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    Section 504 in Education - Can It Benefit Your Child?

    By Kristen Houghton     

    Too few parents of special needs children are aware of the different programs available for their child. Special Ed classes are not the answer for all children. Section 504 may better suit your child’s needs.

    Exactly what is Section 504? In 1973, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was established with the purpose of prohibiting discrimination on the basis of any physical or mental disability. Any programs and activities, both public and private, which received federal monies, were required to adhere to this Act.

    The Supreme Court of the United States handed down Section 504 which states:

    “no otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall be excluded from participation in program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, (college, university, or other post-secondary institution, or a public system of higher education).” (29 U.S.C 791 et seq)

    How can Section 504 benefit children in schools? A 504 Plan is a legal document that requires specific assistance for students who are in a general education setting, and who have special needs. It is a plan of instructional services which is written specifically for the student’s individual needs, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Section 504 can also be implemented for a student recovering from substance abuse since drug addiction is seen as a handicap which substantially limits a person’s major life activities.

    Examples of accommodations used in a 504 Plan can be easy access in a room, and the services of an aide, for physically impaired students, medication that must be given in a nurse’s office requiring a brief leave from class for a student, or permitting a student to eat in the classroom for certain health reasons. Written and oral testing may also be adjusted for a student under the 504 Plan.

    Each case is individual and a student must be referred for a 504 Plan by a teacher, parent or guardian, physician, therapist, or, in some cases, self-requested. A support team usually consisting of counselors, a school nurse, a psychologist, a school administrator, and a teacher or teachers are required. The 504 Plan is a team effort; all members have responsibilities in fulfilling the requirements of the 504 for the student. The teacher is not alone in this endeavor.

    While many parents are aware that there would be some sort of provision made for a child with a physical impairment, too few know that the 504 Plan can benefit their child for impairments that are not seen, e.g. emotional, mental, substance abuse. The 504 Plan can extend to college and post secondary education.

    In the desire to give a thorough, fair, and equal education to all students, the implementation of the 504 Plan is an excellent alternative for those students who do not fall under the category of Classified or Special Education but have needs that must be met.

    If you feel that your child’s needs would be met and helped by the 504 Plan, consult with his or her counselor and request that a 504 Plan meeting be held. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, a meeting should be held within two weeks of your request. A letter from a physician or therapist can work wonders in getting the plan started for your child.

    Your child depends on you to help ensure that they receive the best possible education available.

    Written by Kristen HoughtonRate this article:

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