Q&A: 504, Accommodations, and Evaluations


QUESTION: My adopted son is 8 years old and in the third grade.   He has been diagnosed with ADHD and he was a drug baby.   He just got a 504 plan, but he has failing grades and I think he needs more services. (The school would not give him a 504 plan or make any accommodations for him before this year because he did not have failing grades.)  I requested an evaluation when I signed the 504 plan, but that has not happened. I don’t feel like he is getting what he needs at this point. What can I do? The last time I went in to speak with the principal she said, “What more do you want us to do?” with a snippy attitude.  Now I don’t even feel comfortable talking to the principal, and I am very uncomfortable when I go to the school. My son is very forgetful and leaves his homework at school occasionally, but I feel like I am being watched like a hawk if I bring him to get it. Part of his 504 plan is to have a buddy packer to help him make sure he brings everything home but it doesn’t always happen. He has extended time and preferential seating, and I thought he had small group testing, but they are saying he doesn’t have that. Do I need to contact families helping families for legal help?

ANSWER: You’re definitely getting the run around!  The federal law, IDEA, clearly states that FAPE (free and appropriate public education) is available to any child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even if the child has not failed or been retained and is advancing from grade to grade (Part 300/B/300.101/c).  IDEA also states that a parent has the right to request an evaluation – as you know.

If I were you, I’d do several things before getting legal assistance.

First, make a
written request for evaluation.  Parents have the right to refer their child.  The school legally has to respond to you – the timelines are different from state to state.  Send one copy to the principal and one copy to the director of special ed services at the central office.  If you don’t get a timely response (about 15 days), make an appointment with the special ed director.

Then get a copy of the policies and regulations for special education and 504 in your state.  You can probably get these online, or ask at the central office.  Look these over.  Quoting law will get you what you want!  Principals are famous for their ignorance of the laws surrounding special ed and 504.  The manual will also tell you what the process is for making a formal complaint.  Make a special note of the required timelines in your state.

Look at your copy of the 504 plan.  If you don’t have a copy, get one – you’re supposed to have one.  If you wanted small group testing and it’s not in the plan, request another meeting.  The great thing about 504 plans is that the complaints go to the Office of Civil Rights.  Schools will do almost anything to avoid getting tangled up with OCR complaints – they’re really tough.  Check online for the complaint process.

Make a folder of your documentation – teacher notes, report cards, work samples, doctor’s diagnosis of ADHD, history of drug exposure, etc.  Write down the principal’s remark with the date and time it was made.

Basically, you need to know your child’s rights and be prepared to exercise them by going through the chain of command.  The school district needs to know that you are able and willing to advocate for your child, up to and including formal complaints to state and federal agencies.

None of this is to say that your child is eligible for special education.  Some kids with ADHD are eligible, and some aren’t.  But you have a right to have him evaluated, and you have a right to have his 504 plan appropriately implemented.

Good luck!  Let me know what happens.

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