New ADA regulations increase school district responsibilities, cases filed and potential liabilities

New federal regulations governing areas such as service-animal access to the school environment, accessible and companion seating in school arenas and theaters, and use of motorized carts became final on March 15. KSBA provided an overview of these new regulations last fall at its Annual Section 504 Conference. The new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions specifically amended the Section 504 responsibilities of governmental entities.

Since the new ADA statute became effective in January 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has seen an increase in employment discrimination cases filed on the basis of disability from 19,453 in 2008 to 21,451 in 2009 and then upward to 25,165 in 2010. New employment regulations to implement the ADA statute are slated to be finalized within the next few months.

In 2010, KSBA began an ADA Newsletter to help districts address their new ADA responsibilities, because of the continuing changes as these new regulations become effective and litigation over new rights ensues. Under the new ADA law, more individuals will qualify for protection, since impairment no longer must be “substantial” to qualify a staff member or a student as disabled under Section 504. Another example of change is that the IEP or 504 team no longer determines whether a student may bring a service animal to school.

It is vital that school district administrators understand responsibilities to make accommodations to staff, students, and the public under the new ADA rules. KSBA strongly encourages districts to take advantage of our low-cost ADA Newsletter and annual Section 504 Conference. One day of this conference is devoted to school district responsibilities to accommodate staff members and members of the public who are invited to school activities; the second day is devoted to responsibilities to students who qualify for 504 services.

The next annual Section 504 Conference is scheduled for Sept. 14-15 at the Lexington Hilton Downtown. Brochures for this conference will be mailed in a few months and registration will be available on our website. Please mark these dates to send someone from your district to learn this important information.

The ADA Newsletter is available by contacting Jolene Shearer jolene.shearer&ksba.org or by clicking here Legal and Administrative Training Services.

Student tracking service

KSBA has worked with a Louisville company, Connected Learning Network, Inc., to develop a 504 Student Plan Tracking System that interfaces with the Kentucky Department of Education’s Infinite Campus program. This inexpensive electronic system keeps track of student 504 plans as students move from teacher to teacher and school to school. Most 504 plans address student medical issues, such as diabetes, asthma and serious allergies. Thus, for student safety and control of district liability, districts have a systemic way of keeping track of such plans.

Contact Jolene Shearer at 800-372-2962, ext. 1107, for more information about this service.

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