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Expert Q&A

Can a child qualify for modifications under Section 504 if he is passing his classes?

Dear Mr. Cohen,

My husband and I just came back from our son’s annual ARD meeting. In third grade, following testing, he qualified for special education services due to dyslexia, a LD in written and oral expression, and ADHD. Now in the fifth grade, retesting shows that he no longer qualifies for special ed services (although reading skills remain below normal) and he has been dismissed.

I am requesting 504 accommodations (duplicate books for at home, written assignments from his teachers, copies of class notes, extended time for class work and test taking, having the state assessment math test read to him, etc). The school is telling us that he may not qualify for a 504 because his grades are all passing and he passed the standardized assessment test last year without accommodations. My husband and I feel the reason he does fine at school is because we make sure all homework is complete and correct and because of all the re-dos he is allowed to do.

I have done quite a bit of reading on 504s and have not seen anywhere that a student has to be failing to qualify for a 504. Does a dyslexic, LD, ADHD student who is of average to above average intelligence and compensates for his disabilities well have to be failing to qualify for a 504?


Dear Judy:

Your question addresses whether a child may be eligible for a Section 504 Plan if he or she is getting passing grades. There is nothing in Section 504 which limits eligibility based on the receipt of passing grades. In parallel to the interpretation of IDEA, passing grades are only one indicator of whether a child is functioning appropriately at school. There are a variety of other measures that may indicate that a child’s disability is adversely affecting school functioning, even if the child is getting passing grades. Further, as you know, grades are often very subjective and do not necessarily reflect actual mastery of a particular topic.

On the other hand, if available evidence, including, but not limited to, passing grades, shows that the child is functioning well, the child may not be eligible for services, as there does have to be a substantial impact on activities such as learning. Finally, you may wish to review my answer to Lisa, in the prior question and answer, as the new IDEA contains provisions which broaden the scope based on eligibility of educational functioning to include developmental and functional impairment, as well as academic impairment. This provides opportunities for eligibility and services under IDEA, which may have been more ambiguous in the past.

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