Have you had to fight with your child’s school to have a 504 plan created or fully followed? You’re not alone; in the past five years, more than 16,000 complaints of discrimination against students affected by ADHD have been filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
The OCR just issued a groundbreaking guidance to every public school district in the country about creating and following Section 504 plans specifically for students with ADHD. It clarifies what school districts are required to do to provide students with ADHD an equal educational opportunity under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“The department will continue to work with the education community to ensure that students with ADHD, and all students, are provided with equal access to education,” says Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.
CHADD shared parents’ concerns with the OCR through the results of the 2014 member survey on 504 plans. Many parents reported their children were denied 504 plans or services even when they were eligible for them or existing plans were not being followed by classroom teachers and not enforced by school administrators.
The OCR took the CHADD survey into consideration when reviewing information on how well 504 plans were being followed for students.
“We urged stronger guidance and enforcement from the OCR to ensure that appropriate safeguards and supports are put in place for all students with ADHD that are or should be eligible for the protections of Section 504,” the CHADD Public Policy Committee writes in the CHADD Leadership Blog.
This OCR guidance offers an overview of Section 504 and school district’s obligations for students with ADHD:
Your school district must evaluate your child at no cost to you if the district believes or has reason to believe your child has a disability and needs special education and/or related services because of that disability.
You can request the school district evaluate your child if you suspect she has ADHD or has already been diagnosed with ADHD. If it refuses to evaluate your child, the school district must explain why and notify you of your right to dispute that decision through the due process procedures under Section 504.
Your child can receive an evaluation at any time if the school district suspects your child has a disability. The district cannot deny or delay this disability evaluation in order to first provide the student with intervention strategies (response to intervention).
If your school district requires as part of the evaluation a medical evaluation to determine whether a student has ADHD, the school district must ensure that the student receives this evaluation at no cost to you.
Your school district cannot consider the positive effects of treatment that your child is already receiving in determining if your child has a disability. This includes if your child’s ADHD symptoms are treated through medication management.
The school district must allow you to appeal district actions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a student with a disability. This obligation is more commonly known as “due process.”
The school district must tell you about this due process system, notify you of any evaluation or placement actions, allow you to examine the student’s records, provide you an impartial hearing, allow you to have a lawyer at that hearing, and provide you a review procedure.
The guidance reminds parents and school districts that students may be entitled to individualized services to meet the student’s needs and not to propose a pre-made standardized plan for students. School districts also cannot limit the services they provide to students to free or low-cost services and cannot exclude aids or services based just on its cost. To make sure that the requirements in the 504 plan are followed consistently, the plan must be clearly written and include the details of the how it will be carried out for the student.
“On this 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am pleased to honor Congress’ promise with guidance clarifying the rights of students with ADHD in our nation’s schools,” Ms. Lhamon says. “I encourage [school districts] to use this information to ensure that [school districts are] properly evaluating and providing timely and appropriate services to students with ADHD.”
Read the guidance to school districts on Section 504 for students.