Mandated Staff Training & Notices
Needham Public Schools
Some information is considered so important that the Commonwealth mandates that all
employees of public school systems be reminded of it annually. New employees are required to
receive more extensive training about these topics; but, for those of you who have already had
training, this book will serve as a refresher. In addition to the topics covered in this booklet,
school employees need annual reminder of obligations, rights, and procedures regarding
discrimination or harassment. These issues are covered under a different cover. The topics which
are addressed here are:
1) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
2) Child Abuse and Neglect
3) Student Records
4) Physical Restraint
5) Special Education Laws and Principles
SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT
What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a Civil Rights Law which prohibits discrimination based upon disabilities and
requires that schools as well as other publicly funded organizations make reasonable
accommodations to ensure equal participation by disabled individuals. The intent is to remove
barriers to employment, education, and communication.
Who qualifies for accommodations under Section 504?
Students, parents, staff who have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one
or more major life activities, have a record of such impairment, and/or are regarded as having such
an impairment are eligible. It is important to note that learning is considered as a major life
activity. Most disabilities fall into the category of physiological or psychological disorders;
therefore, some students who have learning disabilities which preclude them from accessing the
curriculum, but who may not qualify for Special Education services, may require
accommodations under Section 504.
What does Section 504 do?
It calls for a group of individuals knowledgeable about the student to make the determination that
(1) there is a disability, and
(2) the disability “substantially” (as opposed to “mildly” or “moderately”) limits a
major life function.
The regulations are designed to level the playing field, ensuring that the disabled student has the
opportunity to perform to the level of the average student of the same age or grade level. It is not
a guarantee of success. The accommodations it provides do not fundamentally alter or lower the
standards or expectations of a course or test. If a disability is severe enough to require major
modifications, then it may warrant Special Education services.
Who writes the Section 504 Student Accommodation Plan?
The student’s Guidance Counselor, based upon the input of that group of people most
knowledgeable about the student (e.g. parents, student, teachers, psychologist, pediatrician
and/or others) write the plan.
What then happens to the Section 504 plan?
It is provided to the parents, all of the school system personnel who will be expected to provide
the accommodations, the Principal, Guidance Counselor, and Systemwide Coordinator of Section
504. A copy is also placed in the temporary student record. It is reviewed whenever there is a
significant change in the student’s placement, such as a different school.
What responsibilities do the educational staff have?
The school system is obliged to offer a Section 504 Student Accommodation Plan to any
qualifying individual. Once the Plan is agreed upon, the individual staff members who are to
implement the accommodations must do so. Failure to provide the accommodations specified in
a Plan could cause the professional to be considered liable for damages, attorneys’ fees and
compensatory service fees; the individual is also subject to a civil suit. Disputes between school
systems and parents are routinely settled by the Office of Civil Rights, the Bureau of Special
Education Appeals, or federal court.
What needs to happen prior to consideration of a Section 504 Plan?
Often the Section 504 bureaucracy can be avoided with good teaching practices. They include
developing approaches to meet individual learning styles and needs. When a teacher is
experiencing difficulty, help should be sought from the building’s Teacher Assistance Team.
CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT
(Mandatory Reporting under Mass. Law Ch. 119, Section 51A)
Who is a “mandated reporter?”
All educators, medical practitioners, counselors, day care workers, police and almost all
professionals in a care-taking role with children are mandated reporters.
What needs to be reported?
All suspicions of child abuse or neglect of children under age 18, including suspicions of sexual
assault and teen dating violence, must be reported. Failure on the part of a mandated individual
to report a suspected case of abuse or neglect can result in a fine of up to $1,000.
To whom are suspected incidents of abuse or neglect sent?
Reports are sent to the Department of Social Service (Needham’s office is in Arlington, Mass.,
tel. 781-641-8500 or 1-800-792-5200).
What should I do if I suspect the abuse or neglect of a student?
Foremost, remember that you merely need to have the suspicion that the student has been abused
or neglected. It is the role of others to investigate your suspicion. In the Needham Public
Schools the reporting sequence will be as follows:
1. Share your concerns with your building Guidance Counselor. Once you have reported your
concerns with the counselor, your obligations as a mandated reporter have been fulfilled.
2. The counselor will report to the Building Principal and Director of Guidance.
3. The counselor reports suspected abuse over the phone to DSS to be followed within 48 hours
by a written “51A” form.
