Does WHS neglect 504s?


Tara Smith, Editor

In our Lancer community, a group of students is accommodated with 504 plans to assist them in getting the most out of their learning. A portion of the student body from 90-100 people are accommodated with 504 plans to enhance their education experience. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is designed to ensure that a child who has a disability under the law, ranging from ADHD to migraines, and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations. These students must be accommodated in school to be given equal opportunities as their peers to give them the best educational environment possible to learn and grow in. People with disabilities like ADHD and migraines struggle to focus and stay productive in the same way as their peers meaning that it is essential for them to be given all the accommodations they need to succeed in the same way as their peers

504 plans help students in many ways. Nina Fioravanti is a senior here at WHS who takes a variety of classes, including many AP-level courses. She finds that her 504 plan helps her succeed at school. Knowing that she has more time on assignments helps relieve some of the stress regarding deadlines. Fern Hill, a sophomore, is in standard classes. Hill shares similar sentiments to Fioravanti stating, “Yes, I think the 504 plan has helped me feel more comfortable with completing my work and knowing if I need a break I can take one.” Fioravanti breaks down the main aspects of her 504 plan: extra time for tests, quizzes, projects, essays, etc. Fioravanti needs these accommodations to be able to complete assignments that are her best work and not something she had to throw together at the last minute due to  the stress of meeting the deadline that is assigned to her peers. She says for the most part her teachers have followed her 504 plan, however, a large part of her 504 plan is being able to clearly understand Google Classroom posts and assignments. A teacher of hers has a particularly confusing Google Classroom organization system. When Fioravanti spoke up, the teacher said they couldn’t change their entire system just for one student. Fioravanti voiced frustration saying, “it’s in my 504 plan, so legally they have to change it if it’s causing an issue.” Hill similarly offers that most teachers follow their 504 plan, but unfortunately, some do not. Hill says, “I have had one teacher tell me that they ‘don’t believe in 504 plans’ and even after I asked for more time on an assignment, they refused and gave me a bad grade for it because I didn’t have enough to complete it.”

Self-advocating is something many 504 students are forced to do to succeed at our school. Hill shares that they understand “the school wanting us to be independent with telling teachers about when we need certain accommodations,” while also recognizing the stressful situations it can put students under when a teacher denies the plan or acts annoyed when a student requests a break or more time. Fioravanti recounts when she was about to take the PSAT she learned that her accommodations had not been submitted to the College Board, meaning she would not get the extended time she was entitled to. She explains that the guidance counselors encourage students to just try the PSAT without their accommodations and see how it goes because it doesn’t count for anything. It was not clearly stated to Fioravanti that she had to specifically request her accommodations and her mom laid into the administration about the gravity of the oversight and she ended up simply not attending the PSAT. Both students identify that sometimes students are forced to self-advocate for themselves when they shouldn’t have to. Teachers respecting students’ 504 accommodations is a critical aspect of the students’ educational experiences. Fioravanti has heard from many other students that teachers have blatantly denied students their accommodations.

The way a teacher handles and respects a student’s accommodations is key to the wellbeing of that student. Hill says that most of their teachers are accepting of their 504 plan. Fioravanti states that no teacher has ever really gone out of their way to accommodate her 504 plan because they have to meet her needs. She says, “Teachers are legally obligated to follow a 504 plan to the letter and if they don’t then I’m legally within my right to sue the school for discrimination and the teacher could get fired.” Fioravanti makes a point that a teacher simply fulfilling their legal obligation is never them going out of their way for her. Hill shares that teachers like Mrs. Castleberry, Mr. Wheeler, and Mr. Uscilla have always been super understanding when they have struggled with focusing on work and have always offered a helping hand. 

Both Fioravanti and Hill share similar ideas revolving around improvements that can be made involving 504 plans here at WHS. Fioravanti says that improvement is necessary: “I really think that it should be a guidance counselor’s responsibility to inform a teacher of a student’s accommodations and stress the importance of following it to the letter.” Hill shares, “Possibly a class or after school meeting with teachers to remind them of the importance of 504 plans.” 

504 plans are necessary for students to get the best learning experience they can here at our school and it is unacceptable if teachers do not respect and follow these plans to ensure the success of their students.