Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 is a federal civil rights statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability. It specifically prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities and guarantees them a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Public school are subject to, and responsible for, the requirements of Section 504 as we are recipients of federal funding. Unlike special education, no federal or state funding is provided to assist schools in complying with the law; all costs are the obligation of the school district budget.
It is important to note that Section 504 is a civil rights statute and not a special education statute, and thus has a broader scope than the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students with disabilities receiving special education services are protected under Section 504 but not all Section 504 students are eligible for special education. As a civil rights statute, Section 504 focuses on ensuring a level of access to educational services (including both academic and extracurricular activities) that is equal to the level of access provided to nondisabled students. This includes providing eligible students who have a physical or mental disability with a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Protection under Section 504
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)].
In order for a student to be protected under Section 504, three criteria must be met:
- The student must have a physical or mental impairment, have a record of such impairment or be regarded as having such impairment;
- That impairment must substantially limit;
- One or more major life activities.
In order to determine if a student is protected under 504, the school must conduct an evaluation for which informed parental consent is required. If the student meets the three criteria outlined, then the 504 Team determines if accommodation, modifications, supports and services are necessary.
Section 504 Plan
There is currently no specified 504 plan required by federal or state law. Currently ACSD uses GoalView for all special education paperwork. There is a section of GoalView specific to 504 as well. For purposes of consistency, ACSD will be moving in the direction of utilizing GoalView for 504 over the course of the next 2 years.
Further information on Section 504
In 2015, the Vermont Agency of Education released a Section 504 Manual for Parents, Families and Schools. That manual can be found here.