Conflict Resolution with 504 Plans
If you’re experiencing 504 plan conflicts about how the plan is written or implemented, you have options. Each option requires different things of you when it comes to paperwork, preparation and sometimes cost. Make every effort to solve the issue at each step before moving to a more involved option.
Step 1: Work with the School Team
Most schools want to involve parents in 504 planning. If you have not been involved, send a letter that states a clear request to be involved. Ask for a meeting to discuss your concerns.
Remember that unlike with special education, 504 plans do not include learning goals. They do not promise any educational outcome. They ONLY promise that your child can access learning and activities at school. If your concern is about how your child is taught or their individual achievement, this may be outside what’s provided by a 504.
Step 2: Bring in a Third Party
If you cannot solve the problem with your school team, bring in an objective third party. Many states have facilitators or mediators that can play this part. If not, consider bringing in a special education advocate.
The benefit of an expert third party is two fold. One, they know the law well – perhaps better than anyone already in the room. Two, they can explain the law without taking sides.
Step 3: Request an Impartial Hearing from the School
This is done by sending a letter to the school district and requesting an impartial hearing. At an impartial hearing, someone with authority over your local school will hear both sides and make a decision. This will require some preparation on your part as you’ll need to bring evidence, your student’s records and possibly other items to share your side. You may also want to hire legal support, and that costs money.
Step 4: Go Beyond the School
A 504 plan is promised under civil rights law. Therefore, you can file a formal complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. This may lead to an investigation.
If none of these steps resolve your 504 plan conflict, you can file a lawsuit. It is unwise to do this without a lawyer, so think about the costs and time involved. You may not get your legal costs back when everything is said and done. Choose a lawyer who can help you decide if you have a strong case before choosing this path.
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