Section 504 Overview
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met.
Section 504 Child Find Notice
Pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Wilson County School System has a duty to identify, refer, evaluate, and, if eligible, provide a free, appropriate public education to disabled students.
If you suspect your child has an impairment, please contact your school counselor.
Eligibility under Section 504 has two prongs. The first prong is identifying if a student has an eligible impairment. Section 504 eligibility says an individual with a disability is anyone who:
i. Has a mental or physical impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities. Life activities include activities such as caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and eating. This is not an all-inclusive listing, but these are some examples.
ii. Has a record of such an impairment; or
iii. Is regarded as having such an impairment.
The second prong of eligibility is there must be a substantial impact on the student in the educational setting. The impact may affect the student's academics, social, emotional, and medical concerns in the school setting.
After the student is deemed eligible, the 504 team meets to develop a plan for that student. The Section 504 Service Plan is designed for each student according to individual need. The plan will identify the persons responsible for the implementation of the plan. The plan is reviewed annually. Any member of the 504 team can call a meeting prior to the annual review if there are concerns.
The Coordinator will hear Section 504 complaints. Complaints shall be submitted in writing to the Coordinator who will endeavor to accomplish prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action that would be prohibited by Section 504. The Coordinator will respond to all complaints within (20) days with a written response as well as information on further grievance procedures that may be followed if the complaining party is not satisfied with the Coordinator’s proposed resolution.
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE: Impartial Due Process Hearing
Pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Wilson County School Board Policy 1.802, a parent/guardian may contest any action of the school system with regard to a child’s identification, evaluation, and placement under Section 504. If a parent/guardian requests a Section 504 hearing, the parent/guardian has the right to personally participate and to be represented at the hearing by an attorney or advocate at the parent/guardian’s expense. Contested actions or omissions that are appropriate for a Section 504 hearing should involve identification, evaluation, or placement issues involving a child who has or is believed to have a disability.
I. REQUEST FOR A HEARING
A parent/guardian who wishes to challenge an action or omission with regard to the identification, evaluation, or placement of a student who has or is believed to have a disability as defined by Section 504, shall make an oral or written request for a due process hearing to the Section 504 Coordinator. The request shall be submitted on or reduced to writing on a form provided through the Central Office.
A. Impartial Hearing Officer
The Director of Schools or his/her designee shall appoint an impartial hearing officer to preside over the hearing and issue a decision. The impartial hearing officer shall be selected from a listing of competent hearing officers prepared and maintained by the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA). Such appointment will be made within fifteen (15) days of the date of receipt of a request for a due process hearing. The hearing officer will be hired as an independent contractor at no expense to the parent/guardian. The hearing officer that is appointed shall not be a current employee of the school system and shall not be related to any member of the Board of Education. The choice of an impartial hearing officer is final and may not be presented as an issue at the due process hearing since such an issue would not relate to the identification, evaluation, or placement of a disabled child under Section 504. If a parent/guardian disputes the impartiality of the appointed hearing officer, he/she may raise such issue in a review of the hearing officer’s opinion by a court of competent jurisdiction or in a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights.
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
61 Forsyth St. S.W., Suite 19T10
Atlanta, GA 30303-8927
B. Scheduling of Hearing
The appointed hearing officer shall set a date for the hearing within fifteen (15) days of her/her appointment and provide this information in writing to the parent/guardian and the Section 504 Coordinator. The hearing shall take place at a mutually agreeable time and place within the Wilson County Schools Administrative and Training Complex.
Upon a showing of good cause, the hearing officer, at his/her discretion may grant a continuance of the hearing date and set a new date.
C. Legal Representation at Hearing
If a parent/guardian is represented by a licensed attorney at the due process hearing, he/she must inform the Section 504 Coordinator and the appointed hearing officer of that fact, in writing, at least seven (7) calendar days prior to the hearing date or the hearing can be continued upon the Coordinator’s request.
D. Pre-Hearing Conference
The hearing officer may order a Pre-Hearing Conference during which the parent/guardian or his/her legal counsel will state and clarify the issues to be addressed at the hearing. The Pre-Hearing Conference will also serve to resolve preliminary matters, clarify jurisdictional issues, and answer the parties’ questions regarding the hearing process. The Pre-Hearing Conference can be held via telephone or in person depending on the hearing officer’s decision based on the convenience to both parties.
E. Dismissals by Hearing Officer
If, after the Pre-Hearing Conference, the hearing officer finds that the parent/guardian, as a matter of law, alleges and/or raises no factual claims or legal issues that come within his/her jurisdiction as a Section 504 hearing officer, he/she may dismiss the hearing and issue an order to that effect explaining the basis for such finding.
The hearing shall be conducted in an informal, non-adversarial manner. The hearing shall be closed to the public unless the parent/guardian requests an open hearing. The hearing officer may reasonably limit testimony and introduction of exhibits for reasons or relevance. An interpreter shall be provided for parents whose primary language is other than English or who are hearing impaired.
Instead of a formal written transcript produced by a court reporter, the entire due process hearing will be video recorded. The school system shall provide a copy of the recording to the parent/guardian upon request. In order for an accurate recording to be made, the parties and witnesses shall introduce themselves at the beginning of their presentations. If a parent/guardian appeals the decision of the hearing officer to a court of competent jurisdiction, the school system shall prepare a written transcript of the hearing to be offered to the court as an exhibit.
Witnesses will present their information in narrative form, without the traditional question and answer format of legal proceedings. Cross-examination of witnesses will not be allowed, but a party may request that the hearing officer, at his/her discretion, ask a witness a certain question.
C. Format of Presentation
Each side will have an equal amount of time to present their positions as determined by the hearing officer. The parent/guardian will present his/her case first by making an opening statement outlining the issues, calling witnesses, and making a closing argument. The school system will present its side next. At the end of the school system’s presentation, the parent/guardian may offer a short response. Each side may present personally or through their representatives.
D. Submission of Exhibits
As part of their presentations and at the discretion of the hearing officer, the parties may submit any reports, evaluations, correspondence, notes, or any other documents that may support their positions. Exhibits submitted to the hearing officer by either party must be marked. The hearing officer may, in the exercise of his/her discretion, reasonably limit the number of documents to be submitted for his/her review, as well as the number of witnesses and the length and/or scope of their presentations or statements.
E. Closing Arguments
The hearing officer may allow or request written closing arguments summarizing and characterizing the information presented at the hearing.
The hearing officer may make an oral ruling at the conclusion of the hearing or take the case under advisement and issue a written opinion. Such decision shall address all of the issues raised by the parent/guardian as well as any corrective actions, if any, the school system must take. Any issue or claim raised by the parent/guardian that is left unaddressed by the hearing officer in his/her decision will be deemed to have been denied. The decision must be issued within forty-five (45) days after the date the Request for a Due Process Hearing is received by the District. The hearing officer may not award attorneys’ fees as a part of the relief granted to a parent/guardian or the District.
A. Review Procedure/Appeal
If the parent/guardian is not satisfied by the decision of the hearing officer, he/she may seek review of the decision in a court of competent jurisdiction.
34 CFR § 104.36
34 CFR § 104.7(b)
Section 504 and ADA Grievance Procedures: Policy 1.802