Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require districts to establish a grievance procedure that incorporates due process standards and provides for prompt and equitable resolution. The following procedure should be followed if any person, student who has reached the age of majority, or parent disagrees with any actions of the 504 Committee, has a concern regarding the implementation of the documented accommodations in the Section 504 plan, or believe they are the victim of discrimination such as denial of a free appropriate public education, disability harassment, discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. Section 504 provides: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). See 34 CFR Part 104 (Section 504 implementing regulations).
The identity of a complainant will be kept confidential except to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of conducting any investigation, hearing, or judicial proceeding that may arise. Complainants and persons that participate in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing are protected from retaliatory acts such as intimidation, coercion, threats, or discrimination for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The School District of Oconee County does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs and activities and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the nondiscrimination policies: Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. He/she may be contacted by mail at 414 S. Pine St, Walhalla SC 29691, by phone at 864-886-4400 or by email at email@example.com.
DUE PROCESS RIGHTS
If the parents of a student or a student who has reached the age of majority disagree with any actions of the 504 Committee regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a student, they have the right to an impartial hearing in which they may participate and be represented by counsel.
Parents or a student who has reached the age of majority who wish to challenge a decision of the 504 Committee shall file a written notice of appeal with the District Section 504 Coordinator within fifteen calendar days of the decision(s) with which they disagree or upon the date of exhaustion (date of Superintendent’s written determination letter) of the district level appeals process. A written notice may be submitted electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org, by US mail and/or hand delivered to the office of the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction at 414 S. Pine St. Walhalla, SC 29691.
Within 30 calendar days of receiving the written notice of appeal, the Section 504 Coordinator will schedule a hearing with an impartial hearing officer. The Section 504 Coordinator will provide written notice to the parents of the date, time and place for the hearing, as well as their right to participate and be represented by counsel. The hearing officer may reschedule the hearing upon good cause shown by either party.
The impartial hearing officer shall not be an employee of the District, shall not be a member of the Board of Trustees, and shall not be related to any member of the Board of Trustees in a degree that would be prohibited under the nepotism statute. The impartial hearing will be provided at no cost to the parent. The fact that the District pays the fee for the impartial hearing officer does not make that person an employee of the District, or partial. It is not required that the impartial hearing officer be an attorney; however, the impartial hearing officer should be someone familiar with the requirements of Section 504.
The hearing will be conducted in an informal and nonadversarial manner. The rules of evidence and procedure do not apply. However, the hearing officer may limit any evidence from either party which he or she believes to be irrelevant to the issues or redundant. A written transcript of the proceedings will not be provided. If the District records the proceedings, the parents or student that has reached the age of majority are entitled to receive a copy of the recording at a reasonable cost.
The party requesting the hearing (the petitioner) will present relevant information to the hearing officer about the issues in question through oral or written testimony. The petitioner may question the petitioner's own witness or persons present for the responding party (respondent). The responding party may then present relevant information to the hearing officer in the same manner. The hearing officer has the discretion to ask questions and direct the flow of evidence as he or she deems relevant to the issues.
At the close of the hearing, the impartial hearing officer will render a decision at that time, if possible. If the impartial hearing officer wishes to take the evidence under advisement, a decision will be rendered within 15 calendar days of the close of the hearing. The decision will be in writing and will explain the impartial hearing officer's decision and the evidence on which it is based. Formal findings of fact and conclusions of law are not required.
Parents, guardians, a student that has reached the age of majority who believe that the District has violated the provisions of Section 504 are entitled to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. The Regional Office of Civil Rights which has jurisdiction of South Carolina can be contacted as follows:
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington D.C. 20202-1475
Parents, guardians, or a student that has reached the age of majority are not required to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights or request that the District hold an impartial hearing. Complainants may file suit directly in any court of competent jurisdiction alleging a violation of Section 504.
A parent, guardian, or student that has reached the age of majority may wish to mediate a dispute under Section 504 with district personnel. If so, contact the District Section 504 Coordinator.
Note: The form below is accessible on the district website located under”Forms”.