Section 504: DOES A 504 PLAN EXPIRE?

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Gina:  My son was attending a charter school that dealt with many ADHD children. The school told us and they thought he should have a 504 plan to protect him against discrimination to help him excel in school. I asked them If it was like a IEP.  They told me it is, but it isn’t. They both help the children in areas of need with extra help, but one is for a medical disability that causes a learning complication and one is for a learning disability.

I asked does it have to be re-evaluated every year like a IEP and they told me “No”. They said most re-evaluate it every year to add or subtract things that could benefit, but there is no specific time frame, that we should re-evaluate a 504 at least every three years. Well my son has gone to two different schools since then and none of them have said anything about the 504 plan being expired. When we moved and I put him in our district school, they refused to except his 504 plan, said it was expired.  Now my son is struggling in school because all the accommodations that he had they refuse to accommodate. He’s being teased by the students, and they are giving him detentions, and suspension because of his behavior due to his ADHD. This was all listed previously on his 504. Does a 504 plan expire?? If they just recommend re-evaluating it every 3 years, how can it be expired now when it’s not 3 years since it went into effect?

  1. HI,
    Here is my dilemma and I don’t know how to proceed forward. We attend a public county school for 5 years (K-4) my son had a 504 plan from 2nd thru 4th. This year we left and tried a public Charter in a neighboring county. Long story short – that place did not help my son, it was mess, we returned to our home school in January.

    When we did they informed us that our 504 “expired” while we were gone in the Fall. They have made us wait 3 months while “observing him” to begin the 504 process all over again. During that time I learned they don’t expire. I asked the Counselor about this, she replied “well in XXXXX Co. We require that all plans be revised every year. So since yours wasn’t done in the fall on it’s anniversary date, then we cannot honor it until its (re)done.” To me this sounds like a federal violation…. But I am not sure… Can a county just do whatever it wants? The law suggests 3years, but does not explicitly set a time from my understanding. clarification?

    • Hi D Phillips, After reading your post, my first thought was “Where to Start?” Our new book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 3rd Edition will answer your questions but it won’t be available for a week or two. If you subscribe to The Special Ed Advocate newsletter, you’ll get an email announcement when it’s available.

      I had another idea.Download, print and study the “Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 (47 pages) published by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The Section 504 Guide is clear, easy-to-read — excellent. I think it will answer all your questions.

      If you provide a print copy to the counselor who is (illegally) acting as a gatekeeper, the principal, the special ed director, the Superintendent, and/or your school board member, with key phrases highlighted, your problems are likely to be resolved quickly. The administrators will realize that the counselor’s (illegal) position and refusal to help has put the district in a bad legal spot under Section 504 AND the ADA.

      You’re right — Section 504 Plans (and IEPs) don’t “expire.” Unlike an IEP, Section 504 does not require a Section 504 Plan to be written, although most districts require written 504 Plans so what they agreed upon is clear.

      Keep us posted and good luck!

      • Rest assured, the counselor is following directives from the special ed director. School counselors are often the 504 coordinators of the school as a directive from their district. They constantly ask for training and make their discomfort with being in this position known without any change being made in school systems.

  2. My child was granted a 504 plan from our home school district. The following year we decided to send him to a catholic HS for two years. There were not updates to the plan he had He has now returned to our home school district. Is the 504 plan that was developed two years ago still an active document that the school needs to comply with?

  3. My child has a 504 with a small rural school for Epilepsy. His main accommodation is an aid that accompanies him on the bus to be able to administer his rescue medication in case of seizure.(because the bus driver is not liable to administer medication in case of emergency) He has been seizure free for one year. He is still supported by his seizure medications twice daily and titration will not happen per his neurologist for at least another year (if he continues to be seizure free) due to the etiology of his epilepsy as evidence by EEG. Because he is seizure free for a year the school emailed me that we had to meet to “wrap this up” due to his lapse in episodes. That we had to discuss his need/or lack there of for a bus aid before May 7TH or his services would be terminated. HELP!!

    • The district is attempting to make a medical decision. Your doctors, & the school nurse may be your best resources for getting the school to realize this. Nurses are to develop a health care plan for all students with health care issues. Every district is to have a 504 coordinator. Get that person involved. They may be more aware of the district’s liability than other staff are. Your state parent training and information center can provide you with information that may help. The federal office of civil rights enforces Section 504 rules.

