What is a 504 Plan?

If you are planning to become an educator in a primary or secondary setting, it is important to familiarize yourself with the 504 plan. This specialized academic plan was designed to help students with disabilities and their parents when their child is getting an education at public schools.

Section 504, which is a federal civil rights statute, was written in an effort help students with learning disabilities and ADHD get the accommodations that they need so that they have an equal opportunity to compete with their non-disabled counterparts.

Here’s what you need to know so that you can stay in compliance when you get in front of a classroom:

When Were 504 Plans Created?

Unlike some other programs that are offered by school districts, 504 plans were passed at a Federal level. The plan itself falls under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is a civil rights law that was passed in an effort to prevent discrimination in public schools. In order to qualify for 504 plans, students must be able to demonstrate that they have a learning disability that substantially limits their ability to learn in their primary classroom.

Who Qualifies for 504 Plans?

There’s not a specific type of disability that automatically qualifies or disqualifies a student from the plan. In order to get accommodations through Section 504, the act says that the student must have a disability. Disability is defined in the legal language in very broad terms. Here is how a definition is defined:

* Student has an impairment, either physical or mental, that substantially limits their ability to do one or more activities that are needed to participate in school
* Student has a history of impairment that can be seen in their record
* Student’s impairment is a chronic condition that isn’t temporary

Examples of Disabilities

When a student breaks their leg, they might need special attention for a limited amount of time. This isn’t a disability that qualifies any student under Section 504. Here are a few examples of disabilities that may present the need for accommodations through the civil rights statute:

* Dyslexia
* Speech issues
* Anxiety disorder
* Food allergies

How Are Students Evaluated?

Generally, a student who has a substantial disability that has affected their learning experience will be referred for evaluation under the plan. Generally, a parent or a doctor will refer a student, but anyone is notified the district that the child is in need of services that are provided under the plan if they suspect that the child is suffering from a learning disability.

Related: 5 Tasks of a Resource Room Teacher

When a child is referred, a committee will review the child’s file and make a sound decision based on the findings. The committee will look at reports, grades over the past years, and disciplinary files first. Here are some of the things that are evaluated:

* Doctor’s diagnosis of child’s disability
* Observations of students in a social or academic setting
* Evaluations for IEP programs
* Academic records

If a child in your classroom qualifies for accommodations under the plan, it is your duty as their classroom advocate to participate in meetings and discuss what you can do to help the child succeed. Make sure to note your student’s progress throughout the school year and then you can help to update the 504 plan at the next 504 committee meeting.