What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a federal law of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination against individuals with a disability in any program receiving federal assistance. The district has specific responsibilities under this act, which include the responsibility to identify, evaluate, and if the child has a current disability and is termed to be eligible under Section 504, to afford access to appropriate educational programs. Section 504 defines a person with a disability as anyone who has a "mental or physical impairment which substantially limits a "...major life function." A major life function includes activities such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, communicating, concentrating, and working. Contact your child’s school counselor, school psychologist, or principal if you feel your child requires an evaluation under Section 504 to determine eligibility.
How is a student eligible under Section 504?
A student is eligible under Section 504 if determined, upon a 504 evaluation, to have (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, (b) have a record of an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment. Only students who meet the first definition of disability are entitled to a free appropriate public education under Section 504. All students with a disability, including students who have a record of an impairment or who are regarded as having an impairment, are entitled to 504-protection from discrimination based upon disability.
How can I refer my child to determine 504 eligibility?
If you suspect that your child is “disabled” under Section 504/ADA, contact your child’s school counselor, or building school psychologist, or principal. You will be asked to complete a referral form and grant consent for a 504 evaluation. After the evaluation is complete, a meeting will be scheduled to determine if your child has a “disability.” You have the right to meaningfully participate in the process and provide input, even if you cannot attend the meeting in person. Parent consent is required prior to conducting the evaluation. If the parent does not consent to the evaluation, the child is not entitled to a Section 504 evaluation and potential 504 plan. Once your child is determined eligible under Section 504, a 504 evaluation will be conducted every three years to determine continued eligibility.
What happens if my child is determined eligible under Section 504?
If it is determined that your child has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, he/she is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). If the team determines that your child requires specialized services and/or accommodations/modifications/interventions in order to receive a "FAPE" and to access the district's programs and activities in a manner equal to students without disabilities, the team will develop a written plan (i.e., 504 Plan). This plan is reviewed annually by the 504 team. The accommodations/services identified in the 504 plan must connect to the area of disability as identified in the 504 evaluation.
What is the Difference Between Section 504 and the IDEA?
Section 504 is a nondiscrimination statute that seeks to afford students with disabilities equal access to the District’s educational program as compared to students without disabilities. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities and requires school districts to provide students with disabilities regular education or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual educational needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met. Any necessary services and/or accommodations/modifications/interventions must be delineated in a Section 504 Plan.
IDEA requires districts to provide disabled students (ages 3 through 21) with special education and related services and supplementary aids and services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. The special education and related services must be delineated in an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Students are considered disabled under the IDEA if they have one of 13-qualifying conditions (autism; deaf-blindness; deafness; hearing impairment; intellectual disability; multiple disabilities; orthopedic impairment; other health impairment; specific learning disability; speech or language impairment; traumatic brain injury; visual impairment (including blindness); and emotional disturbance) and are determined to need special education. IEPs include annual goals and objectives and are designed to provide “educational benefit.”
While Section 504 does not require that schools develop an IEP, as noted above, it is necessary for the school to document the 504/ADA services and/or accommodations that are to be/being provided. If a student with a disability is eligible for a Section 504 Plan, a team must meet to develop the a plan that outlines the services and/or accommodations/modifications/ interventions to be provided.
It is important to keep in mind that some students who have physical or mental impairments that limit their ability to access and participate in the District’s programs and activities will be entitled to accommodations and services under Section 504/ADA, even though they may not be eligible under the IDEA disability categories and thus are not covered by Special Education law.
Under Section 504, the quality of educational programs provided to students with disabilities must be equivalent to the programs provided for non-disabled students.
A student who is eligible for a Section 504 Plan, but does not qualify for services pursuant to an IEP, ordinarily will be provided accommodations/modifications/interventions by the staff and resources of the regular education program. Students with IEPs are entitled to protections under both the IDEA and Section 504.
Department of Pupil Services
10320 Moulin Ave.
Alliance, Ohio. 44601