusion

A 504 educational plan is an important document that guides teachers and school personnel on providing specific accommodations or support to students. These plans are one way to give all kids equitable access to daily activities through free and public education.

Parents play a crucial role in recognizing when their child may require additional support through a 504 accommodation. Parents can gain valuable insights into their children’s academic performance and any challenges they may face by maintaining open communication with teachers and school administrators. Whether it’s a learning disability, medical condition, or other factors impacting their educational experience, parents can work collaboratively with school teams to explore suitable accommodations that address these needs. Importantly, these accommodations are legally mandated under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and do not incur any financial burden on families. Thus, parents should feel empowered to advocate for their children’s rights and access the necessary support systems to facilitate their academic journey.

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