Section 504

What is Section 504?

Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a civil rights statute focused on the prevention of discrimination.

The purpose of Section 504 is to prohibit discrimination based on disability. Section 504 is often referred to as the first federal civil rights act protecting the rights of people with disabilities. It states:

"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." (29 U.S.C. 794 {as amended, 1992})

Who Must Comply?

If a school receives any federal financial assistance, all programs or activities of the school are obligated to abide by Section 504 regulations. Public schools receive federal funds; therefore, they must comply with this law.

Schools comply by providing a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability. Accommodations must also be provided to families who need those accommodations in order to participate in school activities. For example, a parent who is deaf and requires an interpreter to communicate with the child's teacher will need to have one provided for parent-teacher conferences and other visits to school. No state or federal funding is provided to schools to assist them in complying with Section 504. All costs are the obligation of the school district.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is the precursor to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which provides protection from discrimination in employment, public education, transportation, and public accommodations.

Although the ADA provides civil rights protections for our students as well, compliance with the requirements of Section 504 will also ensure compliance with the ADA. Accordingly, the District looks to our Section 504 procedures to ensure equal access to education for our disabled students.

What is the difference between Section 504 and Special Education  (IDEA)?

Section 504 provides free, appropriate education (FAPE) to students with disabilities. For the purposes of Section 504, a person may be considered disabled if the individual:

  • Has an intellectual disability or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities
  • Has a record of such an impairment
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment

Major life activities include functions such as:
  • Caring for oneself
  • Walking
  • Seeing
  • Speaking
  • Learning
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Hearing
  • Breathing or
  • Working

As can be seen, this definition is very broad and inclusive. It also differs significantly from disability definitions provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In addition, Section 504 has no age limits and serves all disabilities.

Through IDEA, special education services are provided to students at least 3 but less than 22 years old who have been evaluated and found to have at least one of the following disabilities and who are found to need special education and related services. Qualifying disabilities for IDEA include the following:

  • Autism
  • Emotional Disability
  • Hearing Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Specific Learning Disability
  • Mild Intellectual Disability
  • Moderate Intellectual Disability
  • Severe Intellectual Disability
  • Multiple Disabilities
  • Multiple Disabilities with Severe Sensory Impairment
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Developmental Delay
  • Preschool Severe Delay
  • Speech/Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment

What This Means For Your Child

Students who meet the criteria for FWUSD's special education services automatically also meet the criteria for Section 504.

IDEA, which provides funding for Exceptional Education, establishes rules and regulations for the District to follow. As a result, the District will be in compliance with Section 504 when the District follows IDEA regulations.

If a student in the District has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for Exceptional Education services, any accommodations necessary under Section 504 will also be included in the student's IEP.

If a student does not qualify or no longer qualifies for special education services through IDEA, the IEP team may refer the student for a 504 evaluation to determine if the student qualifies for accommodations under Section 504. However, the student does not automatically qualify for Section 504 accommodations. These occasions are somewhat rare, it is possible to coordinate between the two programs.

Other Differences Between Special Education & Section 504

IDEA, the statutory authority for Special Education, is a funding statute designed to support the specialized instruction needed by those students with one of the thirteen categories of disability.

Section 504 is a civil rights statute designed to ensure equal access to education for those students with disabilities or for those students who have parents with disabilities.

IDEA provides very specific statutory guidance regarding its procedural requirements. Students who qualify for Special Education will have their needs met through their Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). These students will not have a Section 504 Plan.

Section 504 is very general in its procedural requirements, providing little guidance regarding specific procedures.

Those students who qualify for Special Education may qualify for modifications to standardized testing.

Section 504 students are not permitted to have standardized tests modified. However, accommodations may be made to allow equal access to educational assessment.