You may have heard of two different federal laws pertaining to the services schools provide for students with special needs — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 (the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). Here are some details about each of them to help you determine whether or not your child might be eligible for services under one of them.
The 504 Process
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (34 C.F.R. Part 104) is a federal civil rights statute that assures individuals will not be discriminated against based on their disability. All school districts that receive federal funding are responsible for the implementation of this law.
Section 504 protects a student with an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, whether the student receives special education services or not.
Examples of physical or mental impairments that may be covered under Section 504 include: epilepsy, AIDS, allergies, vision impairment, broken limbs, cancer, diabetes, asthma, temporary condition due to accidents or illness, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, depression, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Examples of major life activities that can be affected by the student’s disability include: learning, thinking, concentrating, reading, speaking, walking, breathing, sleeping, caring for oneself, as well as major bodily functions, including brain function, immune system function, or digestive functions. This is not an exhaustive list.
In Hopkins, our school counselors and social workers manage 504 plans within our school buildings. If you have questions about referring your child for a 504 plan or questions about your students current 504 plan, please contact the 504 coordinator at your school (either the school counselor or social worker).
Section 504 (The Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination by agencies that receive federal funding. Schools comply with this law by ensuring that they are not discriminating against any disabled students and, if they are, by creating and enacting a written accommodation plan (often called a "504") to help the student gain equal access to education.
Students are eligible for protection under Section 504 if they have or are regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits their access to a major life activity, such as:
Parents or teachers who feel that a disabled student may qualify for protection under Section 504 should make a referral for consideration to the school's 504 Coordinator. This person will then gather information and pass it along for review to a team of people in the building who will make a judgment as to the student's eligibility for services under Section 504.
More information on Section 504