Section 504 is a federal law that prohibits any entity that receives federal financial assistance (such as grants or student loans) from discriminating against persons with disabilities and requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of that of non–disabled students. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits state and local governments (such as public school districts, public colleges and universities, and public libraries) from discriminating against persons with disabilities.
Section 504 states that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
The primary contact at the school is the Section 504 Coordinator who is also a school administrator designated by the school principal. However, meetings may be requested through other school administrators, teachers, school counselors, or if medical through the school nurse.
No. The school 504 team can only make determinations related to eligibility and 504 plans in the current educational setting.
504 plans include the following: Basic student information, student strengths and weaknesses, a statement regarding the impact of the student’s disability on successful participation in the school setting, necessary accommodations, and individuals responsible for implementing those accommodations.
A student is eligible if he or she has a physical, mental, or emotional impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities”. Major life activities can include: breathing, seeing, learning, hearing, speaking, working, caring for oneself, or performing manual tasks. Eligibility decisions are based upon the extent to which an impairment adversely impacts successful participation in a school setting.
A school-based team meets to consider relevant information such as medical history, grades, school records, teacher information, parent information, and standardized test scores. The team may include the nurse, counselor, previous teachers, current teachers, speech therapists, administrators, school psychologist, and parents and/or guardians. Representatives from outside agencies may also attend the meeting when invited by the parents. The 504 coordinator or administrative designee will be present during all team meetings.
School personnel or parents may request eligibility meetings. Please contact your school's Section 504 Coordinator or School Counselor to make a referral and/or request an eligibility meeting. The Federal Compliance Specialist will most likely contact you to confirm meeting dates and times and manage documents pertaining to the 504.
Parents are encouraged to bring any relevant medical documentation that supports the existence of a disability and its impact on a major life activity.
No. A medical diagnosis and/or private testing do not automatically qualify students for 504 accommodations. Eligibility is determined by the team, based on the presence of a disability and its impact on a major life activity.
Section 504 does not define “substantial”, but rather requires a school team to make that determination. Current and previous school performance, test scores, classroom behavior, evaluations, and information from parents and teachers will be considered when determining the extent to which a major life activity is affected.
Not necessarily. Student 504 plans are reviewed periodically (at least on an annual basis) to determine if eligibility continues to be applicable or if modifications to the plan are appropriate. The review team may conclude that a student’s disability no longer substantially limits a major life activity.
E. Ann O’Cain