Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination/harassment against individuals with disabilities in programs that receive federal funding.
The act requires school districts to provide students with disabilities a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) including accommodations that allow access to educational programs and associated activities to the same extent as students without disabilities.
What is a 504 plan?
A 504 plan is a legally binding document that falls under the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In terms of educational purpose, it is designed to plan an instructional program, including appropriate accommodations, to assist students with special needs who are attending their school’s regular education program.
How does Section 504 define a disability
A student is considered disabled if he/she has:
- A physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities,
- Has a record of such an impairment, or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
Do all students with disabilities have a 504 plan?
Not all students with disabilities have or need a 504 plan. Some students need more support than a 504 plan provides and qualify for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) under the Individual with Disabilities Act. (Special Education).
Other students have a disability but it does not substantially limit a major life activity related to school activities or learning. These students are protected under Section 504 from discrimination, but do not require an accommodation plan.
What is meant by "substantially limits one or more life activities"?
This is a barrier to the student performing one or more major life activities, in the school setting, as compared to an average (non-disabled) student in the school population.
What are considered major life activities?
These include, but are not limited to: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, learning, working, eating, sleeping standing, lifting, and bending.
When should a 504 referral be considered?
A student can be referred for consideration of a 504 plan by a teacher, counselor, administrator, parent/guardian or self-referred. A section 504 evaluation should be considered when a student is known or suspected to have a disability and:
- Is being considered for retention
- Does not require or meet eligibility for special education
- Returning to school after a serious injury
- Returning to school after a mental health crisis/hospitalization
- Is being considered for expulsion, SARB or at risk for dropping out
How is a 504 referral processed?
A school team will conduct a 504 evaluation. To facilitate the evaluation process and ensure that all suspected areas of disability and barriers to school are assessed, a Student Study Team (SST) meeting will usually be scheduled. Staff, parents and the student (when appropriate) will discuss the referral concerns, the interventions, if any, that have been attempted and the results of interventions. The team will then develop an assessment plan.
Once the assessment is completed the team will reconvene to determine eligibility, and if the student meets criteria, develop a 504 plan.
What types of accommodations can be provided?
The types of accommodations vary and are developed based on the unique needs of the student. 504 plans should be limited to 3-5 key accommodations necessary for the student to receive FAPE. Some common accommodations include:
- Extra time on tests or assignments
- Extra time to transition between classes
- An individual behavior support plan
- Additional communication between home and school
- Additional study aides
- Use of text-to-speech or speech-to-text technology
- Extra set of books at home
- Use of a private restroom
- Preferential seating
Section 504 Procedural Safeguards and appeal process
Section 504 Procedural Safeguards and appeal process.
You have the right to appeal any decision by the 504 team including decisions regarding identification, evaluation and/or accommodations. In addition, if you are concerned that school staff are not implementing your child’s 504 plan as agreed upon you may file a complaint with the district 504 coordinator. To file an appeal or complaint please contact your school site 504 coordinator.
Impairments of major bodily functions
Students who have permanent or long-term impairments of major bodily functions which cause barriers to access to their educational (both academic and non-academic program) may also require a 504 plan. These include but are not limited to:
- functions of the immune system
- normal cell growth
- digestive, bowel, bladder issues
- neurological, brain
- respiratory, circulatory, endocrine
- reproductive functions
Who should I contact for further information?
For elementary students, the 504 site coordinator is the School Principal.
For all secondary students, the 504 coordinator is:
The Vice Principal for your student