WHAT IS SECTION 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (hereinafter "Section 504"), is Congress' directive to schools receiving any Federal funding to eliminate discrimination based on disability from all aspects of their school operations. It states: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Since the School District is a recipient of Federal dollars, its administrators and staff are required to provide eligible disabled students with equal access (both physical and academic) to services, programs,
and activities offered by its schools. Section 504 is a civil rights statute and not a special education statute.
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 teacher, school counselor, or building 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.
WHAT CRITERIA ARE USED TO DETERMINE 504 ELIGIBILITY?
A student qualifies for Section 504 protection if s/he is determined to be an individual with a disability as defined by the statute. Specifically, the student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or have a record of such an impairment, or be regarded as having such an impairment. Only those students with an actual impairment, however, are entitled to accommodations/modifications/interventions pursuant to Section 504. Those students with a record of an impairment or who are regarded as having an impairment are entitled to protection from discrimination based upon disability.
Major life activities include, but are not limited to, functions such as (a) caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, learning, and (b) the operation of major bodily functions including the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SECTION 504 AND THE IDEIA?
Section 504 prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities and requires school districts to provide students with disabilities regular 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 accommodations/modifications/interventions must be delineated in a Section 504 Plan.
IDEIA 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).