SECTION 504 PROCEDURES

Updated 8/10/15

Introduction
The purpose of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29, U.S.C. Section 794, is to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Section 504 includes all students who are eligible for special education and extends further to cover a larger class of handicapped students than those who are covered under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Section 504 is technical in nature and directs all employees as to the minimum actions required to address the needs of the individuals that are protected under this law. Information is provided here to remind each employee of his/her responsibility and the responsibility of each district to establish policies, training and implementation practices that meet these mandates. Each agency with 15 or more employees is required to designate a Section 504 Coordinator. Each employee should be able to identify the Section 504 Coordinator and be familiar with 1) district policy for Section 504 and 2) the district's grievance procedures. The SELPA is available to provide assistance to the district in the development of both policies to meet minimal requirements and to implement best practices with student and parents.

The parent's role under Section 504 procedures is limited, however it is always best practice to consistently communicate with parents and encourage their participation in all meetings. The limitations in the law exist to assure the ability of the employee to implement the law, not to restrict the parent's role. Employees are encouraged to develop relationships with parents that would make them partners in the education of student.

Expectations for best practice include:

  • Timely and frequent communication with parents
  • Informed staff and community
  • Trained employees
  • Implementation of policy
  • Progress review periods and method of evaluation for Section 504 Accommodation Plans. When a student is found ineligible for special education, eligibility for Section 504 shall be considered.

Protection under 504
Any student who has a temporary or permanent mental or physical impairment, which substantially limits one or more of their major life activities, is considered handicapped under Section 504. Basic life activities are "those basic activities" that the average person in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty. Major life activities include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, working, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, and learning.

It should be emphasized that a physical or mental impairment does not constitute a disability for the purposes of Section 504 unless its severity is such that it results in a substantial limitation of one or more of the major life activities. It is also important to note that the impact of the student's disability must be global in nature, affecting all aspects of a major life activity such as learning. Each district policy should address what constitutes a substantial limitation of a major life activity.

Evaluation
The process for determining Section 504 eligibility begins with an evaluation. The evaluation must be appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the individual student. A meeting involving a group of persons knowledgeable about the student (Section 504 team) will carefully consider any pertinent information as it relates to the student in the school setting.

An evaluation for Section 504 purposes may include information gathered informally and may include some testing (review of records, teacher/parent/student interviews, etc.) The information typically considered comes from several sources: physician reports, parents, teachers, school records, observations or interviews by school personnel, etc. The Section 504 team/Student Study Team may include the student services director or designee, psychologist, guidance counselor, nurse, teachers, parent, and/or student. Unlike IDEA, Section 504 does not give specific timelines for conducting the evaluation, but the district is expected to conduct any evaluation in a timely manner.

Based upon the information, decisions are made regarding whether or not the student has a temporary or permanent mental or physical impairment that substantially limits his/her learning.

  • When determining whether a student's disability substantially limits a major life activity entitling a student to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, the district must focus on learning and behavior.
  • When determining whether a student's mental or physical impairment "substantially limits" the major life activity of "learning," the district must compare the student's academic progress to that of the "average" student, not a student of similar intellectual potential.

Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD): A student may be eligible for Section 504 if the student is educationally impacted and substantially limited, depending on the severity of the condition. ADD/ADHD is something that does not necessarily have to be diagnosed by a doctor. If a school site team is concerned about a student's attention, they can consult with their school psychologist who has the means to determine if the student does have an attention issue.

If the student is found eligible, a Section 504 plan is developed.

In general, parents are responsible for obtaining medical diagnoses and treatment for their student. When a medical condition is suspected as constituting a significant impairment of the major life activity of learning, school personnel have the responsibility for reviewing the medical diagnostic reports and determining whether or not the medical condition does, in fact, substantially limit learning. If so, the school personnel then have the responsibility for determining what accommodations are needed in a Section 504 plan.


Eligibility and Placement
Whether or not the student is eligible for Section 504 services will be determined by a consensus of participating public school personnel after consideration of all relevant data, including consideration of any information the parent and student wish to provide. If the student is found to be eligible under Section 504, the 504 team must place written documentation of accommodations in the student's file. The student's eligibility and the specific plan will be reviewed periodically.

