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Doing Your Homework:
Parent Volunteers Cannot Substitute for Trained Teachers
by Sue Whitney, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

kids in kindergartenMy daughter is in Kindergarten. She was adopted from China.

She has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Sensory Processing Disorder and has been under the care of a trauma therapist for two years.

She has a prescribed protocol for use in the classroom, but there are many parent voluteers in her class and they have refused to follow the protocol.

Should my daughter have a 504 plan or an IEP? What should I do?

Sue Responds

Write a Letter

The first thing I would do is write a letter to the principal.

  1. State that you have been told on more than one occasion, by more than one classroom volunteer, that they do not intend to follow, and have not followed, the protocol that has been agreed upon for your daughter.
  2. In the following paragraph request a meeting to discuss how the accommodations she needs and the protocols for treatment will be followed in the future.
  3. In the next paragraph ask that a teacher be assigned to your daughter so that she is not taught by uncertified volunteers.

Be nice in your letter. But, do not settle for anything less than a real teacher who is trained to provide for your daughter’s needs.

Tip: Include in your letter some dates and times that you are available to meet.

Write a Formal Accommodation and Treatment Plan

If the previous protocols were really being followed, I doubt that untrained people would have been assigned to your daughter in the first place. You know now that you need a formal accommodation plan and treatment plan.

Write an Appropriate 504 Plan

While you are waiting for a response to your letter with a meeting date, you need to be writing an appropriate 504 plan. Pattern it after this one from the American Diabetes Association.

If you use the Word document it will be easy to customize.  Remove the references to diabetes and include everything that has been recommended by her medical providers. Get their recommendations in writing if you do not already have that.

The principal may want to rewrite the 504 plan in another format. Is so, make sure everything gets included in the re-written plan.

Base the Plan on Physicians Recommendations

Your daughter’s disorders are ones that are diagnosed and treated by physicians. This means that the recommendations will be coming to the school from physicians.

Unless someone at the school wants to practice medicine without a license, it is difficult for them to dismiss or overrule any of the physician’s recommendations. So prepare the plans based upon what the psychiatrist and pediatrician or other providers have recommended.

Consider Confidentiality and Non-employee Volunteers

I can't imagine any school giving decision-making authority to volunteers when highly trained professionals are working with a child.

There is no reason for untrained, non-employee community volunteers to have personal information about your daughter’s psychiatric diagnosis or disorders.

Your family and the school will need to take a look at the wisdom of putting people in the classrooms where they will need to follow IEPs and 504 plans that they do not have any business knowing about.

Written Plans MakeThings Easier for Everyone

It is important to get everyone off to a good start in Kindergarten.

Make sure all school personnel know the plan.

When your daughter is in first grade she will be in contact with more staff members during her day, especially at lunch and recess.

Tip: It would be a good idea to print a small photograph of her on the 504 plan so that people who supervise her in the halls, recess, and lunch will recognize her. Add a sentence within the plans saying that everyone who has responsibility for her at any time of the day, including bus drivers, have a copy of the plan and know what they are responsible for.

You May Need to Request an Eligibility Meeting

Your daughter may be eligible for an Individualized Education Plan under Other Health Impaired in IDEA 2004. It is hard to tell without more information.  If she needs specialized instruction then you need to request an eligibility meeting instead.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Paraeducators & the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)-S.1177 from the National Education Association.

Transitioning to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) U.S. DOE (2016), Requirements for Hiring Paraprofessionals C-7a (page 21).

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

More Resources

This is a very good book about 504 plans.

Section 504 and Public Schools, Second Edition. A Practical Guide for Determining Eligibility, Developing Accommodation Plans, and Documenting Compliance by Tom E. C. Smith and James R. Patton. ISBN 978-0890797495

Discrimination and Section 504

IDEA 2004

Who is Eligible for Protections Under Section 504 - But Not Under IDEA?

Letters, Documentation and Paper Trails

Good Luck,

Suzanne Whitney


Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Manchester, New Hampshire, works with families as a special education advocate and is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Doing Your Homework, Suzanne Whitney gives savvy advice about reading, research based instruction, and creative strategies for using education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools.

Her articles have been reprinted by,,, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that was published by Harbor House Law Press, Inc.

She also served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC).

Sue Whitney's bio.

Copyright © 2002-2022 by Suzanne Whitney.

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