Section 504, of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a federal civil rights statute that protects the rights of persons with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against handicapped persons, including both students and staff members, by school districts receiving federal financial assistance.
Included in the U.S. Department of Education regulations for Section 504 is the requirement that handicapped students be provided with Free Appropriated Public Education (FAPE). These regulations require identification (by school personnel), evaluation, the provision of appropriate services, and procedural safeguards.
Who Is Eligible Under Section 504?
An eligible student under Section 504 is one who has/has a record of having/is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as:
- Caring for oneself
- Performing manual tasks
Eligibility for Services is determined by school personnel (i.e. 504 Committee).
- A diagnosis does not mean the school is required to provide the services.
- Determination is based on educational criteria, not medical criteria.
- The school can only provide services IF the impairment substantially limits a major life activity, and there is evidence to support this.
Mitigating Measures: The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the effects of mitigating measures such as: medication, medical supplies, equipment or devices, use of assistive technology, etc.
Temporary Impairments: A temporary impairment does not constitute a disability for the purposes of Section 504 unless its severity is such that it results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities for an extended period of time. The issue of whether a temporary impairment is substantial enough to be a disability must be resolved on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration both the duration (or expected duration) of the impairment and the extent to which it actually limits a major life activity of the affected individual.
Under Section 504, parents or guardians must be provided with notice of any action that changes the identification, evaluation program, or placement of their child. Written consent for initial evaluation and initial placement is required. The parent should be included in the evaluation, identification, and placement process whenever possible. Parents or guardians have the right to file a grievance with the District 504 Coordinator and Superintendent, request mediation, ask for a due process hearing, or file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, if they disagree with the school’s actions.
Parents who would like to make a request for consideration for a 504 Plan are encouraged to contact their child's school counselor for more information.