SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973
What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination/harassment on the basis of disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. The District has specific responsibilities related to the provision of a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to school-age individuals with disabilities under Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
A Section 504 Plan is an accommodation plan that requires classroom teachers and other school staff to provide accommodations and/or services necessary for Section 504 eligible students to participate in and benefit from public education programs and activities. Accommodations may provide support for physical, instructional, or social/emotional. 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?
Generally, all individuals who are disabled under the IDEA are also considered to be entitled to rights and protection under Section 504. IDEA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local governments.
Free Appropriate Public Education, or FAPE, is an educational right of children with disabilities in the United States that is guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under Section 504, FAPE is defined as “the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual needs of persons with disabilities as well as the needs of non-disabled persons are met and based upon adherence to procedural guidelines regarding educational setting, evaluation and placement and procedural safeguards as outlined in the law.” Under the IDEA, FAPE is defined as an educational program that is individualized to a specific child, designed to meet that child’s unique needs, provides access to the general curriculum, meets the grade-level standards established by the state, and from which the child receives educational benefit.
Section 504 regulations require identification, evaluation, provision of appropriate services, and procedural safeguards. While the IDEA spells out what FAPE means for the IDEA-eligible students with well-defined criteria and procedures, Section 504 does not provide similarly detailed eligibility criteria, nor does it require any particular form in which program protections must be delivered.
Furthermore, while the IDEA programs receive state and federal funding, Section 504 receives no state or federal funding.
Who qualifies for a Section 504 Plan?
A qualified individual with a disability under Section 504 is any person who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activities;
- Has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such 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; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or
A mental impairment is any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
Major life activities are 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?
When a student is exhibiting academic, participation, attendance, social and/or behavioral problems the student’s school should consider interventions through its professional team process, the Coordination of Services (COS) team, Section 504 team, or other team. This consideration should result in: general education interventions (such as tiered interventions in a Response to Instruction and Intervention model), a referral to assess for Section 504 eligibility, and/or a referral for a special education evaluation pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA). Parents also may refer the child for Section 504 consideration at any time. If the student is suspected of having a disability under IDEA, the district should proceed with IDEA evaluation procedures.
- The school site Section 504 Coordinator will convene a team to determine eligibility.
- The school must complete the Section 504 Review and Eligibility Form. Evaluation material can include: formal & informal test results, aptitude and achievement tests, data from tier II interventions, 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.
If the team determines that the student is eligible to receive a FAPE under Section 504, the team will develop a Section 504 Service Plan.
In what areas do schools provide accommodations for Section 504?
Students who have been determined to be eligible for Section 504 services must have an accommodation plan for delivery of needed services created by the district. Access to services and programs comparable to that of non-disabled students must be provided to the students receiving Section 504 accommodations to meet each individual student’s needs. Accommodations generally involve adjustments made by classroom teachers and other staff to enable the Section 504 eligible student to benefit from his/her educational program. Accommodations may provide support of a physical, instructional, or social/emotional nature.
- Physical arrangement of room
- Test taking
- Class assignment/daily schedule
- Organization and study skills
- Behavior management
- Accommodation provided by parents/guardians at home
For more information, please contact your school site administrator, counselor or contact the District’s Section 504 coordinator, Dr. Phillip Shelley.
Dr. Phillip Shelley
Director, Student Services
District Section 504 Plan Coordinator
2020 Bonar Street, Room 112
Berkeley, CA 94702