As many are preparing to get their children back in school, whether in a classroom setting or via e-learning, it’s essential to make needed arrangements for those students suffering from GI issues. Advanced preparation includes scheduling a meeting with your student’s school administration to ensure they know the GI issues affecting your child. Preparing in advance also provides an opportunity to initiate a 504 Plan for your student.
Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
Section 504 applies only to public schools and other entities that receive federal funding; the ADA extends coverage of Section 504 to all state and local entities, including private schools, regardless of whether they receive financial assistance from the federal government. In addition, section 504 applies to academic, nonacademic (recess, lunch, and assemblies), and after-school activities. Thus, a 504 plan ensures that all students have the same access to learning and activities, despite any qualifying disability.
For students with chronic GI issues, the school administration must be aware of your child’s diagnosis. Initiating a 504 plan enables teachers to be aware and adequately prepared when a student is absent from school for multiple days or adjust their school arrival/departure times due to their GI-related issues.
Six Steps to Filing a Section 504 On Behalf of Your Child:
- Document your child’s needs.
Your child must have a legal disability to get a 504 plan. (Kids who learn or think differently generally do.) Start by gathering any documents about your child’s needs, like any records of a medical diagnosis. Other things to collect are schoolwork, report cards, and private evaluations.
- Find out who the school’s 504 coordinator is.
Every public-school district must have a staff member who coordinates 504 plans. This person may also be the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) coordinator. Check the school website for the coordinator’s name and contact information. If you can’t find it, ask the principal.
- Write a formal request for a 504 plan.
You’ll need to make a formal written request for a 504 plan. Use this sample letter as a model. In your request, be specific about why you’re asking for the plan. For example, you might say: “I would like a 504 plan for my child who, due to (medical diagnosis), needs frequent breaks throughout the day to be able to learn like his peers.”
- Go through the 504 plan evaluation process.
An evaluation for a 504 plan is not always as comprehensive as one for an IEP. But the school will still want to review your child’s schoolwork, medical records, and other documents. The school will also want to talk with and observe your child and interview you, your child’s teacher, and other school staff.
- Meet with the school to see if your child qualifies.
After the evaluation, the school will most likely meet with you to decide if your child qualifies. You can also ask for this meeting if the school doesn’t schedule it. If your child qualifies, you’ll move to the next step. If not, it may be time to look at your options for 504 plan dispute resolution.
- Work together to create the 504 plan.
Once your child qualifies for a 504 plan, the school will work with you to create the plan. A written 504 plan isn’t required. But most schools will make one. Download a sample 504 plan HERE. Review recommendations on how to develop a good 504 plan HERE.
- Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
- Parent Toolkit: Strategies for Maximizing your Child’s Health
- Emotional support for children with medical conditions
- CoachArt offers free, high-quality arts and athletics activities to chronically ill children and their siblings