Parent and Educator’s Guide
What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights act which protects the civil and constitutional rights of persons with disabilities. The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a ‘free and appropriate education’ (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Section 504 is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
How Does Section 504 Define a Disability?
- A person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working;
- Has a record of such an impairment, or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment
Determining Substantial Limitation to Learning
A physician’s diagnosis alone does not qualify a student for a 504 Plan. There has to be something that makes the student unable to access and benefit from the curriculum. By definition, a person who is succeeding in the general education classroom does not have a disability which substantially limits the ability to learn. A person is considered limited in performing a major life activity if the person is unable to perform the activity that the average person in the general population can perform.
Requirements Needed for a Section 504 Plan
We must meet all 3 requirements of a 3 pronged test:
- Does the child have a verified physical or mental impairment?
- Does that impairment substantially limit his/her ability to learn?
- Are accommodations/modifications necessary as a result of this impairment in order for the child to access the general education curriculum?
Examples of Potential 504 Disability Conditions
- Communicable diseases
- Medical conditions
- Heart Disease
- Temporary medical conditions due to illness or accident
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Behavioral difficulties, including school phobia
- Drug/alcohol addiction
- Other conditions
What if my child is found eligible for a 504 Plan?
If your child is entitled to accommodations under a Section 504 Plan, the school district is required to develop a reasonable individual plan based on your child’s educational needs.
What does a “Reasonable Accommodation” mean?
Section 504 requirements insure that the general education system provides the full range of accommodations and services necessary for qualifying students to participate in public education programs.
- Accommodations provide equal access to instruction, curriculum and assessment.
- Accommodations must be necessary for the child to benefit from classroom instruction, classroom assessments, district wide assessments and college entrance exams.
- An accommodation that is not needed for classroom instruction is not appropriate for college entrance testing.
- School districts do not need to make accommodations that fundamentally alter education programs or cause undue hardship to the district.
- The individual needs of the person with a disability should be met to the same extent as the needs of persons without a disability
- Accommodation should place the student with a disability at an equal starting level with the nondisabled student.
For additional information, please contact your child’s school guidance counselor.