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 of any type such as denial of a free appropriate public education, disability harassment, discrimination based on race, color, or national origin, sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, etc. 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 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 non-discrimination policies: Assistant Superintendent for Operational Services. They may be contacted by mail at 414 S. Pine St, Walhalla SC 29691 or by phone at 864-886- 4400.
1. Complete the Section 504/ADA Grievance Form.
2. Present the Form to the school principal.
3. The principal or his/her designee will investigate the concern within five school days. If more time is required, the complainant will be notified.
4. The District 504 Coordinator will ensure that the individual investigating the complaint does not have a conflict of interest. The individual filing the complaint must contact the District 504 Coordinator if there is concern regarding the impartiality of the principal or his/her designee as the primary investigator.
5. A provision for the adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation of complaints, including the opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence will be provided.
6. The principal/designee will contact you following the investigation for an appointment to discuss the concern.
7. A written summary from the meeting will be provided to the complainant by the principal within five school days following the meeting.
8. If the grievance is not resolved, the grievant may submit an appeal in writing within five school days to the District 504 Coordinator.
9. The District 504 Coordinator will review the documentation and contact the complainant within five school days of receiving the information for an appointment to discuss the matter. A written summary will be provided within five school days following the meeting.
10. If the grievance is still not resolved, the grievant may submit an appeal in writing within five school days to the Superintendent. At the Superintendent’s discretion, a meeting with the complainant and the Section 504 Coordinator may be requested. The Superintendent will provide a written letter of determination to the complainant within ten school days after the receipt of a written appeal.
11. The results of the investigation (including witness statements, interviews, documentary evidence, and analysis of the evidence in support of the conclusion) will be documented and maintained electronically in a 504 Complaint File.
12. If the complainant continues to be dissatisfied with the outcome of the district level appeals of the above procedures or the Section 504 Committee, the following options are available.
Additional Appeal Options
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 who wish to challenge a decision of the 504 Committee shall file a written notice of appeal with the Section 504 Education Coordinator within 10 calendar days of the date of the notice of the 504 Committee decisions with which they disagree. Failure to request an impartial hearing within 10 days will not result in a denial of an impartial hearing unless the relief requested by the parents could not be granted.
Within 30 calendar days of receiving the written notice of appeal, the Section 504 Education Coordinator will schedule a hearing with an impartial hearing officer. The Section 504 Education 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 tape records the proceedings, the parents are entitled to receive a copy of the tape 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.
If the parents or guardians disagree with the decision of the impartial hearing officer, they may seek a review of the decision by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Parents or guardians 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, DC 20202-1475
Parents or guardians are not required to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights or request that the District hold an impartial hearing. Parents or guardians may file suit directly in any court of competent jurisdiction alleging a violation of Section 504.
A parent may wish to mediate a dispute under Section 504 with District personnel rather than request an impartial hearing, file an OCR complaint or file suit. If so, the parent should contact the District Section 504 Education Coordinator.
Note: The form below is accessible on the district website located under”Forms”.