Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a civil rights statue that aims at preventing discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs that receive direct or indirect federal funds. Section 504 should be a general education management responsibility. A student is identified and evaluated for Section 504 accommodations if they have been evaluated and have a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and needs accommodations. Section 504 is a non-funded federal law. All funds necessary for section 504 requirements are the school district’s responsibility.
What does the evaluation involve?
If parents or guardians believe their child should qualify for protections under Section 504, they should contact their child’s school principal (504 Representative) and/or 504 Coordinator. Together parents, and staff that make-up the team will determine what is necessary. If the team moves to evaluate, parents/guardians will need to sign consent. The evaluation process should consider various factors, such as teacher accommodations, physical conditions, social and cultural background, behavior and any independent evaluations. Evaluation and service decisions are made by a multi-disciplinary team of people familiar with the child who understands the means of evaluation and the special services options. Section 504 requires the use of evaluation procedures that ensure that a child is not misclassified, unnecessarily labeled as having a disability or incorrectly placed. The child must be re-evaluated periodically.
What happens if a child is eligible for services under Section 504?
If a child is considered disabled under the Federal Section 504/ADA and South Dakota Department of Education guidelines, the 504 case manager/representative will write a Section 504 plan with the assistance of the team; parent, teachers. If the child is also eligible for services under IDEA, then in most cases the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will take the place of a section 504 plan if specialized instruction is determined necessary by the team.
In order to determine what kind of services would be most appropriate for a child, a team will meet to consider the child’s disability, how it affects the child’s education and what accommodations would be most helpful. Parents or guardians should be present for all planning sessions regarding their child.
What services are available under Section 504?
Section 504 clearly states that a free and appropriate education must be made available to all students. the educational needs of students with disabilities must be met as adequately as the needs of the students without disabilities.
A child with a Section 504 plan may receive accommodations such as a note taking assistance, extended time for work/test completion or preferential seating. These accommodations will be decided upon by a team on a case by case basis. In each case, the individual educational needs of the child should be addressed in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible.