SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973
What is a Section 504 Plan?
A Section 504 Plan is an accommodation plan designed to ensure that students eligible under Section 504 can fully engage in and derive educational benefits from public education programs and activities. This plan mandates that classroom teachers and other school staff provide necessary accommodations and services to meet the needs of these students. Accommodations may provide support for physical, instructional, or social/emotional nature. Section 504 is a civil rights law that safeguards the rights of individuals with disabilities. Section 504 is a responsibility of the general education program and requires participation from the general education staff and curriculum.
What is the difference between Section 504 and IDEA/Special Education?
The distinction between Section 504 and IDEA/Special Education lies in their scope and eligibility criteria.
- While individuals with disabilities covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are generally considered eligible for rights and protection under Section 504, not all individuals deemed eligible under Section 504 may qualify for IDEA services.
- Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) is an educational right for children with disabilities in the United States, protected by both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the IDEA.
- IDEA programs receive funding from both state and federal sources to support the provision of specialized services and supports for eligible students. In contrast, Section 504 does not receive specific state or federal funding but guarantees protection against disability-based discrimination in federally funded programs or activities.
Who qualifies for a Section 504 Plan?
A qualified individual with a disability is a student who meets the following criteria:
- has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and
- has a record of such an impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.
- A physical impairment is any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory: including speech organs; cardiovascular, etc.
- A mental impairment is any mental or psychological disorder such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
- A major life activity is defined as functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, reading, thinking, and concentrating.
How are students identified as being eligible for a Section 504 Plan?
- In many cases students are referred for review by a Student Success Team (SST), Student Assistance Team (SAT), or Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team.
- Your Assistant Prinicipal will convene a team to determine eligibility.
- The school must complete the Section 504 Evaluation for Eligibility worksheet. Evaluation material can include: formal & informal test results, aptitude and achievement tests, observations and anecdotal records, attendance and behavior records, medical reports, grades/transcripts, teacher reports, and recommendations.
- A student meets the eligibility requirements under Section 504 if the site team determines that:
- there is evidence of a physical or mental impairment and can establish the basis for their determination; and
- there is evidence of a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. If you feel a student may have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, please complete and return this form to your school site Section 504 Coordinator.
*** If you would like a copy of your Parent Rights under the 504 Section of the Rehabilitation Act please contact your school administrator.