I need help sorting through a Section 504 violation. Please.

Posted on: Tue, 12/13/2005 - 2:13am
Gail W's picture
Offline
Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

Okay. Taking a deep breath... This will be long, and I appreciate anyone who has the willingness to wade through this with me.

Mariah has an extensive 504 plan which was created over the summer in preparation for attending Middle School. This is her first year at Middle School, and so far so good. Very good actually... until yesterday. I will try to recount the events, and would very much appreciate any feedback.

In the morning yesterday, Mariah and I discuss if she is bringing her lunch or buying and I learn (for the first time) that she needs to bring because she "will be eating lunch in the science teacher's classroom for a study session." There is a science test on Tuesday, and apparently the science teacher has generously offered a study session during lunch in her classroom for anyone who wishes to attend.

So, the correspondence begins:
_______________________________________
at [b]7:11 a.m.[/b] I write the following e-mail to the school nurse and to the school counselor (who is the school's Section 504 officer) and copy in the school principal:

[i]"X (school nurse) and Y (school counselor),

Good morning.

Just a heads-up to X that Mariah's younger sister is home today with an extremely nasty stomach virus. Mariah says she's fine, but I have told her that if she feels anything in her stomach to take it as fair warning. If she comes to see you please know it is unrelated to food allergy, and I'll come pick her up.

Mariah says that today she is eating lunch in Ms. S's classroom for a science test review. Y , I'm sure Ms. S has this worked out, but can you tell me please how this will work regarding Mariah's 504/IHP? I don't think this scenario was anticipated. Please call me if we need to figure anything out.

Gail"[/i]

____________________________________________
At [b]10 a.m. [/b]I receive the following e-mail response from the school counselor (principal and school nurse are copied):

[i]I talked to Mrs. S - she will be wiping all tables down before and after
eating. We discussed seating for Mariah - at the end of the U-shaped seating
arrangement, so she will have one person directly next to her. I am going to
ask Mariah how she will be most comfortable addressing the topic of the menu
items of the other students - or maybe just the people sitting near her? I'll
call you! [/i]

____________________________________________
The school counselor calls around [b]10:15-ish [/b]? and we discuss the situation. I state that Mariah's 504 does not address the situation of having lunch in the classroom. She states she isn't sure what the plan states about it, but that "it would be a shame if Mariah's wasn't able to attend". I state that cleaning the desks before hand didn't seem necessary, and I do not want Mariah separated within the classroom. She reassures me that she will talk to Mariah and that this will not happen.
_________________________________________________
As a follow up to that conversation, I immediately write the following e-mail to the school counselor at [b]10:45[/b], and I choose not to copy in anyone due to my strong tone:

[i]"Y,

Thanks for your call--
As I understand it, you'll talk to Mariah and see if sitting at the end is acceptable to her. It is my opinion that the seating is not critical as long as she isn't directly next to anyone eating peanut butter. I believe it is Mariah's right to have access to the classroom/study-session and have access to peer interaction as would any other non-disabled student in the classroom. If it is her preference to sit in a designated seat/area because she is more comfortable with that, then of course that's great. But I would like for her to be able to have input about her seating. It would be problematic if she is not allowed access to this session, or if she is segregated or separated from her peers within the classroom.

Re: cleaning if time is limited, it is more critical that cleaning occur after lunch today so that the desk Mariah sits at tomorrow morning is free of any of today's lunch residue. My reasoning is that, if the 504 plan is operating as it should, the desks will already have been cleaned if food was previously served in the classroom. Does my thinking make sense? Or am I missing something?

At some point we should probably look at Mariah's plan to make sure this is consistent. This situation is bound to come up again and it would be a good idea for Mariah's accommodation plan to state provisions for it...

Thanks again to everyone. I so appreciate your attention to this Y, and am grateful to Ms. S for cleaning so that this is possible.

Gail"[/i]

_____________________________________________
At [b]11 a.m. [/b]I received the following e-mail from the school counselor entitled "we're set":

[i]Talked to Mariah and - Mariah will sit at the end with Rachel A. right
next to her - said they had planned to go together - will wipe before and
after - knows where they will be sitting [/i]

___________________________________________________
At [b]11:03[/b] I send a response to the above e-mail to the school counselor:

[i]"Thank you."[/i]

___________________________________________________
At [b]3:00 [/b]I pick up Mariah after school and she starts crying when she gets in the van. She says that lunch was "terrible" because Mrs. S made a "big deal" about cleaning two desks for her and (her friend) Rachel. That Mrs. S kept asking loudly if anyone had peanut butter, and if they did that they must go out in the hallway to eat. Three students with PB are sent out in the hallway, including one of Mariah's friends Maggie who Mariah says is clearly upset and angry that she is sent out into the hall.

The area that Mrs. S cleaned was on the "boys half" of the room on the end of a "U" shape. According to mariah, when her friend Rachel saw that she and mariah had to sit with the boys, she went to the other side of the classroom, "the girl's side", to sit with friends. Consequently, Mariah sat at the end of a row on the boys side, with no one sitting in a seat next to her.

Mariah says that she spoke to the school counselor before and after lunch. When she told me about this on our way home, she was crying and very upset.

_________________________________________________
At [b]3:10 [/b](while still on our way home), I leave a voice mail message with both the school counselor and school principal. I say that what occurred at school was not acceptable, that Mariah is very upset, and that the 504 Team may need to reconvene to review Mariah's accommodation plan. I left my cell phone number and home number.

