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Section 504 Plans Are Lousy For Bright Kids With Behavioral Issues

Your son has Autism. Or ADHD. Maybe both. His school district gives him a 504 Plan — not an IEP — because his grades are generally not terrible. Yet, his ongoing behavioral and social-emotional challenges cause him to be suspended and disciplined nearly constantly. The District still will not provide him — or even assess him for — an IEP. What do you do?

Academic performance is but one determinant of IEP eligibility, but there is no requirement that a student with a disability must fail to maintain grade-level performance before a school district must take action to alleviate the disability’s impairment of the child’s ability to make appropriate progress in light of his circumstances. (See e.g., In County of San Diego v. California Special Education Hearing Office, et al. (9th Cir. 1996) 93 F.3d 1458, 1467 (holding that educational benefit is not limited to academic needs, but includes the social and emotional needs that affect academic progress, school behavior, and socialization).

In applying this Ninth Circuit authority, the California Office of Administrative Hearings very recently ruled that the school district’s “belief” that the Student had “‘medical autism’ but not ‘educational autism’ and therefore did not qualify for special education is not supported in the facts or the law.” (Parent v. Middletown Unified School District, OAH Case No. 2019030238 and 2018110516 (Jun. 14, 2019), page 26, paragraph 21.)

Don’t let the school district fool you into accepting a 504 Plan if an IEP is what your child actually needs. Please call the Leigh Law Group at (415) 399-9155 today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how we advocate for children with disabilities to get them what they need and the law requires.