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.
For information on South Dakota Section 504:
How does an individual qualify as disabled under Section 504?
An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities and has a record of such an impairment. Major life activities means functions such as caring for one’s self. Major life activities means functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Under Section 504 and ADA, a person is a qualified individual with a disability if he or she meets the established South Dakota Department of Education guidelines for Section 504 and the ADA is determined on a case-by-case basis.
As a general rule, if a child is eligible for services under IDEA, he or she qualifies for protection under Section 504. However, not all students covered by Section 504 are eligible for IDEA-related services. Section 504 has much broader definitions of disability and so it pertains to many more people.
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 or the appropriate individual listed below. 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 incorrect 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 will write a Section 504 plan. 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.
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.
What is the role of a parent under Section 504?
Under Section 504, a child’s school district must receive consent from a parent or guardian to evaluate the child. Parents should also ask to participate in all aspects of planning and decision-making for the child’s education.
Once a child has been evaluated, the school must notify the parents or guardians about the results and any decisions that are made. If the parents disagree with any decisions the child’s school makes, both the parents and the school have a right to use mediation to resolve any differences of opinion.
Section 504 Parents Rights
A parent may request a form to initiate a referral for any student by contacting the principal of any school or the ADA/Section 504 Coordinator. If the parent or guardian disagrees with the determination made by the professional staff of the school district, he/she has a right to a hearing with an impartial hearing officer.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) also specifies rights related to educational records. This Act gives the parent or guardian the right to:
- inspect and review his/her child’s educational records;
- make copies of these records;
- receive a list of all individuals having access to those records;
- ask for an explanation of any item in the records;
- ask for an amendment to any report on the grounds that it is inaccurate, misleading, or violates the child’s rights; and
- a hearing on the issue if the school refuses to make the amendment.
Is there a complaint process under Section 504?
Any individual who believes that there has been discrimination on the basis of disability, in a health or human service program or activity conducted by a covered entity, may file a complaint with OCR. More information regarding the complaint process can be found here.
District 504 Contacts