Can the School Deny Section 504 Accommodations in an AP Course?

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teen girl in school classOur daughter has Section 504 accommodations that include keyboarding for written work longer than 1-2 sentences.

The school says she can not use this accommodation in an AP course, because the College Board determines who is eligible for accommodations on the actual AP exam.

In fact, although my daughter has the prerequisites and is capable of AP work, the school recommends she not take the AP class because of the need for accommodations.

If your child has a Section 504 plan, the school needs to provide the accommodations in the plan – even in AP classes.

Did we misunderstand the question?

Section 504 ensures that a child with a disability has equal access to an education. Under a 504 Plan, your child may receive accommodations and modifications.

When a school develops a Section 504 plan for a student who needs accommodations, how is the College Board involved?

How does the College Board determine what accommodations a child with a disability should receive in a school class? It is unclear how the College Board can “prohibit” a student on a 504 plan from taking AP classes.

OCR says – “The practice of denying, on the basis of disability, a qualified student with a disability the opportunity to participate in an accelerated program violates both Section 504 and Title II.”

You’ll find this OCR Letter on the Wrightslaw 2-e page at

The College Board does require prior approval of accommodations for a student taking SATs.

Update: In July 2017, the College Board simplified its request process for test accommodations. Most students who have testing accommodations at their school through an IEP or 504 Plan will have those same accommodations automatically approved.

Work with your school for documentation of a disability and specific timelines for submitting a request and required documentation. The College Board does allow a school to submit materials for students. Their website recommends that families take advantage of the SSD Online tool by working with their school.

But the College Board does not dictate a student’s 504 plan accommodations in public school.

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15 Comments on "Can the School Deny Section 504 Accommodations in an AP Course?"

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the school CAN deny a 504 student access to an advanced class if that student did not meet the criteria that ALL students are held to with accommodations.. So for example if the student was required to take a placement test for entry to the class, he/she would have had to meet the same standard as other students with accommodations on that test if stated in the 504 (extended time for example)

My son’s school ensured that they requested extended time, per his 504, for the ACT, which reflects on *them*, but denied the AP class was eligible for accommodations. Now they are blaming us for not requesting *they* request extended time thru College Board-we only verbally requested they apply his 504 to his AP, but we did meet with them repeatedly. Are we screwed? My son only finished 41/55 questions because he thought he had the extra time and he was making sure he did them right! The parent advocates told us we need to file an OCR complaint.

There is still a lot of ignorance at the high school level. My son (dyspraxia + high-functioning autism) was entirely in mainstream classes in high school and no modifications. Yet at least one teacher asked a the sophomore IEP meeting, “Can a kid with an IEP even take AP classes? Is that allowed?!?” So yeah… We still have work to do. 🙂

My child has a 504 plan. Her guidance counselor tried to persuade her not to take AP courses. My child is capable, had the prerequisites, and took several AP courses. In my opinion, I think the problem lies with a lack of understanding of the IDEA. I would highly recommend you contact the school district Head of Special Education. Request to be provided specific written documentation from the IDEA that “proves” your child cannot have accommodations in AP courses due to a 504 plan. That ought to get the ball rolling!
If your student needs AP testing accommodations, it is the responsibility of the site testing coordinator (usually this is someone at your child’s school) to submit the request for accommodations (via The College Board) on behalf of your student. You cannot complete this process, although you will have to sign a form giving permission for the school to do so. The College Board approved testing accommodations for my child less than a week after they were requested.

Isn’t a 504 Plan ADA regulations? You might be leading them in the wrong direction. IDEA is for children with IEPs. You can have a child with an IEP, which is IDEA and ADA regs, but 504 Plans follow under ADA regs.

504 plans in a school setting are part of the IDEA. To read more about this:

My son has a 504 plan. He takes AP classes and is allowed to use his accommodations in the classes. However for the AP exam and SAT or any college board exam, you have to have the college board accommodations in place. You have to submit to the college board for these accommodations. My son was able to get all of the accommodations that we requested. We did have to appeal after they only allowed 50% more time, he has 100% more time now. And he uses every minute. Our doctor submitted documentation that really helped. Plus I wrote a very detailed letter explaining his accommodation needs. Remember though when you are signing up for the AP exams you have to document that he has accommodations in place. We did not do that for his AP exam his sophomore year and he did not get to use his accommodations. I will never forget that again.

Isn’t it the school’s responsibility to request the accommodation?

The school does submit the paperwork but you should definitely follow up with them to be sure it gets done.

There is no permission process at College Board to sign up for an AP course. My daughter born with a disability took 8 APs. She used her high school mods “dictation, extra time” (she has no use of her hands) on her PSAT, SAT, AP, even GRE tests. College Board stipulated that the person she dictates to must not be one of her teachers, so another high school provided their teachers.

College Board allows for you to use your current modifications on their exams, provided that your school counselor applies for the mods 3 months prior to signing up for a test, and on the counselor’s form, he/she must prove that your mods have been in your 504/IEP for over 6 months. So mods on the 504/IEP must have been in place for 9 months minimum, prior to the first test. Keep this in mind to be ready for the PSAT.

This process required by College Board means that a HS must be on your side for mods and for applying to College Board on your behalf. Occasionally, a school will weed out students via mid-term grades to have a good national AP ranking, so ask other parents about this.

I found the people at College Board to be easy to talk with in order to learn the process.

We had the same issue last year. Accommodations must be provided with or without the college board’s approval for class work. If your child wan’t to take the AP exam with accommodations those must be approved by the College Board. If your child is college bound, and it sounds like she is, then it is worth getting the accommodations in place since she will require College Board approval of accommodations on college entrance exams. Good luck!

My child was not allowed in a magnet school because she needed resource for math. She had the GPA needed and made all As in the rest of her courses. It is too late for her now, but could she have received resource help in a magnet program?

I have a child in AP classes with accommodations. Students do need the College Board to approve the accommodations, like computer usage. Otherwise, the student has to practice to take the test just like everyone else, without accommodations (say for the written portion). The teacher would be doing a disservice to the student to give them accommodations in class, because they wouldn’t be preparing them to pass the AP exam. But, with a need, the College Board does approve accommodations, so then the student can practice for the test with those specific accommodations, computer usage, more time, etc! Then, it’s not an issue.

I find it helpful to really think about what is an “accommodation”. We all use accommodations – some more frequently than others, depending on our varying needs and the situation. I can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, so I use stairs or an elevator to go from one floor to another. Stairs are an accommodation for my inability to fly. Some of us wear glasses to accommodate for poor vision. I have a very different perspective about accommodations and do not feel that it is a disservice to a student for a teacher to provide them any more than denying someone the use of their glasses presents a disservice. If a teacher is not providing what has been determined to be required for a student, irrespective of the class, they are in violation of the the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.

It sounds like the end of course AP test is the issue. The guidance department should carefully check what accommadations can be used on the test, and what documentation is needed. It sounds like they don’t want to do the work required for accommadations. They can’t deny her a seat because she has a disability!