Section 504 is an Act which prohibits discrimination against persons with a disability in any program in school districts receiving Federal financial assistance. The Act defines a person with a disability as anyone who:
- Has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities which includes: Caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. Other major life activities include major bodily functions, such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions; and
- Has a record of such an impairment; and/or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment
Section 504 FAQs
What is a “Physical Impairment”?
“Physical impairment” includes any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: Neurological; musculoskeletal; special-sense organs; genitor-urinary, hermic and lymphatic; skin; endocrine and reproductive.
What is “Mental Impairment”?
“Mental impairment” includes any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness and specific learning disabilities.
What does “Substantially Limits” mean?
The term “substantially limits” means significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which a student can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the average student.
What are "reasonable accommodations?"
A term used, in the employment context, to refer to modifications or adjustments employers make to a job application process, the work environment, the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed or that enable a covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment; this term is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to related aids and services in the elementary and secondary school context or to refer to academic adjustments, reasonable modifications and auxiliary aids and services in the postsecondary school context.
What is a "free appropriate public education (FAPE)?"
A term used, in the elementary and secondary school context, for purposes of Section 504, referring to the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet individual educational needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. It is based upon adherence to procedures that satisfy the Section 504 requirements pertaining to educational setting, evaluation and placement and procedural safeguards.
Who should be referred?
Any student who has, or is suspected of having, a physical or mental impairment and who needs, or is believed to need, educational and related aids and services in order to receive a free appropriate public education should be referred.
Who makes referral?
A referral may be initiated by anyone, including parents or legal guardians, teachers or other licensed school employees.
How does someone make a referral?
A written referral, for a possible evaluation, may be made to any of the following: The student’s school principal, vice principal or 504 coordinator. The referral should include the student’s name, grade, school and the names of the parents/guardians and their contact information. The referral should explain the reason for the referral including information pertaining to the identified or suspected disabilities and the student’s difficulties associated with educational performance.
Who is on the evaluation team?
The team will have collective knowledge about the student, the known or suspected disabling condition and the concerns that prompted the referral. The team is typically composed of the student’s general education teacher(s) and, as deemed appropriate, specialists on staff (counselor, program teacher). The team may also include special education personnel such as a school nurse, school psychologist, speech pathologist or special education teacher as deemed appropriate for the individual student. This team may be a school site’s designated Student Study Team (SST). At the discretion of the site administrator, this team may also include the parents/guardians and student.
When is the Section 504 Plan developed?
If the parents/guardians and student are present during the evaluation meeting, the team may choose to develop the Section 504 Accommodation Plan at the same time. If the parents/guardians and student are not present at the evaluation meeting, the parents/guardians will be notified, within 30 school days, of the time and place of the meeting to develop the Section 504 Accommodation Plan. At this time, the parents/guardians will be given a copy of the Notification of Rights.
What is a Section 504 Plan?
A Section 504 Accommodation Plan specifies the educational, related aids and supplemental support services that are needed to ensure that the individual educational needs of a disabled student are met as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students. The focus of a Section 504 Accommodation Plan is on providing an education comparable to education provided to a nondisabled student and modification of the regular school program.
When should a student’s Section 504 Accommodation Plan be reviewed?
A student’s Section 504 Accommodation Plan should be renewed annually if there is a significant change in placement or at the request of the parents/guardians or the student’s teachers (if necessary and reasonable).
Is Section 504 the same as Special Education (IDEA)?
No! While both require the provision of free and appropriate education, Section 504 is much broader than IDEA. Section 504 does not provide additional funds and focuses on non-discrimination and accessibility. Unlike Special Education, Section 504 does not require written notice and procedural safeguards, and it does not require consent prior to an evaluation. In addition to significant differences in eligibility, funding and evaluation, the grievance procedures and enforcement processes are monitored by a different agency.
What are the Procedural Safeguards for Parents/Guardians Rights?
Parents/guardians must be provided with their Section 504 parents/guardian rights whenever there is a meeting held to evaluate, determine needs, develop a plan or change the student’s educational placement. Parent/guardian safeguards include:
- Right to receive written notification of any proposed actions
- Right to examine relevant educational records
- Right to initiate dispute resolution procedures if the parent disagrees with district decisions regarding the identification, evaluation and/or placement under Section 504
What should I do if I have a Grievance?
- Many grievances can be solved in an informal meeting between the parents/guardians, the school administrator and the Section 504 Coordinator. Start at the school site level. The meeting will take place within 14 days of receiving your written request.
- If a grievance cannot be solved at the school site level, a parent may contact the District 504 Coordinator, Dominic Covello (Director, Student Support Services), at (916) 971-7220. A meeting will take place within 14 days of receiving your written request.
- Request, in writing, an impartial hearing, set up by the District 504 Coordinator. This will take place within 30 days of receiving the written request. The parents/guardians and counsel, if desired, shall participate and present issues at the hearing. The written request for hearing should include:
- Specific nature of the decisions made by the district which you disagree with
- Specific relief you are seeking
- Any other information you feel is needed
The Hearing Officer will make a decision within 10 days of the hearing.
At any point in the process, parents/guardians may file a complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.