Roxbury School District Guide to Section 504
If at any time, a parent/guardian believes that their son/daughter is eligible and would benefit from a 504 plan, they should reach out to the school counselor or school principal. Reviewing the below information will assist with determining if a student may or may not be eligible for a 504, as well as the process of developing a 504 plan.
What is Section 504?
Section 504 is part of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was enacted by Congress to combat discrimination against individuals with disabilities in services, programs, and activities administered by any entity that receives federal funds, including public schools. Section 504 states in pertinent part:
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of his or her 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…”
Which students qualify for coverage under Section 504?
Section 504 and the ADA provide specific protections for “qualified individuals with a disability.” There are three categories that may qualify someone as an “ individual with a disability.” These are:
- A person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- A person who has a record of such an impairment
- A person who is regarded as having such an impairment
Most of the student situations that schools encounter involve students with actual current impairments that substantially limit a major life activity. These students may need specific services and accommodations in order to access the school program, but it may occasionally be true that an eligible child under Section 504 is not in need of any interventions at the present time. Protection under the second and third categories listed above generally does not require providing special accommodations or services. Instead, the second and third categories generally protect against negative, discriminatory actions by the school or school employees.
“Major Life Activities”
Major life activities are defined as activities considered important to live. The categories are: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, and the operation of a major bodily function.
Referral, Evaluation, and Eligibility
The district has established a set of procedures and forms that guide Section 504 processes to ensure that the school meets its Section 504 responsibilities to students. A summary of that process follows:
- Any parent, guardian, or school staff member may initiate a referral of a student who is believed to be a child with a disability under Section 504.
- A referral for Section 504 must be forwarded to the building 504 Coordinator. This person shall ensure that the district’s 504 Referral Form is properly completed, which will initiate the 504 referral process.
- The building 504 Coordinator will gather the information that will assist the 504 Team in making a determination regarding the student's eligibility and programming from appropriate sources (e.g. teachers, school nurse, parent/guardian, administration, physician, student, etc.).
- The building 504 Coordinator will convene a 504 Team meeting within a reasonable amount of time to consider the concerns raised in the referral and any available information. The Team’s discussions and decisions will be summarized in the 504 Team meeting minutes and the parent/guardian will be provided a Notice of Parent/Student Rights.
- The Team must make decisions about eligibility and significant changes in programming or placement based upon an evaluation/analysis of the child’s individual needs.
- In the event it is determined that the student is eligible for a 504 Plan as described, the plan may include school, student, and parent/guardian responsibilities in order to allow the student access to all opportunities for non-disabled peers.
When determining a student’s eligibility under Section 504, the Team will complete a 504 Eligibility Form. A copy of the completed Eligibility Form will be sent to the parent/guardian within a reasonable amount of time after the meeting and placed in the student’s educational records.
Access under Section 504
Some accommodations intended to allow “access” may include:
- Physical barrier removal
- Preferred seating placement
- Testing accommodations
- Extended time for testing
- Frequent breaks/rest period
- Use of aids (audio recorder, calculator, technology)
- Organizational support
- Supplemental accommodations
- Embedded health plans
*Standardized testing accommodations are only appropriate and will only be considered when they are consistent with the typical classroom practices.
Impartial Hearing and Complaint Procedures
- Impartial Hearing
When a parent/guardian or adult student disagrees with the district’s decision regarding the Section 504 process, they are entitled to request a hearing conducted by an impartial hearing officer from outside of the school unit. Questions regarding how to request a hearing under this section should be directed to the District 504 coordinator.
- Complaint Procedure
The district maintains student discrimination and complaint procedures. This procedure provides a proves for students or parents/guardians to raise concerns regarding the school’s compliance with its obligations under state and federal discrimination and disability laws, including Section 504.
- OCR Complaint Process
A parent/guardian, student, or others may also file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights alleging any violations of Section 504 and/or the ADA. To make an inquiry or file a complaint under Section 504, an individual may contact the Office for Civil Rights.