A general education classroom with modified instruction, curriculum accommodations, and/or the use of supplementary materials/equipment, is the appropriate setting for students who are determined disabled under Section 504. Adjustments in academic and/or behavioral (and discipline) requirements and expectations may be necessary to accommodate the needs of individual handicapped students to enable them to participate and benefit from general education program and activities. However, the student is entitled to receive any special education services the Section 504 Team decides are necessary for the student to receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

Section 504 requires that schools design an individualized plan to meet the student's needs.

The Section 504 Plan must address the five following areas:
1. The handicap
2. Evaluation procedures
3. Educational impact of the handicap
4. Free and Appropriate Public Education
5. Least Restrictive Environment (accommodations)

Should the Section 504 team determine a student requires more intense services than can be provided in the general education classroom, written documentation should include:

  • Evidence that a Section 504 plan has not resulted in student progress but has been implemented over a reasonable period of time.
  • Evaluations that are expanded and may include standardized assessments from specifically trained personnel such as speech therapists, psychologists and resource specialists.

Procedural Safeguards
Procedural safeguards are guaranteed under Section 504. They include the following:

  • Prior notice shall be sent to the parent(s) with respect to action regarding the identification and evaluation, or educational placement of the student. Parents are not required to attend the meeting. The parent(s) shall be given an opportunity to examine relevant records.
  • Either party may request a hearing if there is a disagreement that cannot otherwise be resolved.
  • The district shall give the parent(s) notice of rights under Section 504 when any of the above actions occur.
  • Should a disagreement arise between parent/student and the school district, a Section 504 hearing may be requested.
  • If both the district and parent agree, an unbiased Solutions Panel from the Contra Costa SELPA office may be accessed for dispute resolution in lieu of a formal Section 504 hearing.
  • If a Section 504 hearing is held, the parent(s) and student may participate and may be represented by legal counsel.
  • A party who is dissatisfied with the outcome of the Section 504 hearing may seek a review of that outcome in court.

Summary of Section 504 Procedures
Referral: Anyone with knowledge of the student may initiate a referral for consideration of a Section 504 plan by contacting the Section 504 Coordinator at each school and/or district office.
Evaluation: A Section 504 team gathers data regarding the student's suspected disability and current school performance. If any additional information is needed, that information is identified and obtained by the school personnel. The parent is informed of the plan of evaluation.
Section 504 Meeting: The parent is notified of the meeting to determine eligibility for a Section 504 plan. The notification does not have to be in writing.
Eligibility and Section 504 Plan: The Section 504 Team determines eligibility and develops a Section 504 plan as needed. These decisions are documented in writing Teachers are informed of the plan and the plan is placed in the student's cumulative file.
Dispute Resolution: If there is a dispute between the parent and district staff regarding the eligibility or Section 504 the central office administrator responsible for Section 504 matters will be notified. If the dispute cannot be resolved at the district office level, the administrator will appoint a hearing officer to hear the case or schedule a Solutions Panel session. That case will be heard in a timely manner.
Rights: Parents have the right to contest determination of Section 504 eligibility, examine relevant records, an impartial hearing, have an attorney present, and to administrative review Complaints may be filed with the "Office of Civil Rights."

When specific questions regarding Section 504 policies or procedures arise, contact the 504 Coordinator at your school and/or district office.

Key Definitions of Section 504
Individual with handicaps
"…any individual who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (ii) has a record of such impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment." (29 U.S.C. Sec.706(8)

Physical or mental impairment "…(A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; skin; and endocrine; or (E) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities." (34 Code of Federal Regulations Part 104.3)

Major life activities "…functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working." (34 Code of Federal Regulations 104.3)

Has a record of such impairment "…has a history of, or has been classified as having, a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity." (34 Code of Federal Regulations 104.3)

Regarded as having an impairment "…(A) has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but is treated by a recipient as constituting such a limitation: (E) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others towards such impairment; or (C) has one of the impairments defined but is treated by a recipient as having such an impairment." (34 Code of Federal Regulations Part 104.3)


 

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Click here to download and print "Section 504 Meeting Agenda Checklist"

Click here to download and print "Student Population"