SECTION 504 Program Purpose
What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met.
Who is covered under Section 504?
To be covered under Section 504, a student must be “qualified” (which roughly equates to being between 3 and 22 years of age, depending on the program, as well as state and federal law, and must have a disability) [34 C.F.R. §104.3(k)(2)].
As defined by federal law: “An individual with a disability means any person who:
Has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity;
Has a record of such an impairment; or
Is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)]
What is an “impairment” as used under the Section 504 definition?
An impairment as used in Section 504 may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that “substantially” reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning, behavior or heath related condition.
What are “major life activities”?
Major life activities include, but are not limited to: self-care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, speaking, sitting, thinking, learning, breathing, concentrating, interacting with others and working.
As of January 1, 2009 (with the reauthorization of the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act, this list has been expanded to also include the life activities of reading, concentrating, standing, lifting, bending, etc.) This may include individuals with AD/HD, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, severe allergies, chronic asthma, Tourette ’s syndrome, digestive disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, HIV/AIDS, behavior disorders and temporary disabilities (e.g., broken writing arm, broken leg, etc.). Conditions that are episodic or in remission are also now covered if they create a substantial limitation in one or more major life activity while they are active.
Students who are currently using illegal drugs or alcohol are not covered or eligible under Section 504
Who can refer a child for consideration for evaluation under Section 504?
Anyone can refer a child for evaluation under Section 504.
However, while anyone can make a referral, such as parents or a doctor, OCR has stated in a staff memorandum that “the school district must also have reason to believe that the child is in need of services under Section 504 due to a disability” (OCR Memorandum, April 29, 1993).
Therefore, a school district does not have to refer or evaluate a child under Section 504 solely upon parental demand. The key to a referral is whether the school district staff suspects that the child is suffering from a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and is in need of either regular education with supplementary services or special education and related services [letter to Mentink, 19 IDELR 1127 (OCR) 1993].
If a parent requests a referral for evaluation, and the school district refuses, the school district must provide the parent with notice of their procedural rights under Section 504.
Who decides whether a student is qualified and eligible for services under Section 504?
According to the federal regulations: “placement decisions are to be made by a group of persons who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, placement options, least restrictive environment requirements, and comparable facilities” [34 C.F.R. §104.35(c)(3)].
Unlike Special Education, the federal regulations for Section 504 do not require or even mention that parents are to be a part of the decision-making committee.
How can a Section 504 referral be done?
Contact the campus Section 504 coordinator to set a conference to discuss the student’s concern, data, impermanent, qualification, and needed accommodation.
The Section 504 committee reviews the student file and determines eligibility and the campus Section 504 coordinator will report the decision to the referring person.