Students who are eligible under Section 504 have certain additional protections when charged with a violation of the Code of Student Conduct which may result in a suspension or expulsion that constitutes a significant change in placement. Similar to suspension or expulsion of a student with a disability under the IDEA, it is necessary to conduct a manifestation determination for a Section 504 student when:
· The suspension or expulsion will be for more than 10 consecutive school days; or
· The student has been subjected to a series of suspensions that total more than 10 school days in a school year and a pattern of exclusion exists. Whether a series of suspensions creates a pattern of exclusion is determined on a case-by-case basis taking into account the following factors: the length of each suspension, the proximity of the suspensions to one another, the similarity of the behavior that resulted in the removals, and the total amount of time the student is excluded from school.
If either of the situations above applies, then the District is required to conduct a manifestation determination before any significant change in student's placement may occur. The manifestation determination should be conducted within 10 school days of the decision to change the student's placement. The parent must be invited to participate in the meeting and provided a copy of the Section 504 Notice of Procedural Safeguards (Form C). The purpose of the manifestation determination is to review whether the student's misconduct was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student's disability; or whether the conduct was a direct result of the District's failure to implement the student's Section 504 plan. (Form O).
This determination should be made by a group of persons knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of evaluation data, placement options, the student's Section 504 Plan, and the disciplinary incident. In making its determination, the 504 Team must review all relevant information in the student's file, the student's Section 504 plan, any teacher observations of the student, and relevant information provided by the parent.
If the 504 Team concludes that the student's conduct is a manifestation of the student's disability, the student must remain in (or be returned to) his/her current educational placement, unless the parent and the District agree to change the student's placement. If the 504 Team concludes that the student's conduct is not a manifestation of the student's disability, the District may apply the relevant disciplinary procedures applicable to all students. Unlike the IDEA, there is no requirement to provide a student whose conduct is not a manifestation of the student's disability educational services during a disciplinary change in placement unless services are provided to similarly-situated non-disabled students.
Please note that Section 504 allows a student to be disciplined, without going through the manifestation determination review process, when the infraction results from the student's current illegal use of drugs or alcohol in violation of the Code of Student Conduct.
In the case of a Section 504 student who carries or possesses a weapon to or at school, on school premises, or to or at a school function, the District may place the student in an interim alternative educational setting for up to 45 school days if a student without a disability would be similarly disciplined. The Section 504 team must meet to develop the interim alternative educational setting after evaluating the student as described in this Manual. The interim alternative educational setting must be educationally appropriate and the services provided must enable the student to continue to progress in the general curriculum. The interim alternative educational setting must also address the behavior prompting the disciplinary action.