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Expert Q&A

What can we put in the 504 Plan to make sure that my son is not punished for symptoms of his ADHD?

I am hoping that other parents also have this question. I am a Reading Specialist and I thought that I covered the bases with my son’s 504 Plan, but I was wrong. He was forced to write his name repetitively on several occasions for forgetting to put his name his paper — that was until the teacher realized it wasn’t working. Then she just made him miss part of his recess.

It was the end of the year and my hands were tied because it wasn’t in his 504 that he couldn’t be punished for this. I do not want him punished for anything relating to symptoms of his ADHD. How can I word this in his 504 to prevent this in the coming years?

I never thought a teacher would punish any child this way. I taught for 14 years and never felt it was appropriate for any child just by the very nature of punishment and reward. I can’t help other children, but I can certainly make sure this doesn’t happen to mine again.


Dear Andrea:

As a general matter, students should not be punished for academic problems due to their disability. However, your son’s Section 504 Plan, or those of other students, need to be specific and detailed in describing the student’s disability and the ways the disability impacts their academic and non-academic performance.

This sort of repetitive writing task is a throwback to educational practice decades ago, regardless of disability law. However, if the student is forgetting to do something necessary to complete an assignment, that should be identified as a problem area and should be addressed in the 504 Plan.

Under the IDEA, and implicitly under Section 504, schools should address both academic non-compliance and behavioral non-compliance through the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports as much as possible. For example, your son may need instruction on how to develop a routine for checking to make sure the assignment is complete, including having his name. An incentive structure might be helpful to motivate him to pay attention to this task.

It may also be appropriate for the plan to include that the teacher will monitor the assignments to verify that they are complete, rather than punishing the student. If there are actions being taken by the school that the parent disagrees with, these should be raised with the school. While the school may not agree, it is often helpful to include in the 504 plan both what the school will do proactively and those actions or interventions that the school should not do, such as excluding the child from recess.

Notably, the IDEA and Section 504 both provide protection not only in relation to academic activities, but non-academic and extracurricular activities as well. There may be an argument that the failure to appropriately accommodate the possible problem with work completion was also resulting in unfair exclusion from recess or other non-academic activities.

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