Section 504 'Rehabilitation Act'
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act has been in existence since 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against handicapped persons including students and staff members by school districts receiving federal financial assistance. This includes all programs or activities of the school district receiving federal funds; regardless of whether the specific program or activity involved is a direct recipient of federal funds. Section 504 requires that handicapped students be provided with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). These regulations require identification, evaluation, and provision of appropriate services and procedural safeguards.
Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were enacted in January 1992. This legislation and the regulations with respect to public schools (Title II) are limited legally to reinforcing Section 504. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is interpreting the ADA as incorporating all Section 504 protections.
All individuals who are disabled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are also considered to be disabled and are protected under Section 504. However, all individuals who have been determined to be handicapped under Section 504 may not be disabled under IDEA.
Under Section 504 the local school district must determine that the disabling conditions substantially limit one or more major life activities. Major life activities are defined as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working (34 Code of Federal Regulations Part 104.3).
If a district has reason to believe that, because of a handicap as defined under Section 504, a student needs special accommodations or related services in the regular education environment in order to fully participate in the school program, the district must assess the student. If the student is determined to be handicapped under Section 504, the district must develop and implement a plan for the delivery of all needed services.
Evaluations must use multiple data to assess the nature of the handicap and the recommended services. The determination of what services are needed must be made by a transdisciplinary team of persons who are knowledgeable about the student. The group should review the nature of the handicap, how it affects the student’s education program, whether special services are required, and if so how those services should be delivered.
Under Section 504, the parent or guardian must be provided with notice of actions affecting the identification, evaluation or placement of the student. They are entitled to an impartial hearing if they disagree with the district’s decisions in the aforementioned areas.
Under Section 504, some students who have physical or mental conditions that restrict their ability to access and participate in the education program are entitled to protection under Section 504/ADA even though they may not be eligible for services under IDEA. Section 504 is not a special education service but rather, the responsibility of the general education system. Building principal or their designee is responsible for the implementation of Section 504 plans. The Section 504 Coordinator is available as a resource throughout the referral, eligibility and if deemed appropriate, the implementation process.
A student may be referred to the building 504 committee by school personnel or the parent/guardian. Each of the school buildings in Bedford Central School District has a designated 504 team. The members include a building administrator, evaluator, child’s teacher, parent, and additional staff as appropriate. If required by the district, parent must sign a consent for evaluation. Upon completion of the evaluation(s), a meeting convenes to determine eligibility as per 504 where a 504 Accommodation Plan may be developed.
Each 504 Student Accommodation Plan is reviewed by the building committee and the parent/guardian on an annual basis to determine continuing needs, modifications, or additions, and the results are sent to the parent/guardian.