A Parent’s Guide to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

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    Background:

    Three federal laws regulate provision of educational services to children and adolescents with disabilities: Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (§504); and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These laws fundamentally mandate that each student with a disability be provided a free education that is appropriate to the child’s educational needs in light of his or her particular disability. The definition of what constitutes a disability, however, is not identical under each of these laws. The information contained in this document focuses mainly on Section 504 and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The Kodiak Island Borough School District has specific responsibilities under the Act, which include the responsibility to identify, evaluate, and if the student is determined to be eligible under Section 504 and has needs, to provide accommodations and services, resulting in a free appropriate education (FAPE). 

    IDEA/Section 504 Differences:

    Section 504:

    Section 504 is a civil rights act that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 mandates that the student with a disability has equal access to an education. The student may receive accommodations, related aids, and services.

    IDEA:

    Requires a public school to provide an individualized educational program (IEP) that is designed to meet a student's unique needs and provide specially designed instruction for students found eligible under Alaska’s disability category criteria.

     

    Criteria for determining eligibility under Section 504

    To be eligible for services a student must be determined, as a result of an evaluation, to have a “physical or mental disability” that “substantially limits one or more major life activities.” 29USC705(20)(B). Section 504 does not define specific diseases or list medical conditions that constitute a physical or mental disability, it does, under Appendix A to Part 104 of Section 504 offer the following examples (but not limited to):

    • Orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments;
    • Cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, intellectual disabilities, emotional or mental illness, specific learning disabilities, alcoholism and drug addiction

    42 USC 12102 (2)(A) includes but is not limited to the following major life activities:

    • Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking standing, lifting, bending, breathing;
    • Speaking, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, or working

    A substantial limitation is a restriction as to the condition, manner, or duration under which an individual can perform a major life activity as compared to an average person in the general population. (29 CFR§1630.2(J) (2)).   Substantial limitation is not measured in reference to the child’s potential and/or the student’s immediate classmates. Instead, the reference is to the performance of most children, or the average child, at the same age or grade in the general population.

     

    Rights under Section 504:

    • Receive a free and appropriate public education.
    • Participate in and benefit from the district’s educational programs without discrimination.
    • Be educated with students who do not have disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.
    • Receive accommodations and/or related aids and services to allow your student an equal opportunity to participate in school activities.
    • Receive educational and related aids and services without cost, except for those fees imposed on the parents of children without disabilities.
    • Be educated in facilities and receive services that are comparable to those provided to students without disabilities.
    • Be provided an equal opportunity to participate in the district’s nonacademic and extracurricular activities.
    • Request a due process hearing and/or use the grievance procedure to resolve differences.
    • File a formal complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

     

    Section 504 evaluations:

    The parent’s written consent is required prior to conducting an initial evaluation.  An evaluation should review information from a variety of sources and be sufficiently comprehensive to enable the Section 504 team to determine the existence of a physical or mental impairment and whether or not the impairment results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities/major bodily functions, and what specific accommodations or services may be needed in order to meet the needs of the student with a disability as adequately as the needs of a student without a disability are met. (34 CFR §104.35 (b))

     

    Section 504 team:

    A group of individuals, known as the Section 504 team, conducts the evaluation and makes the eligibility and placement decisions for the student. The Section 504 team is responsible for receiving the Section 504 referral, securing evaluation information, determining eligibility, and developing appropriate accommodations, related aids, or services for eligible students. The team shall be composed of a group of persons who are (1) knowledgeable about the student, (2) understand the meaning of evaluation data, and (3) are familiar with placement options. (34 CFR §104.35(c)).

     

    Section 504 Plan Development and Implementation:

    Section 504 requires an appropriate educational program be designed to meet the individual educational needs of qualified students with disabilities as adequately as students without disabilities are met. The 504 team, consisting of members knowledgeable of the student, the evaluation data, and the placement options, is responsible for the development of 504 plan.  The Section 504 Plan document is used to record accommodations and services. The Section 504 case manager will provide teachers and other staff responsible for implementing the plan with a copy of the student’s accommodations and services. The Section 504 case manager monitors the implementation of the plan and the progress of the student.

     

    For more information contact:

    Section 504 District Coordinator
    Kodiak Island Borough School District
    722 Mill Bay Rd.Kodiak, AK 99615
    907-486-7574