  4. Technically, a 504 will stay in place until a student is exited from their plan. However, it is good (and common practice) for a 504 plan to be reevaluated every school year for modification. Parents are always included in a meeting, and must be notified of the plan that is in place, contrary to some comments below (in other words, a school must have parental consent before they can create a plan, or even to evaluate a child).
    Parents have a set of rights per 504 agreement, and can call a meeting at any time. If the school is not allowing you to meet with them, they are in violation of your child’s rights.
    Typically, a diagnosis is required to create a 504, or at least numerous documents from RTI intervention. There must be proof of a substantial limitation of access to education. To continue, a 504 cannot protect a student from a school’s discipline policy. If a student has been suspended for a certain number of days (typically 10), a district holds a manifestation meeting to determine if an underlying issue (possibly the ADHD) is the root cause for the behavior, or if there is simply a separate discipline problem. It will be up to the district to make that determination.

  5. My son has a 504 plan for Dysgraphia that was put in place in 2014 through the city public school system. He attended an out of state private school where it was contiued and kept up to date. Upon returning to city public school this year they are stating that his plan is out of compliance. He is scheduled for a reevaluation of his Dysgraphia in 3 days by the physician who dxd and treated him. I don’t know what more we can do to put the plan in place. The school is refusing to continue his plan or meet with me.

  6. My daughter went to college with a 504 plan on place. Her plan was accepted by the school in NC. It involves a therapy pet. It’s the beginning of her sophomore year and her therapy pet died. The school says she cannot bring another pet on campus without new documentation of the need. Doesn’t this violate her civil rights?

  7. My understanding is that as long as the student qualifies for a 504 plan, then one should be in place. They do not expire, but are modified as needs change. However, schools are not required to make parents part of developing the plan, and I am not even sure that they do have to tell parents that a plan is in place. There is supposed to be a process in place – similar to due process – that allows parents to file a complaint if the 504 plan is inadequate. My understanding is that most schools do not know this, and will be confused when you ask about it.
    Given that the original poster has said that she brought up the 504 plan with the school and they have refused to do anything, it would seem like the only alternative is to ask the school about the process for filing a complaint. Also the OP could check with the Office of Civil Rights about complaint processes. It is my understanding that 504 is a civil right law, not an educational one, and some folks believe that this gives parents better leverage. So maybe the OCR can do something.

    • You’re right, there are several options for someone who has a dispute regarding Section 504 or a 504 plan.

      The Office of Civil Rights has a complaint process. This process is primarily for procedural issues, rather that “quality of the 504 plan” type issues – except in extreme circumstances.

      Parents who disagree with the content of the plan can request a due process hearing, similar to as with an IEP (in some states, it’s even the same system).

      The school should notify the parents of these options, plus any alternative complaint system they may have. If they are not forthcoming, OCR is still a great resource for info and assistance.

  8. Technically it does not expire. Districts are supposed to have clearly defined 504 procedures and policies (although many do not). You can ask for a copy of the district policy or Board of Education approved procedures that back them up. (Chances are, they don’t exist!)

    When a student arrives with a 504 plan, the student’s new district should promptly convene a 504 committee meeting to see if the existing plan needs revising.

    You can request a 504 meeting to review his plan. You can also meet with the principal to express your concerns about academics, functioning, peer interactions and discipline. Make an agenda for yourself ahead of time, and bring someone along who will take good notes.

  9. I am currently looking for an answer on this as well. I hope you find an answer for both of our sakes.

    • I am a school principal in Texas and although this may not answer the question definitively, hopefully it will help. ADHD can be handled through either a 504 or SPED depending on the circumstances and physicians documentation. For instance, if a child with ADHD is having problems focusing in class, or sitting still, a 504 may be established to provide certain seating, stretch breaks, or access to a cool off area when needed. However if a student with ADHD exhibits behavior that is directly caused by the disorder, such as uncontrollable fits, or severe outbursts, the Special Education department can evaluate the student (usually done by an LSSP), and if the student qualifies (typically under OHI- Other Health Impairment) an IEP and/or BIP can be established to provide services.

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