Section 504 - Rehabilitation Action of 1972
– 20 U.S.C. § 1405; 29 U.S.C. § 794:
This law is an anti-discrimination, civil rights law, which forbids discrimination on the basis of a disability. In effect, the law is intended to provide children with disabilities access to educational services and it makes it illegal to deny educational opportunity to a child due to the fact that the child may have a disability. This law has also been used to seek financial remedies (damages) in circumstances where school personnel have deliberately inflicted emotional or physical harm upon disabled students.
Under this statute, disability is defined as any physical or mental condition, which substantially limits a major life activity. A major life activity includes education, learning, reading, writing, working, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks. It can include such normal activities as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, or even breathing normally. See 34 C.F.R. § 104.3
- Under this law the school is supposed to provide evaluations for children suspected of a disability. Other procedural safeguards are very unclear, including the right to reevaluations, and independent evaluations.
Implementation of § 504 – The 504 Plan
- The application of § 504 requires schools to provide reasonable accommodations and modifications in the student’s courses. Like IDEA, § 504 requires schools to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for children with disabilities who qualify. Typically schools plan for the provision of § 504 accommodations or modifications through the development of a § 504 Plan.
- The availability of a § 504 Plan is important when a child suffers from a disability, which does not qualify the child for a more comprehensive IEP. The requirements for § 504 are much looser than those for IDEA. A § 504 Plan is particularly appropriate where the accommodation required is relatively simple and not overly intertwined with the child’s education. For example – where the child requires the administration of medicine at school. Such a plan might be appropriate where the student only needs some basic accommodations and there is some confidence that the teachers will respect and implement the plan.
- Accommodations: The exact accommodation a student needs depends upon the child and the specific disabilities involved.
Accommodations v. Modifications: Accommodations are adjustments to curriculum materials, presentation, or student requirements, which do not fundamentally change the essential curriculum or basic course requirements. If the adjustments to the curriculum materials, presentation or student requirements substantially change the curriculum or course requirements, these adjustments are called modifications and they may prevent the student from obtaining regular credit for the coursework.
Some examples of § 504 documents, including a meeting notice and the § 504 Documentation. These are usually followed by an accommodation checklist.