Navigating Section 504
What is Section 504?
It is a Federal Law to eliminate discrimination based on disabilities and it covers all people of all ages.
Any entity or program that receives federal funds is required to follow this law.
Section 504 is enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
Section 504 Nondiscrimination Statement:
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States. . .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…” (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
Every teacher within the District/Charter should have information regarding the overall early intervention process, understand how to initiate a Section 504 Referral, and know how to identify students who should be referred.
The school’s duty to evaluate under Section 504
is triggered by the school’s suspicion that the student is disabled and in need of services or whenever a parent/guardian requests an evaluation.
An individual has a disability under Section 504 if she/he
has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)
Congress’s intent was to “undo” the narrower definitions which had come from several court decisions. The law requires that the definition of “disability” under ADA and 504 be interpreted broadly.
Most Common Mistake Schools Make
In Special Ed evaluations, the determining factor is always a question of “educational need,” but that is not the case with 504 Referrals and Evaluations. OCR investigations have stated that a focus just on learning is too narrow for determining eligibility under Section 504.
Kathy Meek is a lifelong advocate for children with disabilities and hasserved several years as the English Language Arts Consultant at ESC Region 11 in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in dyslexia and Section 504.