What is Section 504?
Section 504 is the part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which applies to persons with disabilities. Section 504 is a civil rights act, which protects the civil and constitutional rights of persons with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed in 1975 as The Education of the Handicapped Act. Both require a free appropriate public education, eligibility for services, procedural safeguards, evaluations and special education services. However, in one situation eligibility services and the provision of those services is through special education, IDEA, and in the other situation those services are provided by regular education, Section 504. The Estes Park School District is attempting to be proactive in its attempts to meet the requirements of Section 504 through the development of this material and the forms which accompany it. The intent of developing the forms is to provide for all schools, and therefore, the district, a consistent application of process and procedures in order to assure appropriate support for students who qualify.
What does Section 504 state?
Section 504 states that no person with a disability can be excluded from or denied benefits for any program receiving federal financial assistance, including public schools. Section 504 and special education are two separate services.
How Section 504 defines "disability."
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects persons from discrimination based upon their disability status. A person is disabled within the definition of Section 504 if s/he has a diagnosable mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities (e.g., walking, speaking, breathing, learning, seeing, hearing, working) and the impairment must impact the child’s education.
School staff should consider the potential existence of disabilities and possible Section 504 protection for children diagnosed as having asthma, HIV, Tourette’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), heart malfunctions, communicable diseases, urinary conditions, blood disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, school phobia, respiratory conditions, blood/sugar disorders, post traumatic disorders, including health issues that may affect the ability to learn (e.g., epilepsy, cancer, birth defects, tuberculosis, etc.).
In order to determine eligibility for Section 504 services, your child must be evaluated by a certified or licensed individual (e.g., family physician) or team of professionally credentialed individuals who are familiar with your child.
What are the guidelines for eligibility?
If the school or parent has reason to believe that, because of a disability as defined under Section 504, a child may need specific accommodations in order to participate in the school programs, the school must evaluate the child. If it is determined that a child is eligible under Section 504 (see “Three-Pronged Rule” below), the school must develop and implement the delivery of necessary and reasonable accommodations.
ADA's Three-Pronged Rule to Disability Determination:
- The student must have a documented impairment (i.e., from professionals in the medical, psychological, and/or educational field);
- The student’s impairment must be substantially limiting (i.e., impairment must be significantly more impacting than that of non-impaired children and the impairment must be permanent in nature);
- The impairment must be impacting a major life activity (i.e., caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working
When might 504 services be warranted?
The multidisciplinary team responsible for handling 504 referrals at the schools must make a determination of the need for services on an individual basis.
Clues as to when an evaluation for a disability might be considered are:
- When a student who has been referred for special education evaluation, but is determined to be ineligible.
- When a student shows a pattern of not benefiting from the instruction being provided.
- When a student returns to school following a serious illness or injury.
- When a student exhibits a chronic health condition.
- When a disability of any kind is known or suspected.