District Discriminated Against Student by Failing to Follow 504 Plan Requiring Weekly E mails and Written Copies of Homework & Lecture Notes

Parents frequently ask which is better enforced: An IEP or a 504 Plan? While the 504 regulations do not specify the detail regarding developing a 504 plan that the IDEA provides regarding IEPs, 504 Plans can be very detailed and can be enforced. For example, in Morris (NJ) School District, 111 LRP 70051 (OCR 2011), the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) determined that the Morris School District discriminated against a student on the basis of his disability because it did not comply with his 504 Plan (see Opening the School Door to Section 504 for more information on 504). The high school student had a 504 plan that required the school district to provide the student : (1) feedback through weekly e mails in each of his classes; (2) written copies of homework assignments; (3) written copies of class lecture notes; and (4) to review and update the Student’s school contract. Concerned that the school was not complying with the 504 Plan in the 2010-2011 school year, the student’s mother filed a complaint with OCR.

 The Office for Civil Rights conducted a very thorough investigation of the parent’s allegations. For example, OCR looked at each of the student’s nine classes during the school year and determined that, while the teachers provided occasional e mails to the student, the e mails were not weekly. Regarding the written homework assignments and class lecture notes, the school district contended that, while the student did not receive written hard copies, he was provided  access electronically via a Netbook and an iPAD. The Office for Civil Rights, however, determined that electronic access through assistive technology was not the same as access to written hard copies of the assignments and notes. Finally, OCR determined that in the 2009-2010 school year, District personnel had developed a contract with the student requiring him to maintain a B+ average or he would suffer a negative consequence, such as being excluded from extracurricular activities. The school district, however, did not review and update the contract for the 2010-2011 school year, violating 504 by not complying with the 504 Plan.

In order to resolve the complaint, the school district agreed to provide training to the teachers and other staff at Morristown High School regarding the requirements of the regulations implementing  Section 504. Additionally, the school district was required to provide documentation of the training, including the name and credentials of the trainer, the date of the training, copies of the training materials, and proof of attendance by the district staff. According to OCR, since the student had graduated and no longer attended the high school, the parent did not request that her son receive compensatory services.

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