What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973/Public law 93-112 is a comprehensive law that addresses the rights of handicapped persons (hereafter referred to as persons with disabilities except when quoting the law) and applies to all agencies receiving federal financial assistance. Eliminating barriers to education programs and services, increasing building accessibility, and establishing equitable employment practices are thoroughly and specifically addressed in Section 504 regulations. Section 504 states: “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his/her handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”. This regulation makes it clear that the failure to provide a free appropriate public education to a student with disabilities covered by Section 504 is discrimination which violates the Act.
Who is responsible for the enforcement and investigation of compliance with Section 504?
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for the enforcement and investigation of compliance with Section 504. Federal financial assistance to a local school district is contingent on compliance with Section 504 and other civil rights laws. OCR may determine that federal funds should be withheld from local school systems that are not in compliance with civil rights legislation.
Who is eligible for Section 504?
Under the provision of Section 504,an individual who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity such as but not limited to caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning or working is eligible under Section 504.
Who determines if a student is eligible for Section 504?
A parent or school staff should consider making a referral to Section 504 if he or she believes that the student is suspected of having a physical or mental impairment that may substantially limit one or more of the following major life activities: learning, caring of oneself, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, communicating, performing manual tasks, standing, lifting, bending, other which may include but not limited to reading, bowl functions, thinking, bladder functions, concentrating, digestive functions, sleeping, eating, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions when compared to the average student. A team of people, including people who are knowledgeable about the student consider information from a variety of sources as appropriate, which may include aptitude and achievement tests, grades, teacher recommendation and observations, physical conditions, social or cultural background, medical records and parental recommendations.
How is the determination made regarding Section 504 eligibility?
In order to meet eligibility criteria, the mental or physical impairment shall be documented by a provider licensed/qualified by the State to make that diagnosis. For initial eligibility, the evaluation report shall be current within one year. The team must consider the impact of the documented mental or physical impairment along with relevant information as documented above to determine substantial limitation.
Temporary, non-chronic impairments that do not last for a long time and which have little or no long-term impact usually are not considered to be disabilities.” A student may be determined to have a mental or physical impairment and be considered eligible for the non- discrimination protections of Section 504, but may not necessarily require accommodations or services in order to have equal educational opportunity. Although committees may not consider mitigating measures in determining the existence of a disability, they may consider the effects of mitigating measures when determining the need for a Section 504 plan for accommodations. This means the team may consider the measures taken by the student and family to compensate for a disability as a factor to determine if a Section 504 plan is appropriate.
What is a Section 504 plan?
A Section 504 Plan is an educational plan describing what accommodations, special services, or related aids and services will be provided to meet the individual educational needs of the eligible student as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.
What are the guidelines for special test accommodations under Section 504?
A Section 504 Plan must be on file for each student for whom accommodation in standardized testing will be made. The plan should outline instructional accommodations appropriate for the student during regular classroom instruction. Testing accommodations consistent with the instructional accommodation should also be outlined in the student’s plan. It is not appropriate to make testing accommodations unless the appropriate documentation is on file.
What are a parent’s rights under Section 504?
- Right to an appropriate education designed to meet his or her individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students
- Right to free educational services except for those fees that are imposed on non-disabled students or their parents
- Right to participate in an educational setting with non-disabled students to the maximum extent appropriate to his or her needs
- Right to facilities, services, and activities that are comparable to those provided for non-disabled students
- Right to an evaluation prior to determination of eligibility
- Right to not consent to the school system’s request to evaluate
- Right to ensure that evaluation procedures conform to the requirements of 34 CFR 104.35
- Right to ensure that the school system will consider information from a variety of sources as appropriate
- Right to ensure that placement decisions are made by a group of persons knowledgeable about your child.
- If your child is eligible under Section 504, your child has a right to periodic reevaluations.
- Opportunity to examine relevant records
- Right to an impartial hearing and review of an adverse hearing decision
- Right to receive a copy of this notice and a copy of the school system’s impartial hearing procedure upon request.
- If you disagree with the decision of the impartial hearing officer, you have a right to a review of that decision.
- Right to, at any time; file a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
What to consider when developing a 504 Plan?
A 504 plan is intended to address the individual needs of the student at school. Does the student require accommodations to ensure that he or she has access to an education comparable to that available to students without disabilities? The team may consider the effects of mitigating measures when determining the need for a Section 504 plan for accommodations. OCR requires accommodations “that do not affect the essential nature of a program and that must be made to eliminate discrimination.” The purpose of accommodations under Section 504 is to give a student access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. The purpose is not to provide an undue advantage to the student.
How are the needs of students’ that are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (Inattentive, Hyperactive, or Combined Type) addressed?
When a school is informed that a student is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (Inattentive, Hyperactive, or Combined Type) the school and the parent may determine that additional educational strategies would be appropriate. These strategies may be documented through the use of the Response to Intervention (RTI) model. RTI is a model in which a student with academic or behavioral difficulties is provided one or more research based interventions. The student’s progress is monitored frequently to evaluate whether or not interventions are sufficient to assist the student in making progress. If, after a determined period of time, the student does not progress in spite of the interventions, referral to a 504 team to determine eligibility may be appropriate. While RTI is not required prior to determining eligibility under Section 504, the RTI process can be an effective method of addressing a student’s individual needs.