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Consider Best-Practice Tips for Conducting Section 504 Evaluations

Special Ed Connection®

July 8, 2009

Don’t assume all district staff members who might be involved in Section 504 evaluations know the basic legal guidelines outlined in the regulations.

Take time at the beginning of the school year to highlight those guidelines for staff. Also, share with them some best-practice advice on conducting evaluations.


Legal requirements

Mary Colombo, assistant superintendent and Section 504 coordinator for Hopkinton (Mass.) Public Schools, and Julie Fay, a school attorney with Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford, Conn., highlighted the evaluation requirements set out in the 504 regulations. They noted the 504 evaluation should:

· Draw upon information from a variety of sources, including aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social or cultural background and adaptive behavior.

· Establish procedures to ensure information obtained from all such sources is documented and carefully considered.

· Ensure placement decisions are made by a group of persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options.


Best practices

In addition to the legal requirements, Colombo and Fay offered these best-practice tips to share with your staff:

· Invite a school nurse or district physician to attend meetings that involve medical data. Also, invite a school psychologist if psychological reports will be reviewed, Colombo said.

· Implement policies and procedures consistently throughout the district to avoid having different standards at individual schools sites, Fay said.

· Respond to parent-led requests immediately in accordance with district polices and procedures. To start, forward the request and any attachments to the school’s Section 504 coordinator, Colombo said.

· Involve the parent in eligibility determinations, Fay said. This would have gone a long way in helping the district in Milton (MA) Pub. Schs., 52 IDELR 113 (OCR 2008) avoid a 504 violation. In this case, district staff members advised the parent that their policy did not allow for parent participation in eligibility determinations.

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