This is the last in a series of four articles explaining how to navigate the public school system for accommodations under a 504 plan. You can read the other parts here: part 1, part 2, and part 3.
By Kate Pece, MEd
A K-12 Idiopathic Hypersomnia Fact Sheet is being developed at this time. We hope to make it available in mid-2017 for parents and students to give to teachers, professional staff, and administrators.
Part 4: Squeaky Wheel Strategies
You completed your child’s 504 meeting and developed a plan, and, in a perfect world, your work would be finished. The reality, however, is that you may need to ensure that all teachers are aware of the accommodations and are consistently implementing them. This is especially critical if your child’s schedule changes or if a new teacher arrives mid-year. Follow these steps to make sure implementation goes smoothly.
After the 504 meeting, get a copy of the finalized 504 plan and send a brief email to the teachers and all other meeting attendees. You should thank them for their time and input and include the list of finalized accommodations. Mention that you will check in occasionally via email for quick updates on your child’s progress and how well the accommodations are meeting his or her needs. It is easier for a teacher to respond with a quick email than it is to remember to contact you regularly.
Ensure implementation by checking in with your child periodically to ask how the accommodations are working. Ask for more information if your child has complaints, but take a breath before going on the warpath. There is another side to the story, and your child may not have accurately assessed the situation. Check in directly with the teacher about potential problems with implementation. If you are concerned that there is a problem that remains unresolved after speaking with the teacher, contact the 504 coordinator. If there is still no resolution, contact the school principal.
Document all of your communication about your child’s 504 plan. To make this easier, communicate primarily via email so that everything is documented. Copy yourself on emails and save all emails from school personnel. If a conversation happens by phone or in person, follow up that day with an email to thank that person for speaking with you and to summarize your conversation. Always communicate calmly and respectfully, follow the chain of command, and attempt to resolve any problems at the lowest level possible. Copying the district superintendent on every email will not work in your favor.
Email the teachers periodically to request feedback on how the accommodations are working. Check in every three to four weeks when the plan is new. Keep your communications brief and meaningful, and don’t expect a long response in return. Your email also provides an opportunity to give positive feedback to teachers; tell them if your child enjoyed the last project, lab, or novel. Also, thank the teachers for any “extras” they may have chosen to provide, such as giving your child an additional day beyond what is required in the 504 plan for submitting an assignment.
If you encounter problems, be respectful and assertive. Make a second contact if you do not get a response within 48 hours. Always follow the chain of command if a problem escalates, and continue to be respectful. Know that, at any time, you may schedule a meeting with individual teachers and the 504 coordinator if needed. You may also request an amendment meeting if changes need to be made to the accommodations in the plan. These steps will resolve most problems if you encounter them, but, if you still have concerns, meet with a private educational consultant to determine if and how to move forward.
Your last responsibility is to prepare for the annual review. Initiate the appointment yourself approximately six weeks before the plan’s anniversary. You may get an appointment quickly, or you may have to wait, but either way, you can ensure that the meeting happens at an appropriate time. No meetings are scheduled during the summer months, and both the first six weeks and last month of the school year are less than ideal times to meet. If possible, avoid meeting the day before a holiday break or the first day back.
At least one week before the annual review meeting, collect any emails from teachers that include useful information about current accommodations. Follow the same process as you did for the eligibility meeting, but this time using the 504 plan accommodations as a point of reference. Ask teachers which accommodations are working well and which may need to be added, modified, or removed. As before, include your child in the process to maximize plan efficacy.