Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
known as Section 504, is a federal civil rights law passed by the United States Congress with the purpose of prohibiting discrimination against persons who may participate in, or receive benefits from, programs receiving federal financial assistance. In the public schools, specifically, Section 504 requires that eligible students with disabilities are provided with services designed to meet their individual needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students or provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Section 504 regulations require identification, evaluation, provision of appropriate services, least restrictive environment (LRE), and procedural safeguards in every public school in the United States.
What Section 504 law says:
Section 504 states that: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” [29 U.S.C. §794(a), 34 C.F.R. §104.4(a)].
Schools are required to:
- identify and notify qualified disabled students of their rights and procedural safeguards
- evaluate students to determine eligibility
- provide appropriate classroom accommodations
- meet the need of eligible disabled students as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled students
- provide FAPE
- afford eligible disabled students with equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular and nonacademic activities to the extent as non-disabled students.
Who qualifies under Section 504?
To be covered under Section 504, a student must be “qualified” (which roughly equates to being between 3 and 22 years of age, depending on the program, as well as state and federal law, and must have a disability) [34 C.F.R. §104.3(k)(2)].
As defined by federal law: “An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(j)(1)].
Students must meet the following definition of disability:
- has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits the student in one or more major life activities, without consideration of mitigating measure(s) which might be used to ameliorate the negative effects of the student's disability, and which substantially limits an activity that is central to regular life.
- those who have a record of impairment; or
- those who are regarded as having such an impairment.
"Placement" of students in Section 504 (§504) usually refers to the regular education classroom with individually planned accommodations by the Campus §504 Committee. §504 is not a statute of "reduced academic expectations or curriculum," but rather provides for individualized accommodations for students are related to the student's disability, which as needed in the regular classroom and are recommended by the student's Campus §504 Committee.
“A medical diagnosis of an illness does not automatically mean a student can receive services under Section 504. The illness must cause a substantial limitation on the student's ability to learn or another major life activity. For example, a student who has a physical or mental impairment would not be considered a student in need of services under Section 504 if the impairment does not in any way limit the student's ability to learn or other major life activity, or only results in some minor limitation in that regard.” https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/504faq.html