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ALJ Finds Student Entitled to Section 504 Plan for Celiac Disease

By on April 25, 2017 in Special Education/504 with 1 Comment

On March 7, 2017, an Administrative Law Judge in K.I. o/b/o K.I. v. Moorestown Township Board of Education found that the Board violated Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by failing to offer a Section 504 plan to address the student’s celiac disease. The ALJ held that the Board failed to offer a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) under Section 504 when it offered an individualized healthcare plan (“IHP”) instead of a Section 504 plan to address the student’s medical condition.

The student was in elementary school when she was first diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which ingesting gluten damages the small intestine. Shortly after the diagnosis, the parent submitted medical documentation recommending certain accommodations for the student, such as allowing the student to carry a water bottle with her to hydrate, liberal access to the bathroom, cleaning of the cafeteria table before the student eats lunch, and access to sanitary wipes. After reviewing the information submitted by the parent, the Board developed an IHP for her and included the accommodations.

Thereafter, the parent insisted that the Board develop a Section 504 for the student. The Board responded that an IHP, which included the requested accommodations, was sufficient to meet the student’s needs. The Board contended that a Section 504 plan was unnecessary.

The parent filed a due process petition in the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law arguing that the student is entitled to a Section 504 plan. For a student to qualify for a Section 504 plan, the student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Here, the ALJ determined that the student has a qualifying impairment by way of celiac disease. Further, based on the medical documentation provided by the parent, the ALJ found that the celiac disease substantially limited one or more of the following major life activities: learning, concentrating, and digestion. The ALJ did not find it relevant that the student was excelling academically and rarely missed school to determine whether the student’s celiac disease is a qualifying condition under Section 504.

In short, the ALJ ruled that the IHP was insufficient to address the student’s celiac disease and required the Board to develop a Section 504 plan.


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About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


There is 1 Brilliant Comment

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  1. Bob Goldschmidt says:

    Sanu Dev is a star! I’ve worked with her and she is tireless in her work for schools and for what’s right.

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