4. A building-based team (counselor, principal, and others as indicated) will decide what actions
should be taken by the school during an investigation process.
5. DSS decides whether to substantiate the allegations by “screening in” the case for further
investigation or to “screen out” the case.
Will the name of the reporter be kept confidential?
DSS will not share the name of the reporter to the alleged perpetrator, but must, if asked, supply
a copy of the report with the name omitted. In most instances, however, the reporter’s identity
can be deduced from the context of the report. The Principal or Director of Guidance can sign a
report to protect the identity of the reporting staff member, if desired.
Do reporting educators have protection from the legal recourse of alleged perpetrators?
Yes, no civil or criminal actions can be taken against you as a mandated reporter, as long as you
have acted in good faith.
What happens to the 51A reports which are sent to DSS?
All reports are kept for a period of one year, after which all unsupported reports are disposed of.
Reports which are supported are kept for a period of 75 years. Reports of some forms of abuse
(such as sexual assault, rape, etc.) may be sent from DSS to the District Attorney’s Office and/or
the State/Local Police. In some cases, joint investigations will follow.
Important things to remember when talking with students:
Confidentiality should never be guaranteed. Students need to know that, in the interest of the
student’s safety, all educators are mandated to share any information which may indicate that a
student has been abused, neglected, or is at risk. Students’ trustful relationships with staff
members are certainly desirable, but educators must always be mindful of their responsibilities
under the law.
(Massachusetts Regulations at 603 CMR 23:00)
What are “student records?”
A student record is any information kept by a school or school district in a manner in which the
student may be individually identified.
Who has access to student records?
• “Authorized school personnel” (administrators, teachers, counselors and other staff providing
services to those students), office and clerical staff, and those on special education Evaluation
• Parents, legal guardians
• Students 14-17 years old, or in the 9th grade, with parent permission
• Students 18 or over may, themselves, access and may prohibit access of parent, providing that
they provide such requests in writing
• Third parties with the informed, specific written consent of the eligible student or parent
• Courts, probation officers, DSS, DYS
• Schools to which the student is transferring
What procedures must be taken to ensure the confidentiality of student records?
Student records must be kept in a secure location. A log shall be kept with each student record.
It shall indicate all persons (other than school personnel) who have obtained access to the record,
stating: the name, position, signature, and affiliation of the person.
As with any student information, employees must be careful about discussing students in
corridors, classrooms, or public places.
How does a parent or student gain access?
A parent or eligible student may call or write requesting access to the record. They must be given
this opportunity within two (2) days of making such a request. The parent or eligible student
also has the right to receive copies of any part of the record, and the school may charge a
reasonable fee for the cost of duplicating the materials. The parent or eligible student has the right
to have the records interpreted by a qualified professional and may invite anyone of their choice
to inspect and interpret the records with them.
May a parent amend the student record?
Yes, the eligible student or parent shall have the right to add information, comments, data
or any other relevant information to the student record and may also request in writing to the
Principal that certain information be deleted or amended.
How long are records kept?
The student’s transcript may be destroyed only after 60 years following his/her graduation,
transfer, or withdrawal from the school. Other records shall be destroyed no later than 7 years
after the student graduates, is transferred or withdraws, and only after written notice shall go to
the eligible student and his/her parent.
Do these rules apply to computerized records?
Yes, computerized records including e-mail are subject to the same restrictions and access as any
other form of student record.
Are a teacher’s personal files considered student records?
The term student record does not include notes, memory aids and other similar information that
are maintained in the personal file of a school employee and is not accessible or revealed to any
PHYSICAL RESTRAINT PROCEDURES
What is physical constraint?
Physical restraint is defined as the use of bodily force to limit a student's freedom of movement.
Physical escort is defined as the touching or holding a student without the use of force for the
purpose of directing the student. Physical escort is not physical restraint and is not covered by
When may physical restraint be used?
Physical restraint shall only be used as a behavior management tool when other less intrusive
alternatives have failed or been deemed inappropriate. In the event that physical restraint is
required to protect the safety of the school community members, the District has enacted the
following procedures to ensure the proper use of restraint and to prevent or minimize any harm
to the student as a result of the use of restraint.
