What is Section 504?
The original intent of the law was to protect individuals with disabilities in the area of employment, as well as members of minorities. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), charged with the enforcement of Section 504, has become proactive in the area of education.
The focus is to insure that the educational system provides the full range of reasonable accommodations necessary for students to participate in and benefit from public education programs and activities.
Section 504 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities as defined under the Section, including both students and staff. This applies to any entity who receives federal financial assistance.
The regulations require identification, evaluations, provision of reasonable accommodations, and procedural safeguards to students enrolled in Cherry Hill Public Schools.
How is a disability defined under Section 504?
The definition of disability is a person who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Examples include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking breathing, learning, and working.
It also defines a person of having a disability as anyone who has a record of such impairment or is regarded as having such impairment.
How is the determination for eligibility made?
An evaluation is conducted to gather information on how the disability is substantially impacting on a major life function. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but it must come from various sources including, but not limited to the school nurse, classroom teacher(s), guidance counselors, and outside persons with relevant information.
Evaluation procedures may include review of records, assessment information, interviews with persons knowledgeable about the child's functioning, observations, individualized assessments
The 504 Team, a group of people knowledgeable about the student, collaboratively develop the 504 Plan, if appropriate. The purpose of the group is to examine the information regarding the person, and determine if reasonable accommodations are necessary, and subsequently what those accommodations will be if the person is considered eligible.
The term substantial is not defined within the law. Therefore, the 504 Team considers the impact of the impairment on the major life function specific to the individual. The 504 Team is directed to determine if the student is afforded and equal opportunity to participate and/or benefit from education when compared to non-disabled, age appropriate peers. A frame of reference for this responsibility is to use the average student in the general population for the purposes of comparison.
Periodic reevaluation is required by Section 504. Reevaluation of the 504 Plan is recommended once per school year or upon significant change in school placement or program.
Who do I contact if I suspect my child is eligible for accommodations under Section 504?
Each building in the Cherry Hill Public Schools has a designated Section 504 Coordinator. They can be contacted at the student's school.
CHERRY HILL PUBLIC SCHOOLS
CHERRY HILL, NEW JERSEY
504 OPTIONAL GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES – STUDENT/PARENT
Under state and federal law, a parent or guardian dissatisfied with the outcome of a request for 504 services or a decision regarding a child’s identification, evaluation, eligibility for 504 and/or accommodations offered through a 504 Plan may request mediation or an impartial due process hearing. You and the student may take part in the hearing and have an attorney represent. See generally http://www.state.nj.us/education/specialed/form/prise/prise.pdf for the forms necessary to file a request for mediation or due process.
If a parent or guardian wishes to pursue an internal appeal rather than – or in addition to – proceeding to mediation or due process, s/he may pursue a grievance in the manner set forth below.
The term “grievance” means a complaint that there has been an improper application, interpretation or violation of the 504 policy or procedures affecting a student.
1. A grievance may be filed by a student or a parent/guardian on behalf of a student. Any grievance must be lodged using the Section 504 Grievance Form at the proper initiating level within thirty (30) school days of the happening of the event.
2. Failure at any step of this procedure to communicate a decision on a grievance within the specified time limits shall permit the grievance to proceed to the next step. Failure at any step of this procedure to appeal a grievance to the next step within the specified time limits shall be deemed to be acceptance of the decision rendered at that step. Time limits may be extended by the mutual consent of the parties.
3. Level One: Building 504 – may reconvene the 504 Team to review the information, considering the request from the grievant.
4.Level Two: District 504 Officer – 45 Ranoldo Terrace, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034, telephone (856) 429-5600– the grievant must, in writing, provide the specific information regarding the dissatisfaction of the decision previously rendered.
5.Level Three: Superintendent of Schools – this appeal must be in writing, reciting the matter submitted to the District 504 Officer regarding the dissatisfaction of the decisions previously rendered.
6.Level Four: Board of Education – you may request a review by the Board of Education if you are dissatisfied with the decisions previously rendered. This request must be made in writing via the Superintendent, who will forward all related information and the request to the Board of Education.
Note: At any time before, during or after the optional internal grievance process you may request mediation or an impartial due process hearing. You and the student may take part in the hearing and have an attorney represent. See generally http://www.state.nj.us/education/specialed/form/prise/prise.pdf for the forms necessary to file a request for mediation or due process.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO REALIZE THE SECTION 504 IS NOT AN ASPECT OF SPECIAL EDUCATION. RATHER, IT IS A RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COMPREHENSIVE GENERAL PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM. AS SUCH, BUILDING ADMINISTRATORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ITS IMPLEMENTATION.
District 504 Officer, LaCoyya Weathington 856-429-5600 x4416