Accommodations in schools range from a student needing extra time on a test to wheelchair access in the classroom. But some parents might not know how to access those services.
The Americans with Disabilities Act grants protections for students with disabilities in schools. Parents can access accommodations with a 504 plan for their child.
Students need to have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity — such as an inability to see a screen correctly or hearing issues to access accommodations, according to the Texas Education Agency.
A 504 plan also can apply to people with medical issues, such as a diabetic student needing medication at school. The law leaves a broad definition for who can qualify, according to TEA.
Here are the steps for accessing accommodations, according to TEA.
- Start with talking to your child’s teacher or counselor about what they’re struggling with, whether it’s a recent medical diagnosis or you notice your child struggling with attention.
- While districts are not legally required to hire a specific 504 coordinator, many campuses still do. Fort Worth ISD has a compliance office that can help parents.
- While many can and do, parents do not have to turn in medical paperwork to get accommodations.
- According to TEA, the law is fairly ambiguous on the timeline of accommodations. However, it does encourage schools to follow the timeline for special education accommodations, which means the school has 30 days to develop the plan.
A medical diagnosis is not a deciding factor for a 504 plan, according to TEA. A committee makes a final decision, and according to the law, parents do not have to be involved in the decision making process. However, many schools still choose to include the parents.
If a student has a 504 plan, but a guardian is concerned it isn’t being followed, here are a few steps to take.
- Parents can start with reaching out to the school, according to TEA. They should speak with the teachers and principal to try to work it out at the campus level.
- If the issue isn’t resolved, the next step could be to go to the district level and find the 504 compliance officer for a discussion. Parents could take it to the school board, if necessary.
- If a parent feels the district is not resolving the issue, they always have the right to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education. Since it is federal legislation, TEA will not investigate complaints related to 504 plans.
Kristen Barton is an education reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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