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January 27, 2021 Meeting Minutes - 504 Plans & APS

PALS Meeting Minutes

January 27, 2020 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom


Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education.


Ups and Downs of the 504 Plan Process


Like anything new, working through the initial steps of a 504 Plan can be eye opening. We discussed denial, appeals, MTSS, advocacy, and timelines. Below find these topics and more along with a few links for further information:


What is a 504 Plan?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that is intended to give all individuals the same advantages and opportunities, so that individuals with disabilities have an equal chance for success. Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania Code describes the school’s responsibility in implementing Section 504. In the area of education, Chapter 15/Section 504 protects the individual who has or has had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or who is regarded by others as having a disability. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for one’s self, and performing tasks (see the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act for additional examples of major life activities). The impairment needs only to substantially limit one major life activity for the student to be determined to have a disability. Chapter 15/Section 504 differs from IDEA in that it protects the rights of individuals with disabilities, while IDEA is an educational benefits law that requires special education and related services as determined by a student’s IEP team. All students with IEPs are also covered under Chapter 15/Section 504. Read more from PaTTAN.

What is the difference between a 504 Plan and an IEP?

504 plans aren’t part of special education. So, they’re different from IEPs. 504 plans and IEPs are covered by different laws and work in different ways. The main difference is that a 504 plan modifies a student's regular education program in a regular classroom setting. A 504 plan is monitored by classroom teachers. A student with an IEP, as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004), may receive different educational services in a special or regular educational setting, depending on the student's need. IEP programs are delivered and monitored by additional school support staff. Read more from Wrightslaw and KidsHealth.org.


What is the timeline for 504 Plan?

Federal regulations do not mandate a timeline for Section 504 meetings or for implementation of a 504 plan. A district's school board may implement a policy regarding the 504 Plan procedure. Read more on the subject from Wrightslaw. As it relates to this conversation, here are policy's adopted by FCASD.

PARENT/GUARDIAN REQUEST FOR EVALUATION, TERMINATION, OR MODIFICATION UNDER SECTION 504


PROCEDURAL SAFEGUARDS NOTIFICATION


Can you appeal a school district's decision regarding a 504 Plan?

Yes! "Section 504 and IDEA require school districts to conduct impartial hearings for parents who disagree with identification, evaluation, or placement. Under Section 504, the parent has an opportunity to participate and obtain representation by counsel, but other details are left to the discretion of the school district." Read more from Wrightlaw.


Familiarize yourself with a district's MTSS efforts as it may relate to a 504 Plan denial.

It's great that school district's are required to have a MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Support) initiatives in place for all students, that doesn't mean the service being received shouldn't also be included in a 504 Plan. For more on MTSS visit PaTTAN.


How can you advocate for a 504 Plan for your child?

Data, Data, Data! and Write Things Down! The best advocacy involves a plan. Do your homework, know what to expect, know how the process works, and most importantly, be prepared with your own data. Jot down your observations and make it clear what your child is capable of doing on their own and what requires scaffolding. Have examples of work done with and without assistance. The following article from VeryWellMind.com addresses possible accommodations for students with ADHD, the concepts of which may help you think about to look for in your observations. Read more from Wrightslaw.

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APS vs District School


Prior to the pandemic an Approved Private School placement was implemented for an elementary school aged child. Due to the COVID Assertions Policy recently required by the state for all schools, and this APS's specific policy, the student is rarely able to attend in-person instruction and is left in a type of virtual instruction limbo. Looking to provide stability to the student's education and schedule, the family is looking to negotiate a return to the traditional school setting for the time being. Although, not interested in giving up on the idea of the APS setting entirely, under the circumstances the child does not experience the benefits originally sought.


The question then becomes, how to address the problem with the school district in an effort to temporarily change the student's educational placement? Is it possible to change the placement within the child's IEP with an addendum? One that would indicate the student's placement may be changed back to the Approved Private School placement once the Assertion Policy is lifted?


We didn't have the answer and have found little reference to addendums to IEPs in Pennsylvania. That's not to say they don't exist, just that while conducting a search we found plenty of examples from other school district's and states, and only one (so far) in Pennsylvania. This example came from A Day In Our Shoes and interestingly enough, it references the first page of the IEP. (We found this section on the second page of ours.) It simply reads, "The LEA and parent have agreed to make the following changes to the IEP without convening an IEP meeting, as document by:" Yes, this is in reference to agreeing to a change while forgoing an annual IEP meeting.

If you have included an addendum in your child's IEP in the past and would like to share your experience for others to reference, please consider logging in to leave a comment on this post or send us an e-mail so that we might update these minutes to reflect your input.

Below are a few reference from other districts/states. We should note, some have specific requests that can be made and others indicate minor changes:

Michigan Schools

Minnesota Association of School Business Officials (pages 4 & 5)

ADD Advocate (use the data to write the addendum)

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Apps That Read to You

We have talked a lot these past eleven months about Apps that will read text aloud. We stumbled upon a new one: Speechify (this is not an endorsement)

Next Meeting: February 24, 2021 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.

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SPECIAL NOTE

All meetings will be held virtually until further notice.

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