High School Student's Lack of Effort/Negative Attitude Toward School May Signal Need to Reevaluate and Update 504 Plan

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In Ms. H v. Montgomery County Board of Education, 56 IDELR 268 (May 12,2011) a  U.S. District Court in Alabama ruled that the mother of a high school girl with ADHD had stated a claim that her daughter's frequent tardies, failure to complete work, and refusal to participate in class should have signaled the school district to reevaluate her 504 Plan. The school district had argued that the mother's 504 case should be dismissed because the daughter's academic struggles were due to her poor attitude and participation in school, not her disability. The court noted that the student had a negative attitude and put little effort into her classes.

But the court also noted that the school district had not conducted any new tests or assessments of the student between 2001 and 2009. Moreover, her 504 Plans developed during her freshman, sophomore, and junior years were nearly identical. The judge stated:

"For example, [the student's] plans were barely altered from the beginning of ninth grade through the end of eleventh grade, despite the fact that [the student] had failed classes and graduation examinations during that period."

While, the Judge acknowledged that the girl's lack of success may have been caused by her own actions, the fact that the school district had not reassessed her or modified her 504 Plan for years, supported denying the district's motion to dismiss the mother's claim.

The bottom line is the school district should not just continue the same 504 Plan and level of accommodations, without review, in the face of a student's struggles in school. The student's poor participation is a warning sign that, perhaps, a change is needed in the 504 Plan.