Section 504 Description
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public or private programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of Section 504 is to protect students with disabilities from discrimination. The second purpose is to provide a free appropriate public education to those students who actually have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and need services or accommodations to access their educational program, in which case the student has a Section 504 Services Plan. Section 504 is not a special education law.
What is and is not a Section 504 Service Plan?
A Section 504 plan is a written plan that describes the educational and related aids and services that the team determines the student needs to receive a FAPE. It may change more than annually depending on the student’s needs. For a student whose only disability is a life threatening health condition, an individual health care may be attached to his/her 504 plan. However, an individual health care plan that is not based on evaluation, placement and other procedures that satisfy the requirements of Section 504, will not suffice for students who are eligible for 504 FAPE.
Which students are protected under Section 504?
Section 504 protects qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving federal financial assistance. To qualify a student must be determined to have (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such impairment, or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. School districts are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdiction who have physical or mental impairments that substantially limit major life activities.
What is a Free Appropriate Public Education under Section 504?
Section 504 regulations require the District to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each eligible student who is in the school district’s jurisdiction regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504 FAPE consists of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students are met. These services are written in a Section 504 plan.
When is a Section 504 referral needed?
Section 504 requires the District to conduct an evaluation of any student who needs or is believed to need special education or related services under Section 504. When a student is exhibiting consistent problems with academic, attendance, social and/or behavior, the student’s school will typically convene a Student Success Team (“SST”) meeting. The purpose of the SST is to investigate why these problems are happening and the needs of the student. This preliminary investigation may result in a disposition including one of three things: general education interventions (such as Response to Intervention, also known as RTI), a referral for evaluation for Section 504 eligibility, and/or a referral for a special education evaluation pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (“IDEA”). A parent/guardian may also directly initiate a Section 504 evaluation referral without going through the SST process. The individual making the referral should complete the Section 504 Referral Form and forward it to the school principal or Section 504 Coordinator. A referral should be considered for the following circumstances:
- Marked decline in grades
- Not responding to general education interventions (e.g., SST, RTI, counseling, etc.)
- Failing to achieve passing grades
- Failing to advance from grade to grade
- Chronically absent from school
- Returning to school after a serious illness or injury (i.e. cancer, concussion), either from a hospital or home/hospital instruction
- A life threatening health condition
- A temporary impairment that will be substantially limiting for an extended period of time
- An impairment that is episodic or in remission that is substantially limiting when active
- Taking new medication or has stopped taking medication
- Experiencing negative social, emotional and/or behavioral issues at school
- Engaged in serious disciplinary misconduct
Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC 794) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The Superintendent designates the following position as the district’s 504 Coordinator to implement the requirements of Section 50: (34 CFR 104.7).
Dean Juola - Equity Compliance Officer and Title II, Title IX, and Section 504 Coordinator
5801 Sundale Ave.
Bakersfield, Ca 93309