What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly called “Section 504,” is a federal law that protects students from discrimination based on disability. Section 504 assures that students with disabilities have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to students without disabilities. To be eligible for Section 504 protections, a student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.
What is a “physical or mental impairment”?
The federal law does not provide a list of specific diseases, conditions or disorders that constitute impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list. An impairment as used in Section 504 may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that “substantially” reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning-, behavior- or health-related condition. A physical or mental impairment does not qualify as a disability for purposes of Section 504 unless the impairment results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities.
What does “substantially limits” mean?
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education, does not provide a single formula or scale that measures substantial limitation. The determination of substantial limitation is made by the 504 Team on a case-by-case basis with respect to each individual student. The 504 team will evaluate the individual student and determine if the student is limited in performing a major life activity as compared to an “average student” of the same grade or age.
What are “major life activities”?
Major life activities include, but are not limited to: self-care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, speaking, sitting, thinking, learning, breathing, concentrating, interacting with others and working. As of January 1, 2009, with the reauthorization of the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act, this list has been expanded to also include the life activities of reading, concentrating, standing, lifting, bending, etc. This may include individuals with AD/HD, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, severe allergies, chronic asthma, Tourette ’s syndrome, digestive disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, HIV/AIDS, behavior disorders and temporary disabilities (e.g., broken writing arm, broken leg, etc.). Conditions that are episodic or in remission are also now covered if they create a substantial limitation in one or more major life activity while they are active. Students who are currently using illegal drugs or alcohol are not covered or eligible under Section 504.
Who can refer a child for consideration for evaluation under Section 504?
Any parent or staff member can refer a child for evaluation under Section 504. Parent consent must be obtained to evaluate a student for an initial Section 504 Plan.
What information will be used for a 504 evaluation?
Under Section 504, no formalized testing is required. 504 teams will consider information from a variety of sources. A single source of information (such as a doctor’s report) cannot be the only information considered. The 504 Team will look at grades, test scores, student work samples, teacher’s observations, information from parents or other agencies, discipline reports, attendance records, health records, and behavior information.
Who decides whether a student is qualified and eligible for services under Section 504?
The 504 Team makes the decision on whether a student is qualified and eligible for services under Section 504. A 504 Team is made up of a group of people who are: 1) knowledgeable about the child; 2) understand the evaluation data being considered; 3) know what placement options are available.
What types of accommodations can my child receive if determined eligible under Section 504?
A 504 Team will look at each individual child’s needs. Determination of what is appropriate for each child is based on the nature of the student’s condition and what that student needs in order to have an equal opportunity to access his/her education. It is important to understand that 504 accommodations do not guarantee certain grades or even that the student will not fail. Student effort is still required for success.
If my child receives 504 Protection but the 504 team determines that my child does not need a 504 plan---what does this mean?
Students who are found eligible for Section 504 Protection, but a 504 Team determines that the student does not currently need a 504 plan will still receive rights to: A Manifestation Determination meeting prior to disciplinary actions; Procedural safeguards; Periodic reevaluation every three years; and the nondiscrimination protections of Section 504.
Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/504-resource-guide-201612.pdf