Inaccurate and Outdated Training Information Results in 504 Violation

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     The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that a training manual used by an educational service agency to train school district staff regarding 504 contained  numerous erroneous statements of the law including incorrect 504 eligibility standards (St. Clair County (MI) Regional Education Service Agency, June 3, 2009, 53 IDELR 238).

     The situation arose when a school principal unilaterally (and erroneously) terminated the 504 plan of a student with asthma on the basis that the student was ineligible because his asthma did not impact his education. When the student's parent complained, the principal showed the parent a copy of a manual he had received at a training session provided in 2008 by the county Regional Educational Service Agency. The Educational Service Agency served several school districts and regularly held training sessions and provided legal advice to the districts. The parent complained to OCR which found the manual was outdated and inaccurate. 

    The Educational Service Agency explained to OCR that it was in the process of updating its training manuals to align with the ADA Amendments Act. The Office for Civil Rights, however, found that the current manuals were still being used to guide the agency's decisions and training. The training materials were outdated in light of the ADA Amendments Act, which took effect in January 200. The outdated statements  included the definition of substantial limitation and the use of mitigating measures in determining  disability.

     Moreover, the manuals misstated the 504 standard for a free appropriate public education and inadequate procedural safeguards. Specifically, the manuals defined the definition of disability too narrowly and did not specify that a reevaluation is required before, as here, a student's placement is terminated or significantly changed.

     In order to resolve OCR's findings, the agency signed a resolution agreement requiring it to develop and distribute (subject to OCR's review) new training materials that specifically addressed the deficiencies in the previous materials.