Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Life is complicated, and it gets even more complicated when parents have new choices to make for students, like whether to go forward with a student 504 Plan. 504 Plans cannot just be imposed on a student, as parent consent is required. So, what are the things to consider before agreeing to a school 504 plan? What is good and bad about 504 Plans?
What is a 504 Plan?
Simply put, a 504 Plan is a written accommodations plan for a qualified disabled student in public school, who may not need special education. This is highly simplified (see my other posts on 504s), but is the gist of it.
Good Things About Getting a Student a 504 Plan
So, here are some benefits for a student from having a 504 Plan:
- Students get extras other students don’t, depending on their needs, such as extended time on tests or assignments, taking tests in a quiet location, teacher notes, preferential seating, or other school adjustments which can assist them tremendously in school.
- 504 accommodations are written to fit the individual student and their unique needs.
- Parents have a hand in developing 504 accommodations for the student.
- Students have some additional due process, prior to long term school exclusions (over 10 days of suspension or expulsion), if they have a 504 Plan.
- Parents may seek meetings regarding a student 504 Plan as needed, such as if a teacher is not implementing the 504 Plan.
- A student 504 Plan is legally binding on the school and staff.
- As 504 Plans are legally enforceable, teachers and staff may be forced to implement them.
- When disabled students reach college, it can be simpler to get disability accommodations due to qualifying for a 504 in high school.
- Students’ grades and understanding can improve with a 504 Plan, as their 504 accommodations can be the bridge many students need to succeed in school.
- 504 Plans can be enforced by outside agencies, such as the Office for Civil Rights or the California Department of Education, if a discrimination complaint is lodged.
- Failure to implement a 504 Plan can support a claim for disability discrimination.
- 504 Plans form a slight safety net for disabled students.
- Most teachers know what 504 Plans are.
Bad Things About 504 Plans
Most parents do not think about the “bad” things which can result from a student being placed on a 504 plan.
What are the impacts? What should a parent consider? Here are some potential negatives that families may want to think about before moving forward with a 504 plan for a student:
- Students have to get labelled with a disability to get at 504 Plan. Some families want to keep disabilities private or disagree their child has a disability.
- 504 Plans open the door to school disability assessments, which may contain data a parent disagrees with. These records become part of the student’s permanent record.
- 504 documents do not generally come out of a student’s school records, even if a parent later quits the 504 process or stops consenting to the 504 Plan.
- 504 plans often “fake” parents out, meaning parents may accept a 504 Plan and not know the 504 is actually written badly.
- Student 504 Plans are often not implemented fully.
- 504 Plans make a parent relax and pay less attention to what is going on with the disabled student at school.
- After a 504 Plan is put in place, parents may stop getting the disabled student additional outside help, thinking the 504 will handle everything. By the time parents realize the 504 Plan alone was not enough, there can be huge problems for the student.
- 504 Plans are used as a cheap way to avoid special education qualification and services for students. Schools often will push students toward them to avoid the cost and personnel needed to implement Individualized Education Programs (IEPs- plans for special education students)
- Some teachers, particularly in high school, refuse to implement 504 Plans if a student has a hidden disability (e.g. ADHD, Anxiety, Learning Disability), and can accuse a student of faking it.
- Students often don’t even know they have a 504 Plan. Parents should inform students as appropriate, so students can inform parents when the 504 is not done.
Student lawyer Michelle Ball represents students throughout California with school and college problems, including development, qualification and enforcement of 504s and IEPs in schools. As an education attorney in Sacramento, Michelle can reach statewide to Rancho Cucamonga, Roseville, Auburn, San Francisco, Vacaville, Los Angeles, and many other towns.