504 Article

Parent’s Failure to Provide Documentation of ADHD Diagnosis Does Not Justify LEA’s Delay in Conducting an Evaluation Under Section 504

In South Monterey County (CA) Joint Union High Sch. Dist., 112 LRP 28705 (OCR 04/18/12), OCR determined that a district’s duty to timely evaluate a child under Section 504 trumped any obligation a parent may have to produce documentation of a diagnosis.

Beginning in September 2010, the parent of a ninth-grader repeatedly sought a 504 evaluation for her son, who had been diagnosed with ADHD while attending his previous district. The student was earning D’s and F’s in his classes. School staff explained that the parent would need to produce a medical diagnosis of ADHD in order to obtain a 504 plan. The parent did not fulfill that request until January 2011, when she provided a former medical diagnosis received in 2004.

At that point, the district provided the student accommodations, including extended time to complete work and seating the child closer to the teacher but, failed to conduct a 504 plan evaluation.  Between January 2011 and March 2012, the school still did not conduct an evaluation.  Subsequently the student continued to receive D’s and F’s.

The parent filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights alleging the district denied the student FAPE by failing to conduct a timely evaluation.

OCR concluded that the student went a year and a half without being evaluated due to the district’s erroneous view that it could require a medical diagnosis as a prerequisite to a 504 plan. OCR pointed out that districts are required to evaluate a student within a reasonable time after a referral. While a medical assessment may be part of a district’s evaluation process, it cannot delay or deny an evaluation because it is waiting for the parent to produce a medical diagnosis. OCR observed that the district’s error was compounded by the fact that it never offered to pay for a medical evaluation. If an LEA requires a medical evaluation in order to determine eligibility, that evaluation must be at no cost to the parent which may result in seeking out a diagnosis elsewhere. Furthermore, the 504 plan that the district offered was presumptively inadequate and denied the student FAPE because it relied on an out-of-date diagnosis. The student’s continued poor performance bolstered that conclusion.

What this means for you:

  • A note from a physician that includes a medical diagnosis is not required for determining eligibility under Section 504.
  • If you believe a medical evaluation is necessary to determine eligibility, you may be required to pay for it.

The criteria for determining eligibility under Section 504 are broader, or more inclusive, than the categories of eligibility under the IDEA. Under Section 504, there is no list of disabling conditions.  Rather a person with a disability is simply one who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. A person meets the requirements of being “regarded as having such an impairment’ if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to discrimination because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.

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