To 504 or not?

I met with Sam’s Kindergarten teacher on Friday, as well as the Guidance Counselor who reiterated that a Section 504 would be a great asset for Sam. She told me what a Section 504 would do for us.

Basically, without it, Sam’s medical condition (Celiac Disease) would be confidential information shared only with his teacher, nurse…those on a need to know list. With a 504, it allows those on the need to know list to share his medical status/needs with others, like his Art Teacher, Cafeteria workers, etc. and protect him from being excluded from events (ie: field trips) simply because of his dietary restrictions. Concessions must be made, like allowing mom to bring in a GF pizza for a pizza party, etc. when normally (outside of the first week of school) the school is on hyper-alert and restricts even parents from visiting the school during school hours.

I understand how this has come to be and why it must be. In the age of very sad events like Columbine and so many others…I am thankful of the added security because it is a very scary world, but there is this mama bear side of me that has extreme difficulty accepting the fact that I cannot have access to my son. But, as a very wise man once said, “It is what it is” and I know Sam is safer because of these rules.

The counselor said the 504 would travel with Sam through his years of school and in a sense prepare future teachers ahead of time.

A Section 504 will also protect Sam by ensuring (at least in elementary school) that his teachers and caregivers communicate with me to make appropriate provisions in certain situations. A perfect example would be yesterday’s post on play dough. With a 504 Plan, it would ensure that his teacher communicate with me about the play dough with enough notice that I could bring in a GF substitute.

I found this article on the American Celiac Disease Alliance website. There is a link at the bottom of the page that will take you to the site. At the bottom of the ACDA website, you will see links that you can click on for a Model 504 Plan, Sample 504 Plan, Sample Dr. Letter and State Information.

Section 504 Plans

Section 504 refers to the part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. This section of the civil rights statute requires the needs of students
with disabilities to have equal access to programs and services as those who are not disabled.

A 504 plan addresses more than just gluten-free meals, it outlines a plan of services for students in the general education setting. It identifies reasonable accommodations to help the child succeed in the classroom. For a student with celiac disease a 504 accommodation plan would address:

Objectives and goals of the plan

Meals and snacks
Bathroom access
Classroom activities (art projects)
Field Trips / extracurricular activities
Emergency evacuations / shelter-in-place
Parental notification
Emergency contacts

The ACDA has prepared a a model 504 plan in conjunction with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). A family has shared the plan currently in place for their child with celiac disease.

The plan also provides accountability. If the school fails to meet the requirements of the plan there are procedures to see that it is enforced. In the absence of a 504 plan, there may be no documentation of the school’s responsibility to meet the student’s needs.

Parents often raise concerns about their child being labeled as ‘disabled’ and whether it will be included in student records. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), bars information relating to a child’s disability from being included on a student’s transcripts. The law also states that specific student information and records may be shared with school personnel only under certain need to know circumstances.

Requesting a 504 Plan

The process starts with the parent or guardian contacting their child’s school and requesting a 504 evaluation. These words, “I am requesting a 504 evaluation for my son / daughter,” sets a process in motion which has specific requirements which must be met. Once the evaluation request is made a meeting will be scheduled. Parents are notified of the meeting, but their participation is not required. A multidisciplinary team may be comprised of the principal, a counselor, nurse, and teacher (it may include others) review the request and determine whether or not the child qualifies for a 504 plan, if so, the team will then draft the plan. After the plan is in place, it will be subject to annual review, and can be revised if necessary.

State Resources

Many states have information on their website about accommodating students with special dietary needs, others may refer exclusively to the USDA document. “Accommodating Children with Special Dietary Needs in School Nutrition Programs”

Click here for the rest of the article from the American Celiac Disease Alliance

I will be calling the school nurse tomorrow and the guidance counselor to see what the next step is. I already have a call in to his pediatric G.I. to ask him for a letter that will support our cause. I will update my progress on Twitter as I go and once all is done, I will dedicate another post detailing this journey and offer any helpful tips I come across. In the meantime, if there are any parents out there that have gone through this before, I would love for you to email me with any words of wisdom that you might have. 🙂

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