What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if a federal civil rights law designed to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. Section 504 regulations require public school districts to provide appropriate, free education to students with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
"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
The law also requires that schools provide reasonable accommodations for children with disabilities so that they can fully participate in regular education classes with their peers. A 504 Services Plan ensures that all children receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The 504 Services Plan is a written document created and prepared by a Section 504 Committee a the child’s school, that outlines the school’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for a student with a disability. The Bridgeport ISD is committed to full compliance with all regulations under Section 504 so that all students may receive the appropriate services and accommodations needed to fully access the learning environment. It is the intent of the Bridgeport ISD to ensure that students in our district who are considered disabled under Section 504 are identified, evaluated and provided with appropriate educational accommodations.
Who is eligible for services under Section 504?
Individuals may be found eligible for Section 504 services if they meet one of the following conditions:
- If he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- If he or she has a record of such an impairment; or
- If he or she is regarded as having such an impairment.
Impairments that are episodic or in remission may also be covered under Section 504 if the impairment would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
What is an "impairment" under Section 504?
Under Section 504, an impairment may include any disability, long-term illness, or various mental or physical disorder that substantially limits a student's ability to perform one or more major life activities. Each student will be evaluated for eligibility and services under Section 504 on an individual, case-by-case basis. Some examples of conditions that may result in Section 504 eligibility include Diabetes, major depression, cerebral palsy, severe food allergies, and ADHD.
What is the difference between an impairment and a disability?
Many people have impairments. An impairment is only considered a disability under Section 504 when it substantially limits one or more major life activities.
What is a "major life activity"?
Section 504 law gives a list major life activities that may be considered when determining eligibility. However, this list is not exhaustive. Major life activities may include, but are not limited to:
Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, and major bodily functions to include functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
What does the term "substantially limits" mean?
To meet the definition of a person with a disability under Section 504, the impairment must substantially limit the person's ability to perform one or more major life activities. In a practical sense, under Section 504, "substantially limits" can be determined by a comparison of an individual's performance of a major life activity to the performance of the same major life activity by most people in the general population. This type of comparison usually does not require scientific, medical or statistical analysis.
What accommodations are provided for students under Section 504?
For schools to provide an appropriate education for students who are protected under Section 504, accommodations are generally necessary. Accommodations for a Section 504 student are typically performed in the general education classroom setting, and are meant to provide the student equal access to learning and extracurricular activities. 504 accommodations are not designed to fundamentally modify the program, standards, or what students are expected to know and be able to do. Instead, accommodations under Section 504 are meant to give all students equal access to their learning environment.
Examples of 504 accommodations may include:
- Allowing a student in a wheelchair to leave the classroom a few minutes early to account for longer passing periods.
- Providing a student who is visually impaired books with larger print.
- Allowing a person with generalized anxiety extra time for test taking.
- Allowing a student with ADHD to keep a small object in their desk to manipulate quietly to help with focus.
It is important to note that it is the teacher’s responsibility to quietly and discreetly provide a student’s accommodation without drawing any undue attention to the student. Students with a disability should receive accommodations that are necessary to their individual needs. Accommodations under Section 504 are not intended to give a student an advantage over their peers, and only accommodations related to the child's impairment are provided.
What are “Reasonable Accommodations”?
Section 504 requires schools to make “reasonable accommodations” to help people with disabilities perform effectively. Under Section 504, schools may not ban or refuse to allow a student to participate in activities without making any reasonable effort to accommodate the student reasonably.
Examples of reasonable 504 accommodations may include:
- Allowing a student in a wheelchair to leave the classroom a few minutes early to account for longer passing time
- Providing a student who is visually impaired books with larger print to keep up with schoolwork
- Allowing a person with ADD or other learning disability extra time for test taking
- Providing a student with low-distraction work areas
- Preparing a student for upcoming changes in routine
- Allowing a student with hyperactivity to keep a small object in their desk to manipulate quietly
It's important to note that it is the teacher’s responsibility to quietly and discreetly provide a student’s accommodation without drawing any undue attention to the student.
- See more at: http://education.findlaw.com/special-education-and-disabilities/504-accommodations-in-schools.html#sthash.3izdCcGe.dpuf
I think my child might have a disability. What do I do now?
First, talk to your child's classroom teacher about your concerns. He or she will be able to talk with you about your child's progress, behavior or any other concerns that you might have as they relate to the school setting. The teacher will be able to connect you with the school's 504 Coordinator, who can speak with you about the 504-evaluation process, as well as other educational options that might be appropriate for your child.
Anyone, including a parent, can initiate a 504 referral. Your child's school can provide you with more information regarding the referral process.
Who to Contact:
Every campus in Bridgeport ISD has a designated 504 Coordinator. Please contact your child's school to be connected with the campus 504 Coordinator.
For other questions concerning Section 504, please contact:
Yesenia L. McCleskey
Director of Curriculum and Instruction