______________________________________________
We arrive home at about 4 p.m. and I find the following e-mail response (below in [b]bold[/b])to my earlier e-mail from the school counselor:

[i]On Dec 12, 2005, at[b] 3:24 PM[/b], Y wrote:

Y,

Thanks for your call--
As I understand it, you'll talk to Mariah and see if sitting at the end
is acceptable to her. It is my opinion that the seating is not
critical as long as she isn't directly next to anyone eating peanut
butter. I believe it is Mariah's right to have access to the
classroom/study-session and have access to peer interaction as would
any other non-disabled student in the classroom. If it is her
preference to sit in a designated seat/area because she is more
comfortable with that, then of course that's great. But I would like
for her to be able to have input about her seating. It would be
problematic if she is not allowed access to this session, or if she is
segregated or separated from her peers within the classroom.

[b]I had already talked to her when I received this - and written you - she said
she didn't mind sitting there. She did already have plans to sit with Rachel -
or so I thought.[/b]

Re: cleaning if time is limited, it is more critical that cleaning
occur after lunch today so that the desk Mariah sits at tomorrow
morning is free of any of today's lunch residue. My reasoning is
that, if the 504 plan is operating as it should, the desks will
already have been cleaned if food was previously served in the
classroom. Does my thinking make sense? Or am I missing something?

[b] said she was cleaning the tables before lunch, just as a precaution - they
should have been okay - you weren't missng anything.[/b]

At some point we should probably look at Mariah's plan to make sure
this is consistent. This situation is bound to come up again and it
would be a good idea for Mariah's accommodation plan to state
provisions for it...

Thanks again to everyone. I so appreciate your attention to this Y, and am grateful to Ms. S for cleaning so that this is possible.

[b]I checked with< Mrs. S> after lunch and she said everything went fine but then she
said she asked students who were eating peanut butter to eat in the hall and
not sit by Mariah. I told her this was not necessary since Mariah had a clean
area next to someone who was not eating peanut butter. I thought she knew
everything was okay after I told her about the seating arrangement.

I talked to Mariah and she said it didn't go so well because Rachel sat with
Demi (I guess the plans weren't as firm as she thought they were) on the other
side of the room. Then asked kids who had peanut better to eat elsewhere.
Mariah said she thought one girl was angry because that happened. There were
three who left - I told her I would explain the situation to those kids.

Yes, we need to add something to the plan about lunch in classrooms.

Gotta go to a meeting - talk to you tomorrow.

Y"[/b][/i]

__________________________________________________
About [b]4:00[/b] I send this e-mail to the school counselor in response to the above:

[i]Y,

I'm confused by the time posted on this e-mail. I left you a message on your voice mail at about 3:15, upon picking Mariah up, prior to this message. I am very concerned about what occurred today because, as I stated on your voice mail, Mariah was quite upset when I picked her up after school. The accommodations that we spoke of on the phone did not occur today. The events as described by Mariah are a concern because they are in violation of Mariah's Section 504 plan. This incident reinforces to me the importance of adhering to Mariah's Section 504 accommodations as stated in her accommodation plan. Therefore, I request that you, myself, and meet at your earliest opportunity to review Mariah's accommodation plan.

Thank you,
Gail W[/i]

______________________________________________
At [b]4:06 [/b]I send the following e-mail (subject: question) to Dr. Z, the School District 504 Compliance Officer:

[i]"Question: If Mariah's accommodation plan has been violated, what is the course of action?

Gail"[/i]

___________________________________________
At around 5 or [b]6 p.m.,[/b] I receive a call from the school principal. She was unaware of what happened except from the initial e-mails in which she was copied. I review what happened and my concerns. The school principal and I review, briefly, Mariah's accommodation plan and the principal states that it wasn't really violated because the situation wasn't addressed in the plan. She agrees that there were problems, she apologized, she agreed to find out if any additional study sessions were planned for the lunch period, agreed to some 'damage control' (including speaking with Mariah to find out what she needed to resolve the incident, to speak to the 3 students asked to leave the classroom), and we agreed to meet with Dr. Z to review Mariah's accommodation plan.
__________________________________________________
At [b]7:15 p.m. [/b]I receive this e-mail response from Dr. Z:

[i]"First course of action is to speak with "Y" to see if the
situation can be corrected. If this proves unsuccessful, the next step is to
inform the building administrator so corrections can be made if possible. If
this proves unsuccessful, the next step is to inform the Executive Director of
Student Services - (me). Please refer to the procedural safeguards handout for
more information. If you need another copy, let me know.

Dr. Z
Executive Director - Student Services
* School District "[/i]

----------------------------------------
At [b]10:30 p.m., [/b]after discussing the situation with DH, we sent the following e-mail to Dr. Z:

[i]",

Upon picking Mariah up after school and seeing how very upset she was, I left messages with both Y and . I later received an e-mail from Y, and spoke on the phone with C. As I explained to C, Mariah really likes this teacher and we appreciate the added effort of the teacher to generously provide this extra opportunity during her lunchtime. But the actions today, however well intended to protect Mariah's safety, are not acceptable and have created some "unintended outcomes". Today's incident represents many issues that and I had hoped to avoid at the Middle School:

1. It violated Mariah's accommodation plan
2. It unnecessarily limited Mariah's seating, a violation of LRE, creating a physical segregation from her peers
3. It inappropriately spotlighted her disability to her peers
4. It created resentment from peers who were instructed to leave the classroom to eat

I pointed out to C some inconsistencies in the management of Mariah's food allergies, and my concern about working outside of Mariah's accommodation plan. C agreed to contact you regarding the situation, and it is my understanding that we will meet in the near future (probably after winter break). I learned this evening that also wants to attend this meeting.

Thank you,
Gail W"[/i]

_______________________________________________
That's where I'm currently at. No word from anyone today.

Can anyone willing to wade through this offer me any suggestions? Am I making myself clear? Is there anything I need to point out?

[This message has been edited by Gail W (edited December 13, 2005).]

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