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Support Services » Special/Specific Needs Support

Special/Specific Needs Support

Student Study Team (SST)

The Student Study Team (SST) process is a regular education function. It is a method of reviewing individual student concerns and planning alternative instructional strategies to be implemented in the regular classroom. It is a formalized structure for a group of educators, administrators, and other staff to meet regularly to address concerns about individual students or groups of students.

SSTs are designed to support students both by anticipating and preventing issues before they occur and by providing interventions and/or resources when issues do arise.

The Federal requirement and responsibility for school districts is clearly indicated in regulations - In general education, prior to special education, we must first “develop and implement coordinated, early intervening services… for students who...need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in a general education environment… including scientifically based literacy instruction.” CFR Sec 613(f) (1-2)

Although specialists, such as school psychologists, speech/language specialists, and resource specialists may be involved, the SST is not a special education function and as such is not subject to the associated restrictions and timelines.
 

504 Plans

The Law
 
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504") is Congress’ directive to  schools receiving any federal funding to eliminate discrimination based on disability from  all aspects of school operation. It states, “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….” Because the Santa Clara  Unified School District is a recipient of federal funding, it is required to provide eligible  disabled students with equal access (both physical and academic) to services, programs,  and activities offered by its schools. School districts are mandated to participate in child  find activities and generally comply with the Section 504 child find requirement through  their IDEA child find programs.
 
Section 504 is a civil rights statute and not a special education statute. At each school,  the responsibility for ensuring Section 504 compliance rests with the District, the school’s  Section 504 Site Chairperson and the principal or assistant principal.
 
There are two main purposes to Section 504. The first purpose of Section 504 is to  protect students from discrimination under federal law. Section 504 assures access to  educational services and the learning process that is equal to that given to students who  do not have disabilities. All students who have a physical or mental impairment which  substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such an impairment,  or are regarded as having such an impairment, are protected from discrimination under  Section 504.
 
The second purpose of Section 504 is to provide a free appropriate public education  (“FAPE”) to those students who (1) actually have a physical or mental impairment,  (2) that substantially limits, (3) one or more major life activities. The provision of FAPE is  accomplished through the creation and implementation of Section 504 Service Plan.  Only those students who satisfy all three of these criteria are eligible for, and are  provided, regular or special education and related aids and services under Section 504  (in the form of a Section 504 Service Plan).

The Section 504 Service Plan Evaluation Process
 
The District shall evaluate a student who, because of a disability or suspected disability,  needs, or is believed to need, special education or related services before taking any  action with respect to the initial placement of the student in regular or special education  and any subsequent significant change in placement.
 
The 504 Team
 
The Section 504 Service Plan team is made up of a group of individuals, including  persons knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data being  reviewed, and placement options. The Section 504 Service Plan team will generally  include the parent/guardian and at least one of the student’s general education teachers;  and, may include: other teachers, individuals who can interpret the instructional  implications of the assessment results, SST members, counselors, related service  providers, the student, other school staff and administrators, and individuals who have  knowledge or special expertise regarding the student.  
 
At the Section 504 Service Plan initial team meeting, the team will decide whether the  student is eligible for a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under Section 504  by deciding whether the student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially  limits one or more major life activities. If the team determines that the student is eligible  to receive a FAPE under Section 504, the team will develop a Section 504 Service Plan.  
 
Federal Criteria for Section 504 Eligibility
 
A student shall be eligible for a Section 504 Service Plan if they satisfy all of the following  criteria:
 
(1) Physical or Mental Impairment
A student must actually have a mental or physical impairment. A physical or mental  impairment means: any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or  anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological;  musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs;  cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and  endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation,  organic brain syndrome, emotional, and specific learning disabilities. An impairment  that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life  activity when active. The law does not limit eligibility to specific diseases or  categories of medical conditions.  
 
(2) Substantially Limits  
The student’s physical or mental impairment must substantially limit one or more  major life activities. Section 504 does not specifically define the term “substantially  limits.” It is subject to interpretation on a case-by-case basis. Nevertheless, an  impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life  activities in order to be considered a disability. An impairment that is episodic or in  remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.  
 
Whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without  regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as: medication, medical  supplies, equipment, or appliances, low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary  eyeglasses or contact lenses), prosthetics including limbs and devices, hearing aids  and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or  oxygen therapy equipment and supplies; use of assistive technology; reasonable  accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; or learned behavioral or adaptive  neurological modifications. Thus, the ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures  of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether  an impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

(3) Major Life Activities
Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for one’s self, performing  manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending,  speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and  working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function,  including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth,  digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and  reproductive functions. Learning, reading, concentration, thinking, and communication  are typically, but not always, the major life activities utilized to determine Section 504  eligibility in the schools.  
 