1. Physical restraint may only be used in the following circumstances:
a. When non-physical interventions would be ineffective; and
b. The student's behavior poses a threat of imminent, serious, harm to self and/or
2. Physical restraint is prohibited in the following circumstances:
a. As a means of punishment; or
b. As a response to property destruction, disruption of school order, a student's refusal
to comply with a school rule or staff directive, or verbal threats that do not constitute
a threat of imminent, serious, physical harm. However, if the property destruction or
the refusal to comply with a school rule or staff directive could escalate into, or could
itself lead to serious, imminent harm to the student or to others, physical restraint is
3. Only school personnel who have received required training or in-depth training pursuant
to this policy shall administer physical restraint on students with, whenever possible, one
adult witness who does not participate in the restraint. The training requirements,
however, shall not preclude a teacher, employee or agent of the school from using
reasonable force to protect students, other persons or themselves from assault or
imminent, serious, physical harm.
4. Physical restraint shall be limited to the use of such reasonable force as is necessary to
protect a student or others from assault or imminent, serious, physical harm.
5. A person administering physical restraint shall use the safest method available and
appropriate to the situation. Floor or prone retraints may only be administered by a
staff member who has received in-depth training as specified in this policy and, when
in the judgment of the trained staff member, such method is required to provide safety
for the student or others.
6. Physical restraint shall be discontinued when it is determined that the student is no
longer at risk of causing imminent physical harm to self or others.
7. Additional safety requirements:
a. A restrained student shall not be prevented from breathing or speaking. A staff
member will continuously monitor the physical status of the student, including
skin color and respiration, during the restraint.
b. If at any time during a physical restraint the student demonstrates significant
physical distress, as determined by the staff member, the student shall be released
from the restraint immediately, and school staff shall take steps to seek medical
c. Program staff shall review and consider any known medical or psychological
limitations and/or behavioral intervention plans regarding the use of physical
restraint on an individual student.
8. At an appropriate time after release of a student from physical restraint, a school
administrator or other appropriate school staff shall:
a. review the incident with the student to address the behavior that precipitated the
b. review the incident with the staff person(s) who administered the restraint to discuss
whether proper restraint procedures were followed; and
c. consider whether any follow-up is appropriate for students who witnessed the
9. The staff member who administered such a restraint shall verbally inform the principal
of the restraint as soon as possible, and by written report no later than the next school
10. The principal or his/her designee shall verbally inform the student's parent(s)/guardian(s) of
such restraint as soon as possible, and by written report postmarked no later than three
school working days following the use of such restraint.
11. Students with Disabilities
a. Restraints may be administered to a student with a disability pursuant to the
student's Individualized Education Program or other written and agreed upon plan
developed in accordance with state and federal law, subject to the following
(1) The limitations on chemical, mechanical, and seclusion restraint as stated
above shall apply; and
(2) The training and reporting requirements described in this policy shall apply.
Special Education Laws and Principles
What is special education?
Special education is specially designed instruction and related services (e.g. transportation) that
meet the unique needs of an eligible student with a disability or that provide for a specific service
need that is necessary to allow the student with a disability to access the general curriculum. The
purpose of special education is to allow the students to develop successfully his or her individual
educational potential. Along with providing services to the child, if necessary, services are
provided to parents and to teachers for students to benefit from special education.
May schools charge for these services?
No. These services are provided by the school district at no cost to parents.
Are special education regulations federal or state requirements?
In Massachusetts, the special education system is based on the federal special education law, the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), in combination with the state’s special
education law (MGL c. 71B). These laws protect students with disabilities who are eligible for
special education and guarantee them an Individual Education Program (IEP) designed to meet
their unique needs.
May anyone refer a child for special education?
Yes, but the parent must give written permission before the evaluation process may begin.
Do regular education teachers have obligations under special education?
Once an IEP is agreed upon, then it is the obligation of the school system to implement it. All
teachers have obligations to familiarize themselves with the IEP’s of their students and to
implement the services, modifications, or accommodations which are their responsibility. At
least one regular education teacher must attend each Team meeting.
What do I do if I have questions or need help with a student?
Whenever you have problems with a student, begin with the guidance counselor or principal.
Often the advice or assistance of a teacher assistance team can help. There are many steps which
can be taken before a referral for special education. However, if you have specific questions
about the regulations or the advisability of an evaluation for a student, speak to a specialist in