Section 504 Grievance Procedures

School districts should have a written grievance procedure to address alleged complaints of discrimination under Section 504. Section 504 regulations require such a procedure if the district has at least 15 employees. This procedure can serve as a mechanism for resolving Section 504 complaints in lieu of the costly involvement of OCR, due process hearings, and courts (34 CFR §104.7).

The pertinent Section 504 regulations only provide that the grievance procedures incorporate “appropriate due process standards” and be “prompt and equitable.” The following checklist provides best practices criteria for 504 grievance procedures (34 CFR §104.7):

  • The district has adopted an appropriate grievance procedure.
  • The district shows that this procedure is generally available (e.g., in a parent handbook).
  • The procedure extends to not only student education issues, but also any individual’s complaint relating to the other applicable aspects of Section 504, including nonacademic services, preschool and adult education programs, employment, and facilities (including communications).
  • The district’s grievance procedure is separate from and not confused with other complaint-resolution mechanisms, such as a student’s right to an impartial Section 504 due process hearing and any individual’s right to file an OCR complaint.
  • The procedure has a minimum of two, preferably three, levels, typically starting with a relatively informal step and ending with a formal central office (or in small districts, school board) appellate decision.
  • The procedure includes expeditious and adequate investigation by the designated Section 504 coordinator.
  • The procedure specifies time lines (e.g., five working days) for prompt processing of complaints with a written reply to the grievant at each level.
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MYTH: Under Section 504 parents have the right to an independent educational evaluation (IEE) at public expense.

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