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What should I know about 504 Plans in Georgia?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Section 504 plans in Georgia

What should I know? +

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What is a 504 plan?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act outlaws discrimination against people with disabilities in facilities that get federal funds-- like public schools. 

 

504 plans are plans that schools make to give kids with disabilities the services and support they need to learn alongside their peers. 504 plans and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) both can be used to help students with disabilities access education.  IEPs are under a different law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 504 plans and IEPs are two different ways to provide services and support to kids with disabilities.  

 

504 plans help students with disabilities by giving them necessary: 

  • services, 

  • materials or technology, 

  • and making changes to their learning environment. 

 

Generally these things are referred to as reasonable accommodations.

 

Examples of reasonable accommodations are: 

  • tests read out loud for children with dyslexia or blindness, 

  • an enlarger for a child with low vision;

  • less written homework for children with disabilities affecting writing, 

  • a behavior management plan for a child with a behavior disorder, or 

  • an accessible restroom for a child who uses a wheelchair. 

 

Many students with disabilities can be served by a 504 plan.


What are my rights with a 504 plan?

All children in Georgia have the right to a free and adequate education under the state constitution. Students with IEPs and 504 plans have a right to a free and appropriate education under the IDEA. This is sometimes referred to as FAPE and is a higher standard than the right to a free and adequate education. 504 Plans help students with disabilities access the same education as their classmates. 

 

A child has the right to a 504 plan if:

  • They have any disability, have a record of a disability, or are regarded as having a disability, AND

  • The disability interferes with their ability to learn in a general education classroom. 

 

Section 504 does not require that the child's educational performance be adversely affected, so even if your child is getting good grades, they may qualify for a 504 Plan if they are substantially limited in some other major life activity at school.  Everything in the 504 plan can also be included in an IEP if a child needs individualized services.

 

Students have the right to get 504 Plan services for free. 

 

Parents or guardians:

  • Have the right to give consent or deny the evaluation of a child. 

  • Have the right to notice of changes to the 504 Plan. 

    • Plans are reviewed each year and a reevaluation is done at least every three years, unless a guardian consents to continue without a new evaluation.

  • Have the right to see all of their child’s records, and 

  • Have the right to challenge decisions made about their child’s 504 Plan.

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What can I do? +

 

Contents


How can I get a 504 Plan for a child?

The exact process for getting a 504 plan varies from school district to school district. Each school district must have a 504 plan process in place. Contact the 504 Coordinator in your school district for more information. 

 

In general, to get a 504 Plan for a student: 

  • Start by notifying the school's 504 Coordinator or school administrator about the student's disability. 

  • Ask in writing for a 504 plan. Be specific about why you are asking for a plan. Suggest accommodations.

  • Follow up with the 504 coordinator about your request. 

  • Meet with the school to create a 504 plan. 

 

You might also ask for your child to be evaluated for an IEP. 

 

There is no standard 504 plan, but in Georgia, a plan generally includes:

  • Your child’s accommodations, supports, and services,

  • The names or titles of the people who will provide each service, and 

  • The name of the person who will make sure the plan is followed.

  • The Georgia Department of Education has a sample 504 plan on its website.

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What can I do if I am not happy with decisions about a 504 plan?

You have the right to challenge any decision about your child’s 504 plan, including:

  • Whether or not to evaluate your child,

  • The outcome of the evaluation,

  • The accommodations offered to your child, or

  • Any action or inaction regarding the 504 plan. This includes if your child is not getting a service in the 504 plan at all or as the service was described in the 504 plan

 

Negotiate

You have the option of trying to negotiate with the school about your child’s needs. You can contact the 504 coordinator and ask for a meeting.

 

Impartial Hearing/Mediation

You have the right to request an impartial hearing. You should make the request in writing to the school system’s 504 Coordinator. You request should include:

  • Your child’s name,

  • Address,

  • The name of the school,

  • The decision you disagree with,

  • The reason you are requesting the hearing,

  • What you want the school to do, and

  • Your name and contact information.

 

The 504 Coordinator has 10 days to respond in writing and schedule the hearing. The hearing should be scheduled within 45 days.

 

The school system might offer mediation in place of a hearing. In mediation, both you and the school agree to let a neutral third party come up with a solution. You do not have to agree to mediation and you do not have to agree to the solution offered by the mediator.

 

Before the hearing:

  • You should have the chance to look at your child’s educational records.

  • You are allowed to be represented by an attorney at the hearing. You must tell the 504 coordinator that you have an attorney 10 days before the hearing. 

  • You may get pre-hearing instructions from the hearing official. 

 

At the hearing:

  • An impartial review official will be in charge of the hearing. 

  • The hearing will be closed to the public.

  • You will have the chance to present evidence and testimony to prove your claim. It is up to you to prove your position.

  • The school district will also be able to present evidence and testimony. They will be able to respond to your testimony and answer questions by the review official.

 

After the hearing: 

  • The review official will issue a written decision within 20 days of the hearing. 

  • If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal the decision. It may be helpful to speak with a lawyer about your options. 

 

Civil Rights Complaint

You have the right to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education. File a civil rights complaint if you believe the school is not following the law or discriminated against your child because of their disability.  The Office of Civil Rights generally does not deal with issues about specific accommodations or services. 

 

Your complaint must be filed within 180 days of the Section 504 violation. You can ask for an impartial hearing and file a civil rights complaint. If you do both, you must file the complaint within 60 days of the decision in your hearing. 

 

You can file a complaint:

Office for Civil Rights,

Atlanta Office

U.S. Department of Education

61 Forsyth Street S.W., Suite 19T10

Atlanta, GA 30303-8927

Telephone: (404) 974-9406

Facsimile: (404) 974-9471

Email: OCR.Atlanta@ed.gov

 

Lawsuit

If the school discriminates against your child because of their disability, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. You do not have to have an impartial hearing or file a civil rights complaint before you file a lawsuit. Talk to a lawyer to understand your rights and options.

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What should I know about school disciplinary hearings for students with disabilities?

If a child with a 504 plan is disciplined and will miss more than ten days of school, then they will get a disciplinary hearing and a Manifestation Determination Reviewing (MDR) hearing.  Children with IEPs, 504 plans, or children the school should have identified as a child with a disability get this separate process to decide if a behavior was caused by a child’s disabilities.  If a behavior comes out of the disability of a child, then the child cannot be disciplined for that behavior.  If a child is disciplined before the MDR or after it, then you should ask for compensatory education.

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Resources

  • You can find out more information from the Georgia Department of Education on 504 plans here
  • Find contact information for the  504 Coordinator in your school district on the US Department of Education website.  
  • Read more about your rights under Section 504 on the Georgia Department of Education website (this links to a PDF which may not be fully accessible).
  • Learn more about 504 Plans from the Georgia Department of Education (this links to a PDF which may not be fully accessible).
  • Learn more about how to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights on the US Department of Education website.

 

Legal Help

  • For help in Fulton, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett, or DeKalb County, contact Atlanta Legal Aid. Fill out the Atlanta Legal Aid online intake application or call 404-524-5811 to see if you qualify for legal assistance.
  • If you live in any other Georgia county, contact the Georgia Legal Services Program for help. Access the GLSP online intake application or call 1-833-457-7529 to see if you qualify for legal assistance.
Last Review and Update: Sep 15, 2020