Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights statute which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. For practical purposes, all K-12 public and private schools receive federal financial aid in some way or another.
The federal Department of Education has issued a set of regulations which establish the requirements schools must meet while implementing a Section 504 Plan. The regulations are enforced by the Office for Civil Rights and affords parents and students with disabilities the following rights:
- Have the student take part in and receive benefits from public education programs without discrimination based on his/her disability.
- Have the school advise the parent and student of their rights under federal law.
- Parents must receive prior written notice with respect to the student’s identification, evaluation, program or placement.
- The school must encourage parent involvement before the initial evaluation and placement for services of the student. The school is not required to obtain written consent from the parent.
- Have the student receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Related aids or services must be designed to meet the individual educational needs of the student as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities. This includes the right to be educated with non-disabled students and the opportunity to participate in school and school-related activities to the maximum extent appropriate.
- Have the student educated in facilities and receive services comparable to those provided to students without disabilities.
- Have the student evaluated for eligibility under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and if found eligible, receive special education and related services.
- Have identification, evaluation, and educational placement decisions made based upon a variety of information sources, and by individuals who know the student, disability, evaluation data, and placement options. The school is required to convene a multi-disciplinary team to develop the 504 plan.
- School districts can not consider mitigation measures to determine whether an impairment substantially limits a student’s major life activity
- Give the student an equal opportunity to participate in non-academic and extracurricular activities offered by the school.
- Examine all relevant records relating to decisions regarding the student’s identification, evaluation, educational program, services, and placement.
- Section 504 Plans should be reviewed and rewritten at least annually. While regulations do not require specific personnel to participate in the review process, it is recommended that a multi-disciplinary team with all personnel responsible for the implementation of a student’s Section 504 Plan contribute to the review process.
- File a complaint pursuant with the school’s policies and regulations if the parent feels their child is being discriminated against because of his/her disability.
- Request a Due Process Hearing to help resolve issues with the school during the development or implementation of the 504 Plan.
- File a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights if the parent feels their child is being discriminated against because of his/her disability. For more information on this process click Office for Civil Rights Complaint Portal.