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(6.21) When would I file a Section 504 discrimination or harassment complaint with OCR?

(6.21) When would I file a Section 504 discrimination or harassment complaint with OCR?

A parent, other interested person or organization may file a Section 504 complaint whenever a student with a disability does not receive educational benefit from his instructional program that is equal to that received by his nondisabled peers, as a result of the conduct or policy of the district. This includes the situation where a student with a disability is excluded from participation in any federally funded program or activity, such as public education. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 104.4(a).] Schools  generally receive federal funding. A student does not have to have a special

education qualifying disability for you to file a discrimination complaint with OCR against a district. Complaints could include issues related to architectural barriers, “program access” or the failure to implement an agreed upon accommodation plan for a student. Harassment based on a student’s disability is  a form of discrimination. Harassment is intimidation or abusive behavior that creates a hostile environment. See Dear Colleague Letter ___ IDELR ___, (OCR 07/25/00). For a complaint alleging disability-based harassment, OCR requires: 1. The student is bullied based on a disability; 2. The bullying is so serious that  it creates a hostile environment; 3. The school officials know or should know about the bullying; and 4. The school does not respond appropriately. Dear Colleague Letter, Responding to Bullying of Students with Disabilities,64 IDELR 115, (OCR  2014).   

You must file a discrimination complaint within 180 days from the date of the discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by the responsible Department official. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 100.7(b).]

Section 504 complaints may also be filed on behalf of students who are not officially special education students and whose disabilities are not being acknowledged by a school district. This is often the case when a student is excessively suspended for behavioral problems (but is not identified as having a disability) or is suspended for disability-related behaviors. Before a district suspends a non-special education student with a disability for more than a total of 10 days, it must evaluate the student and determine whether the student’s behavior is a manifestation of his disability. [West ContraCostaUnified SchoolDistrict(OCR Region IX, 2004) 42 IDELR 121; Newport-MesaUnified SchoolDistrict(OCR, Region IX, 2004), 43 IDELR 11; SantaBarbaraSchool District(OCR Region IX, 2004) 43 IDELR 172.]