25th Annual Fall Southwest Section 504 Conference (Hybrid Style)
For Fall 2021, we've prepared an in-person option at our new Conference Home if you are ready to mask up and travel...
Having outgrown our old home, we've moved to the Kalahari Resorts in Round Rock (just north of Austin). Attendees will enjoy significantly more elbow room, a variety of choices for in-hotel dining, more guest rooms available at the Conference Rate... and admission to the largest indoor waterpark in the United States for registered hotel guests. We'll be practicing safe conferencing with masks required of all attendees.
...And an option if you don't want to travel or don't feel safe doing so.
A week after the in-person conference, we'll begin the virtual conference. Registrants will be able to see all of the sessions via pre-recorded video except the two Q&A's with Dave and Jose. Two Q&A's will be scheduled during the conference window dedicated to live questions from virtual conference attendees.
Among the benefits of a virtual conference is the ability for an attendee to see every session and do so at a convenient time during our conference window. Beginning on November 22, 2021, registered attendees will be able to stream sessions in any order they wish, as many times as they wish, during the following three weeks until the virtual conference concludes on December 14, 2021.
Will I have to lug around that heavy conference notebook? Do Virtual Attendees get access to materials?
The bulky notebooks are gone. Attendees at both the in-person Conference and Virtual Conference will get all that conference content you love ( PowerPoint slides, links, and other resources) with a single PDF that you can download and follow during the conference on your electronic device. If you'd rather have it on paper, you can print any or all of the materials, make your notes on them, and still have a PDF to print a clean copy if you'd like. The notebook will be available for registered attendees to download from Dropbox or Google Drive during the week preceding the in-person conference.
What happened to the Pre-Conference for folks new to Section 504?
CESD's Section 504 Pre-Conference was a very well-attended add-on for folks new to Section 504 and those who wanted to brush up on the basics. After looking at the complexity of the topics we typically cover at the conference, we decided a couple of pre-conference sessions were insufficient to provide the foundation necessary to fully enjoy the Fall Conference. We've replaced that optional half day with the Section 504 Foundation Series, a six video collection with Dave and Jose covering the 504 basics.
The following videos are included:
- The Role of the Section 504 Coordinator: Developing and Implementing Compliance-Oriented Section 504 Programs
- Comparison & Contrast: Section 504/ADA vs. IDEA
- An Overview of the Section 504 Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) Process
- Section 504 Nondiscrimination in Extracurricular & NonAcademic Activities
- Does the 504 Plan Have to Include THAT? Using Data to Create the Plan
- Section 504 Behavior Management & Discipline
Purchase of the Foundation Series allows the individual registered to access each of the videos of often as she'd like, as many times as she'd like, for three weeks beginning with the first use of the email-provided login.
Foundation Series at a Special Conference Price
The bundle price of $300 is reduced to $180 during our Texas Dyslexia Conference and Fall Section 504 Conference when purchased together with a conference registration for either event. The discount is added in your Conference Registration Cart. Get the Series for every member of your team!
Any Dyslexia or Section 504 registration will allow the purchase of the Foundation Series for as many of your colleagues as you'd like at the special rate. Just make sure you have their email addresses and cell phone numbers to complete the registration process.
2021 Section 504 Conference Agenda
In person: Nov. 15-16, 2021 Virtual: Nov. 22-December 14, 2021
Section 504 General Sessions (75 minutes each)
Topics and Speakers subject to change.
Establishing & Maintaining an Effective Section 504 Child Find Radar—Jose Martín, Attorney at Law, Richards Lindsay & Martín, L.L.P.
Perhaps the most important legal duty under §504 is its child-find obligation. A student not identified for evaluation under §504 receives no formalized accommodations, services, or modifications to policy under a §504 Plan. Moreover, child-find leads to eligible students being extended the key non-discrimination protections of the law, as well as its process-based safeguards. This session will address how Section 504 child-find consists of a coordinated set of activities that acts like a “radar” that is continuously at work to identify students that might be disabled and in need of §504 services.
Subtopics will include the legal trigger for §504 referral, the mechanics of setting up the “radar,” including coordinating with RtI teams, coordinating with school nurses, interplay with special education DNQs and dismissals, necessary notices, methods of dissemination, website information, and outreach efforts with local pediatricians, homeless shelters, Head Start, and other child-centered agencies. Moreover, the session will dispel serious yet common misconceptions about Section 504 child-find that continue to hamper efforts at full and effective identification of the Section 504 populations.
Doctors, Medical Data & Section 504—David Richards, Attorney at Law, Richards Lindsay & Martín, L.L.P.
