Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) is a federal civil rights law. It is designed to eliminate disability discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funds. Since all public-school districts receive federal funds, all public-school districts must comply with Section 504. Under Section 504, denying a disabled student a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) constitutes disability discrimination. (See the definition of FAPE below.)
Students Eligible under Section 504
Any school-aged student who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity is eligible. “Physical or mental impairment” means any physiological or psychological disorder or condition. The definition of physical or mental impairment under Section 504 is broad. It includes students with life-threatening health conditions. Those are conditions that will put a student in danger of death during the school day if a medication or treatment order and/or a nursing plan are not in place. It is not limited to any specific diseases or categories of medical conditions. Addiction to drugs or alcohol may result in eligibility.
A temporary impairment is a disability under Section 504 if it is severe enough that it substantially limits a major life activity. Temporary means a real or expected duration of six months or less. To be eligible, the student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. That means the impairment substantially limits the student’s ability to perform a major life activity as compared to the student’s non-disabled age/grade peers. There is no single formula or scale that measures substantial limitation. An impairment does not have to prevent performance of a major life activity to be considered substantially limiting. It also does not have to restrict a major life activity significantly or severely.
Major life activities include functions and activities such as:
· caring for one's self
· performing manual tasks
The ability to participate in and benefit from school is a major life activity for a school-aged student. This list of major life activities does not include every possible activity. A disabled student may use mitigating measures to manage his or her impairment or lessen the impact of his or her impairment. Those measures may include medication, medical devices, related aids and/or services, etc. The mitigating measures must be disregarded when determining whether a student’s impairment constitutes a disability under Section 504.
Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”)
FAPE under Section 504 is an education designed to meet a disabled student’s individual educational needs. FAPE is based on procedures that satisfy Section 504’s identification, evaluation, placement and due process requirements. Typically, this includes accommodations and/or related aids that a student needs to participate in and benefit from the District’s education program. Under Section 504, FAPE does not include specially designed instruction. Refer students who you suspect of being in need of specially designed instruction for a Special Education eligibility evaluation.
Placement under Section 504 means the related aids, services, accommodations, and/or modifications that a student needs to receive FAPE. Placement decisions under Section 504 must be:
- based on a student’s evaluated needs, and
- made by persons who know the student, the meaning of the student’s evaluation data, and placement options.
INFORMAL COMPLAINT PROCESS
Anyone may use the informal complaint procedures to report and/or resolve complaints of disability discrimination. The informal complaint process does not have to be used before filing a formal complaint. Informal reports may be made to any staff member and/or District 504 Coordinator. Staff and/or District 504 Coordinator will direct staff complaints regarding staff issues to the District's Human Resources Department. Staff will direct student/parent complaints to the District 504 Coordinator. The complainant should be informed of the right to file informal and/or formal complaints of disability discrimination. The district will give the complainant an opportunity to explain the allegation of disability discrimination. The District and the complainant may identify an agreeable remedy to the dispute during the informal process. Informal complaints may become formal complaints at the request of the complainant or because the District believes the complaint needs to be more thoroughly investigated.
FORMAL COMPLAINT PROCESS
Anyone may use the formal complaint procedures to resolve complaints of disability discrimination. Submit written complaints to the District's Human Resources Department (staff) or District 504 Coordinator (students).