Section 504 – A federal civil rights law under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 provides protection against discrimination for individuals with disabilities. Students in school settings fall under the civil rights protection of Section 504. The law and regulations prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability from all school programs and activities in both public and private schools receiving direct or indirect federal funding.
The student must be evaluated and meet the Section 504 identification criteria. A student is entitled to a Section 504 Accommodation Plan if they have been identified and the evaluation shows that the individual has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. 42 U.S.C. 12102(4)(a)(2)(A).This determination is made by a team of knowledgeable individuals, including the parents, who are familiar of the student and his/her disability. This team is the 504 committee.
Section 504 accommodations could be available to identified students with disabilities, who have been evaluated. Section 504 is designed to provide equal access and fairness in general education to students with disabilities, thereby leveling the playing field for them through what is known as a Section 504 Accommodation Plan. The Accommodation Plan is not a plan designed to enhance a student’s performance. It is a plan to provide fairness and equal access to education.
Where do I begin?
The general education Child Study Team is usually the starting point to consider whether or not a student needs to be evaluated for accommodations. When a student has not responded positively to research-based interventions in an intervention plan and/or has a suspected disability, the team may determine to conduct an evaluation for special education and/or Section 504.
Who makes up a Section 504 Team?
Responsibility for considering and developing a Section 504 Accommodation Plan consists of a core group that includes the school principal or administrator, referring and/or general education classroom teacher, academic specialists, such as, a reading specialist, dyslexia specialist, math specialist working with the student, and parents.
Section 504/ADA requires the provision of a free and appropriate public education for students who are identified as having a disability. The regulations define this: The provision of an appropriate education is the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that (i) are designed to meet individual needs of disabled persons as adequately as the needs of nondisabled persons are met and (ii) are based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements of 104.34 (LRE), 104.35 (evaluation), 104.36 (procedural safeguards).