Not Following 504 Plan
Ok, your child has a 504 Plan. You provided the necessary documentation and they drew it up. You think it’s pretty good and will help your child. Then, you hear anecdotes from your child that your school is not following the 504 Plan.
The protections of a 504 plan are fewer than with an IEP. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do. Here are some steps to take if you learn that your child’s 504 Plan is not being followed. If you have other questions about 504 Plans and how to get one, I have those links below.
First things first.
Being an advocate for your child requires that you be both knowledgeable and assertive. For many of us, the second part doesn’t come naturally. We have to practice it. The first part, that’s so much easier with the internet.
First, you’ve probably already done this. But, get out your child’s 504 plan and read it again. Make sure that what you are asking for is actually in the plan. You also want to be sure of what your child’s rights are per Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Here is the US DoE website link to that.
I just hate for parents to have their confidence crushed by being called out on incorrect information. Different from gaslighting! And that happens too. This is why it’s important to be knowledgeable, so it’s not so easy to gaslight you.
If you’ve done all that and you still want to address this, I have steps listed below. They are incremental, in that I would start with step 1 and move through the list.
504 Plans-Emergency Situation
It’s important to remember that with 504 plans, some situations are more critical than others. Yes, if it is your child, it’s all-important to you. However, there’s no denying that dying from anaphylaxis is much different than not being given a set of class lecture notes ahead of time (common on ADHD 504 plans).
If yours is a life-threatening situation, you will likely want to escalate this and be less patient and polite through the steps.
What to do when your school isn’t following your 504 Plan.
- Keep good documentation. This doesn’t have to be complex. Writing it down on your kitchen calendar or a cheap planner you bought at Dollar Tree will do. Ask your child each day about the accommodations and write down what did or didn’t happen.
- Try self-advocacy first. I always encourage self-advocacy when it’s appropriate and a logical step. Can you coach your child to speak up and ask for the accommodation that he/she is not receiving?
- Email the teacher who is not following the 504 Plan. Maybe your child is in high school and has many teachers. No need to cc everyone on the planet. Give the offender a chance to get it right. A simple “Hi, I’m not sure that you’re aware, but per Student’s 504 plan, this should be happening and it’s not.” Include reasons why this is important to your child.
- Find your school’s 504 coordinator. Ask them to schedule a meeting to discuss your child’s 504 plan and compliance.
- Go up the chain of command. If the teacher is not responsive, you can go to your Principal, School 504 Coordinator, Pupil Services and more. I have a whole separate blog post about email etiquette when it comes to this stuff. You want to remain professional and child-focused the whole time.
- If you still are not getting the resolution you need, or you are getting hostile responses. Some teachers have a really hard time as they think that 504 Plans and IEPs give kids an unfair advantage. I don’t have time to persuade them right now. That’s another blog post for another day. You may hear things like “He doesn’t really need that accommodation.” Then it’s time to take it a step further. Every state has a Protection and Advocacy Agency for Disabilities and a Parent Training Center for Special Education. Call them, ask what your complaint options are in your state. It varies. It is not a teacher’s job, in the moment, to decide what accommodations on a 504 plan are acceptable or necessary, in her eyes. The plan is written and should be followed as written. You can always respond with an “I really appreciate your professional opinion on this. However, this is how the plan is currently written and we expect it to be followed. Perhaps you’d like to come to the next 504 meeting and offer your suggestions then?”
- Consider a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. I recommend this last for several reasons. One is that our current Sec’y of Education and Congress has gutted the power and authority that OCR has in schools. So filing a complaint now, as compared to 5 years ago, takes longer to process and it’s less likely you’ll see any action. Still, it’s an option. And, some schools are still very uncomfortable with the thought of being reported to OCR. Many are aware of the current political climate and know that it is likely to go nowhere, so they don’t care.
- Think about alternatives. If the 504 still isn’t being followed, brainstorm. What else could be done? What can you do at home to make up for the lost accommodations at school? How can you still support your child? What other options are there–private school? Homeschool? Can you afford a tutor or EF coach? These aren’t decisions to be taken lightly, but sometimes situations get desperate. If you’re at step 7, you really need to do some out-of-the-box thinking and a brain dump and come up with solutions. Unfortunate, but true.
Good luck! And email me if you have any other ideas and I can add them to the post. In the meantime, here are more articles on 504 Plans.