Doctors can provide important information to Section 504 Committees as they make determinations of eligibility and need for services under Section 504. Doctors do not, however, determine whether a child is eligible under Section 504 nor can they determine a student’s educational placement under Section 504. Unfortunately, mythology persists among educators about the necessity for, and weight to be given medical data and doctor’s communications during Section 504 evaluation and placement. In this lively session, we’ll debunk the myth that a doctor’s diagnosis is necessary for eligibility and talk about the financial burden placed on the school that takes such a position (and the possible negative impact on child find).
We will analyze OCR’s long-standing recognition of the 504 Committee’s ability to determine physical or mental impairments in the absence of diagnosis, and examine situations where schools should have looked to medical data but did not. Other topics for discussion include determining the weight to be given medical data (i.e., when is the doctor opining on educational issues or other matters beyond her medical expertise), what happens when the school is denied access to the medical data it needs to make decisions, OCR’s concerns with respect to parents pursuing evaluation data at their own expense, and OCR’s guidance on the presumption of eligibility created by the rare top-shelf medical diagnoses of ADHD.
Section 504 Marches On: Update on Recent Caselaw and OCR Letters—Jose Martín, Attorney at Law.
As we (hopefully) emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruption it has wrought on public schools, Section 504 compliance concerns and efforts trod on undeterred. This session will review the most recent §504 cases to get into the books and update attendees on some particular happenings unique to Texas. Although new case decisions are being issued as this is written, subtopics will include potential changes to dyslexia assessment and identification in revisions to the Dyslexia Handbook, moving the decision on which law should cover a child with dyslexia from child-find to the post-evaluation stage, the increasing frequency of retaliation claims against districts by parents and school staff, the continuing emergence of money damages actions using a bad faith/gross misjudgment analysis, new OCR decisions touching on COVID compensatory services and pandemic-related issues, the potential need to develop individualized remote/online learning options for students with medical conditions that place them at high risk if infected with COVID, and the ever-present cases addressing whether a §504 student should or should not have been referred to special education, among others.
Non-Discrimination Update: Disability Harassment, Service Animals, ADA Effective Communication & Other Select Issues—David Richards, Attorney at Law.
The public school’s Section 504 obligations go beyond the provision of a FAPE to eligible students. Section 504 is a civil rights law—a law focused on ensuring qualified individuals with a disability equality of opportunity to participate and benefit compared to nondisabled peers. In this session, we’ll focus on some of those nondiscrimination duties that may or may not implicate FAPE. We’ll look at the latest disability harassment cases and decisions, together with an analysis of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on student cyber-speech to find guiding principles when dealing with the modern scourge of disability harassment via text, email, and other online media. We’ll catch up on the latest service animal litigation and look to see whether the relatively clear language of the Department of Justice’s service animal regulations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is being followed in the courts and at the U.S. Department of Education or if the expansion of public school duties threatened in the early years of the regulations quietly continues. Finally, we’ll examine the latest litigation on the ADA’s Effective Communication regulations applicable to students with vision, hearing, and speech impairments to determine how the U.S. Department of Education’s seven year old guidance letter has impacted the provision of services to students receiving to both IDEA FAPE and equally effective communication under the ADA.
Section 504 Live Q&A
In-Person: Live Q&A with conference faculty on November 15 and 16, 2021.
Virtual Conference: Two live-streamed Q&A events will be announced during the virtual conference window.
Section 504 Breakout Sessions (60 minutes each)
Topics and Speakers subject to change.
Section 504 & Students with Chronic Physical Impairments—Jose Martín, Attorney at Law
Schools inevitably have to deal with situations where students suffer from chronic health impairments that require services in the school setting in order to facilitate them an equal opportunity to attend and learn. This session will address the panoply of legal issues that these situations generate, including determining which students with health conditions should be referred to §504, dealing with students on some form of written health plan but not identified under §504, understanding OCR’s position on health plan students and §504, handling complexities in addressing the needs of students with diabetes when there are differences of opinion on how to meet their needs, the issue of attendance and under which circumstances districts must modify attendance policies to prevent disability discrimination, and practical ideas on language of terms and provisions that might be included in §504 plans, among others. Recent relevant cases will serve to illustrate the legal landscape of these situations and provide ideas on how to prevent §504 liability.
Section 504 Questions that Won’t Go Away—David Richards, Attorney at Law.
