Identification, Evaluation, and Education
Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 reads “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, as defined in Section 705 (20), of this title shall, solely by reason of his handicap be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” (29 U.S.C. 794(a)) Identified individuals will be placed in the least restrictive educational environment. (34 C.F.R. 104.34(a)).
A student is considered disabled and eligible for protection under Section 504 if he/she:
- Has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Has a record of such an impairment, or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment
A physical or mental impairment is: (1) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or (2) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
Examples of physical or mental impairments include, but are not limited to: mobility impairments, medical conditions such as epilepsy, hemophilia, diabetes, AIDS, arthritis, allergies/asthma, tuberculosis, cancer, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and ADHD.
Substantially Limits: The term “substantially limits” is not defined under Section 504. However, an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity does not have to also limit another major life activity. Also, an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
Major Life Activities: Major life activities are functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.
Mitigating Measures Not Considered: The determination of whether impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as:
Medication, medical supplies, equipment or appliances such as low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eye glasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies;
- Use of assistive technology;
- Reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; or
- Learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.
The term “auxiliary aides and services” includes:
- Qualified interpreters or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments;
- Qualified readers, taped texts, or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals with visual impairments;
- Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; and
- Other similar services and actions.
Mitigating Measures Considered: Conversely, the ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses must be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Thus, if a student’s vision while using ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses is not substantially limited, he or she would not qualify as a student with a disability under Section 504 on that basis.
Students who, because of a disability, need or are believed to need, accommodations to their educational program are referred for an evaluation. Such evaluation may include, but is not limited to, classroom observation, performance based testing, academic assessment information and any additional information offered by the parent or guardian. The school’s Student Study Team (SST) will review the information and determine whether the student qualifies as disabled under Section 504 and requires adjustments to his/her educational program. The SST is a group of persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and placement options. See Pre-referral chapter of this Handbook for more information regarding the SST process.
Referral, Assessment, and Evaluation Procedures
- The District will evaluate any student who, because of disability, needs or is believed to need reasonable accommodations to regular or special education and/or related aids and services to allow a student an equal opportunity to participate in school and school-related activities.
- Each school shall designate a Section 504 school site contact to be responsible for implementing referral, assessment, and evaluation procedures
- A student may be referred by anyone, including a parent/guardian, teacher, other school employee, or community agency, for consideration as to whether the student qualifies as a student with disabilities under Section 504. This referral should be made to the site contact who will schedule a SST meeting.
- The District has the responsibility to ensure that students with disabilities are evaluated if there is a reason to suspect that they may qualify under Section 504. Therefore, it is important that students who are or may be disabled are referred to Section 504 school site contact so that the assessment process is initiated if determined appropriate. Some examples of students who should be considered for referral include the following:
- Students with medical conditions such as severe asthma, diabetes, AIDS, or heart disease.
- A student who uses a wheelchair or other mobility device.
- Student with a degenerative neurological disorder, a student who is missing a limb, or
- A student with other impaired manual skills.
- A student with poor or failing grades over a lengthy period of time.
- A student with frequent referrals for behavior problems.
- A student with a temporary medical condition due to illness or accident.
- The SST Team meeting initiated by the Section 504 school site contact will be composed of the student’s parents/guardians and other persons knowledgeable about the student (such as the student’s regular education teacher, school nurse, psychologist), the student’s school history, the student’s individual needs (such as a person knowledgeable about the student’s disabling condition), the meaning of evaluation data, and the options for placement and services.
- The SST Team shall promptly consider the referral and determine what assessments are needed in all suspected areas of disability to evaluate whether the student is a student with a disability under Section 504 and what special needs the student may have. Staff must use the Permission for Student Data Form. Additionally, staff will send out the Request for Teacher Information form to obtain written feedback/input from the student’s current classroom teacher(s).
- The parents/guardians shall be given an opportunity in advance of the Section 504 team meetings to examine assessment results and all other relevant records.
- If a parent request for evaluation is denied, the Section 504 District Coordinator will inform the parents/guardians in writing of this decision and of their procedural rights.
- After an assessment is completed, the Section 504 team will convene a meeting to review and consider the results of the assessment. The Section 504 Team will be composed of the student’s parents/guardians, or other individuals holding educational rights, and other persons knowledgeable about the student (such as the student’s regular education teacher, school nurse, psychologist).
Individual Section 504 Accommodation Plan
- When a student is identified as disabled within the meaning of Section 504, the Section 504 Team shall determine what services are necessary to ensure that the student’s individual educational needs are met as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students.
- The team responsible for making the placement decision shall include the parents/guardians and other persons knowledgeable about the child who can interpret evaluation data, and identify placement options.
- For each identified disabled student, the district will develop a Section 504 Accommodation Plan describing the student’s disability and the reasonable accommodations to the regular or special education and/or related aids and services needed in order to allow the student an equal opportunity to participate in school and school-related activities. The Section 504 Plan will specify how the accommodations will be provided to the disabled student and by whom. The Section 504 Plan will also identify the person responsible for ensuring that all the components of the Section 504 Plan are implemented.