If any of the three criteria is not met, then a Section 504 Service Plan will not be  developed for the student. Keep in mind that while a Section 504 Service Plan might not  be appropriate, other kinds of accommodation plans may be appropriate.  

Accommodations 
 
If a student is determined to be eligible under Section 504, an accommodation plan must be developed and implemented. The district and school must provide what the student needs to access programs and services comparable to that of non-Section 504 students. Accommodations generally involve adjustments made by classroom teachers and other school staff to enable the 504-eligible student to benefit from their educational program. Accommodations are based on and designed to individual student needs and disabilities. Specific standardized test accommodations should be detailed and implemented in the classroom on a regular basis.

Review of Student Progress
 
Services must be documented and reviewed by staff, parents/guardians and persons knowledgeable about the student. Once eligibility has been established and the 504 team is in agreement with accommodations for the student, copies of the document should be

1) placed in the student’s cum file,
2) documented in the student data system and
3) distributed to all staff serving the student.

All staff serving the student should be notified of the student’s eligibility and their role in providing accommodations. The Section 504 Service Plan should then be reviewed on, at least, an annual basis, at which time the parent/guardian should receive a copy of the District's notice of parent/guardian rights and procedural safeguards. At the beginning of each school year, it is important to distribute the Section 504 plan to appropriate new staff responsible for its implementation. Doing so early will not only ensure compliance with Section 504, but will also facilitate the work and responsibilities of the site coordinator. A re-evaluation of the student should occur at least every three years, or before any significant change in placement, including exiting the student from a Section 504 Service Plan. The re-evaluation of a student’s needs for ongoing accommodations may require formal assessment and/or update of the medical condition for which eligibility was met.
 

English Language Learners (ELL)

 
PCS meets all applicable legal requirements for ELL with regard to the Home Language Survey and formalized assessment in language proficiency, including annual notification to parents, student identification, placement, program options, content instruction, and re-classification to fluent English proficient status. PCS maintains and implements policies to assure proper teacher qualifications and training, and proper instruction and program monitoring to evaluate effectiveness. PCS also adheres to the State standardized testing requirements for ELL students. Once students are identified as ELL, they receive specialized instruction by an ELL instructor through individualized learning plans that identify and define strategies, resources, and services needed in accommodating their learning needs. The overreaching goal is for students to acquire proficiency in English, be reclassified as proficient in English, and participate effectively in a curriculum designed for pupils of the same age whose native language is English. This reclassification process utilizes multiple criteria to determine if a pupil is proficient in English.
 

Section 504 Plans

Contact: Isaac Valdez
 
When a student demonstrates an objectively identified physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment, PCS adheres to the provisions within Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Section 504 Team assesses the educational impact of the impairment and the actions needed to provide the student meaningful access to learning within the general curriculum. Based on evaluative data, input from teachers, parent and other professionals, as well as the student’s academic performance history, an accommodation plan is created and distributed to all the student’s current teachers for implementation. The student remains within the regular program and generally does not receive direct services. This plan is reviewed annually, and adjusted as needed.
 

Special Education Services

 
Special education programs, services and placements are provided to all eligible PCS students in accordance with the policies, procedures and requirements of the North Santa Cruz County SELPA and State and Federal laws.
 
If a student meets State/Federal Special Education eligibility criteria as an individual with a primary disability(s) due to identified unique needs, measurable goals are developed through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process. These goals are designed specifically to address the unique learning needs of the student as expressed through the assessment results and are paired with the appropriate supportive services. Such services are provided by a teacher who holds a specialized credential within Special Education and who collaborates with the student’s general education teachers. Services are planned to support growth in the goals developed and in the student’s progress within the general curriculum. The student is educated with both disabled and non-disabled peers and is encouraged, if desired, to participate in extracurricular/non-academic activities by adhering to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and PCS Athletic Policy. With each defined review period, a student’s progress is assessed relative to overall academic learning with the needed accommodations, and program adjustments are made accordingly.
 
PCS provides onsite Special Education services which include: Specialized Academic Instruction (Resource Specialist Program), Speech and Language Services, Secondary Transition Services, and Psychological/ Counseling Services. This list is not exhaustive, as PCS recognizes its obligation to provide or contract for any and all services agreed and consented to in a student’s IEP. Should the student qualify as a student with a low incidence disability (i.e.: visual, hearing, physical impairment), PCS has accessibility to Regionalized Programs within North Santa Cruz County SELPA in securing low incidence services for the student.