We get a lot of Section 504 questions at the conference and as we speak around the country. Interestingly, some questions have persisted over the years and don’t seem to go away. In this lively session, Dave will provide a list of his favorites. Included in the session are these classics: can a slow learner be eligible under Section 504?; can a student have both an IEP and a 504 Plan simultaneously (what if the student is speech only?, what if the student is LD under special ed, but also has an allergy?); What’s the public school’s obligation with respect to evaluation and services for students in private schools and homeschools?; What is Section 504’s obligation with respect to a student for whom special education services have been revoked OR when the student is determined IDEA-eligible and the parents have refused special education services?; Why doesn’t RtI work the same way with Section 504 and special education?; how many students should my school have identified as Section 504 eligible?; what do we do when a student enrolls in the school with a Section 504 plan? (AND what if the 504 Plan looks really weird?). We’ll cover those questions and more, together with audience favorites as time allows.
Section 504 Compliance: A School District Section 504 Coordinator’s Lens—Julie L. Hall-Panameño, Director, Educational Equity Compliance Office, Los Angeles Unified School District.
Hear an overview of Section 504 compliance from the lens of a practitioner in a large urban school district. Sharings will include strategies for success, lessons learned and practical resources.
Mechanics of the Section 504 Meeting—Debbie Gauntt, Director of Intervention Services, Coppell ISD.
This session is designed to highlight the essentials of successful Section 504 meetings including initials, annuals, and re-evaluations. The importance of considering details that occur before, during and after a meeting that ensure compliance, effective communication and meaningful collaboration will be discussed. This session is ideal for beginners as well as the seasoned 504 veteran looking for a few fresh ideas to take back home. This session is all about sharing trade essentials from one 504 leader to another that include basic as well as complicated scenarios we encounter throughout the year.
Mental Impairments & Section 504—David Richards, Attorney at Law.
It’s a simple fact: Section 504 Committees tend to be more comfortable working with physical impairments than mental impairments. In this lively session, we’ll focus on the source of that discomfort—making eligibility and placement decisions for mental impairments such as anxiety, depression, trauma, and school phobia, often without a diagnosis or data from a mental health professional to consider. What does the Committee need to see by way of evaluation data? Can the Committee make a determination that the student has a mental impairment if no doctor or mental health professional has done so? How can the Committee determine services without that data? If the student’s mental condition requires home instruction, what should the school be doing in addition to instruction to ready the student’s return at the appropriate time?
We’ll also consider a common but significant concern: how can we distinguish between mental impairment and a student’s age-appropriate, nondisability-related response to abuse or some other tragic or horrifying situation? Finally, we’ll discuss the impact of pandemic, quarantine, return to school and the likelihood that some students with mental impairments will present with more significant or complex needs, and that some students will return demonstrating signs of impairments that weren’t observed before the pandemic.
A Practical Approach to Section 504 Behavior Management & Discipline—Jose Martín, Attorney at Law.
Over more than 40 years, the law has sculpted a set of rules that protect students with disabilities from both discriminatory long-term disciplinary removals and excessive use of short-term removals that can jeopardize their right to FAPE. From these two key underlying policies spring the maze of rules that govern disciplinary removals of §504 students. Using a practical simplified approach, this fast-paced session will set out the key common denominator rules and preventive measures, and provide helpful strategies to prevent legal problems involving discipline and behavior.
Subtopics will include strategies to comply with the limitations on short-term removals, effective use of in-school suspensions, preventive §504 meetings to address behavior, the importance of monitoring all forms of disciplinary removals, early informal assessment of a student’s behavior (akin to the functional behavior assessment process of IDEA), drafting common-sense behavior intervention plans, enlisting the informal assistance of LSSPs and/or behavior specialists, understanding the rules on drugs and alcohol under §504, properly conducting manifestation determination reviews (MDRs) under §504, and a review of recent cases on behavior and discipline.
An Insider’s Perspective: Tips and Strategies for Dealing with OCR Complaints and Investigations—Chris Shulz, Attorney at Law.The ominous-looking letter from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is forwarded to you from the Superintendent’s office: an OCR complaint investigation alleging disability discrimination in violation of §504. Although this can happen to §504 Coordinators, there are ways to respond to OCR complaints that maximize your possibility of an acceptable outcome.In this session, a veteran disability attorney gives you an inside perspective of the OCR complaint process, as well as tips on how to manage the complaint, including securing statements from key staffpersons, collecting records, asking for additional time to respond, determining the merits of the complaint with school counsel, working to develop appropriate defenses, knowing when to negotiate a voluntary resolution, negotiating the agreement and monitoring timelines, knowing when to allow the complaint process to take its course, preparing staff for potential interviews with the OCR investigator, and other practical strategies for making the best of the complaint process.