- The student’s teacher and any other staff who are to provide services to the student or who are to make modifications in the classroom for the student shall be informed of the services or modifications necessary for the student and provided a copy of the Section 504 Plan. A copy of the Section 504 Plan shall be kept in the student’s cumulative file in a manner that limits access to those persons involved in the Section 504 process and/or the provision of services and modifications.
- The disabled student shall be placed in the regular education environment unless it is demonstrated that the student’s needs cannot be met in the regular education environment. The disabled student shall be educated with students who are not disabled to the maximum extent appropriate to his/her individual needs.
- The referral, assessment, evaluation, and placement process will be completed within a reasonable time from receipt of the parents’ consent to the evaluation. It is generally not reasonable to exceed 60 calendar days in completing this process.
- The parents/guardians shall be notified in writing of the final decision concerning the student’s identification as a person with disabilities, the reasonable accommodations to be provided, if any, and of the Section 504 procedural safeguards, as described below, including the right to an impartial hearing to challenge the decision.
Review of Student Progress
- The District staff shall monitor the progress of the disabled student and the effectiveness of the student’s Section 504 Plan. According to the review schedule set out in the student’s Section 504 Plan, the District staff including persons knowledgeable about the child shall periodically determine whether the reasonable accommodations are appropriate.
- If the student moves to a different site, it will be the responsibility of the site contact to inform the new school within the district of the active Section 504 Plan.
- The Laguna Beach Unified School District has designated the following person as its Section 504 Compliance Officer: Chad Mabery, 550 Blumont Street, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651, (949) 497-7700. The Section 504 Compliance Officer is responsible for addressing complaints regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a student with a disability under Section 504 and complaints alleging discrimination or harassment of a student based on his/her actual or perceived disability.
- Parents/guardians shall be notified in writing of all District decisions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of students with disabilities or suspected disabilities. This notice will also be provided to students who are entitled to these rights at age 18. Notifications shall include a statement of their rights to:
- Examine relevant records
- Have an impartial hearing with an opportunity for participation by the
- Seek review in federal court if the parents/guardians disagree with the hearing parents/guardians and their counsel decision
- Notifications shall also set forth the procedures for requesting an impartial hearing. Written requests shall be made to Dr. Michael Keller, 550 Blumont St. Laguna Beach, CA 92651. (949) 497-7700.
- Dr. Michael Keller, Laguna Beach Unified School District Section 504 Compliance Officer, shall maintain a list of impartial hearing officers who are qualified and willing to conduct Section 504 hearings. To ensure impartiality, such officers shall not be employed by or under contract within the district or the County Office of Education in any capacity other than that of hearing officer and shall not have any professional or personal involvement that would affect their impartiality or objectivity in the matter.
- If a parent/guardian disagrees with the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a student with disabilities under Section 504, he/she may request a hearing before an impartial hearing officer. The parent/guardian shall set forth in writing his/her request for a hearing. A request for hearing should include:
- The specific decision or action with which the parent/guardian disagrees
- The changes to the Section 504 Plan the parent/guardian seeks
- Any other information the parent/guardian believes is pertinent
- Within 30 calendar days of receiving the student’s Section 504 Accommodation Plan, a parent/guardian may set forth in writing his/her disagreement and request that the school principal review the 504 Plan in an attempt to resolve the disagreement. This review shall be held within 14 school days of receiving the request and the parent/guardian shall be invited to attend the meeting at which the review is conducted. However, the timeline for the hearing shall remain in effect unless it is extended by mutual written agreement of the parent/guardian and the District.
- If a disagreement continues, a parent/guardian may request a meeting with the District’s 504 Compliance Officer to review the student’s Section 504 Accommodation Plan. This review shall be held within 14 school days of receiving the request and the parent/guardian shall be invited to meet with the District’s 504 Compliance Officer to discuss the review. However, the timeline for the hearing shall remain in effect unless it is extended by mutual written agreement of the parent/guardian and the District.
- Within 20 school days of receiving the parent/guardian’s request for hearing, the Superintendent or designee shall select an impartial hearing officer. These 20 days may be extended for good cause or by mutual agreement of the parent/guardian and the District.
- Within 45 school days of the selection of the hearing officer, the hearing shall be conducted and a written decision mailed to all parties. These 45 days may be extended for good cause or by mutual agreement of the parent/guardian and the District.
- The parent/guardian and the District shall be afforded the rights to:
- Be accompanied and advised by counsel and by individuals with special knowledge or training related to the individual needs of students who are qualified as disabled under Section 504
- Present written and oral evidence
- Question and cross-examine witnesses
- Receive written findings by the hearing officer
- If desired, either party may seek a review of the hearing officer’s decision by a federal court. The decision shall be implemented unless the decision is stayed, modified, or overturned by a court.
- File a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights if you believe the District has not acted in compliance with the law. The Regional Office that covers Southern California is:
Office for Civil Rights, Region IX
U.S. Department of Education
50 Beale Street, Suite 7200
San Francisco, CA 94105