504 Assistance is a component of the Special Education and Instruction Department.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance, including public school districts.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities. It is commonly called Section 504 in the school setting and provides a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). FAPE refers to the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual educational needs of school-aged students with disabilities or impairments as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. FAPE is based on adherence to procedures (see below) that satisfy the requirements pertaining to the educational setting with regards to identification, evaluation and placement. Local Educational Agencies (LEA) must provide FAPE to each qualified disabled or impaired student in their jurisdiction. FAPE must be provided without cost.
If someone suspects that a student has a substantial mental or physical impairment, they should first contact the 504 Liaison in the child's zoned school. Upon calling your child's zoned school, you will be directed to the person who is assigned to the task of 504 compliance for that building. This liaison will assemble a committee of school personnel and family members that are knowledgeable about your child, the impact of the impairment, the meaning of the evaluation data and placement options. This team typically consists of parents, teacher(s), a school administrator, the school nurse and the 504 Liaison in the child's school of zone. Additional members with knowledge regarding the identified impairment and its impact on the student may also be included.
To determine eligibility under Section 504, the assembled team discusses medical, academic and behavioral data that is presented during the meeting. Eligibility under Section 504 has two components: eligibility and impact. First, after a thorough discussion of the evidence presented during the meeting the committee determines if a student has a disability under Section 504. This is defined as a student who:
- Has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity or bodily function. Major life activities include activities such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks or performing daily functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working. Major bodily functions may include functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions. Neither of these is an exhaustive list;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
The second component of eligibility considers the impact of the disability on the student in the educational setting. This impact must be determined to be substantial when compared to non-impaired peers.
The evaluation tools used for each individual student may vary depending on the concerns and should come from multiple and varied sources.
After the student is deemed by the committee to be eligible, the committee then creates a Section 504 Service Plan which includes accommodations, modifications and related aids and services to mitigate the impact of the identified impairment and ensure that the student receives FAPE.