Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act has been a federal law since 1973. This law protects all students with disabilities defined as those having any physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities, including learning. An example of a student who may be covered under the 504 Act is one who has juvenile arthritis but who is not eligible for special education and related services through IDEA. It is important to note that the 504 Act is NOT an aspect of special education. It is a civil rights law and is the responsibility of the comprehensive general public education system.
The determination of services needed must be made by a group of persons knowledgeable about the student. The group should review the nature of the disability, how it affects the student’s education, whether specialized services are needed, and if so, what those services are. The decisions about Section 504 eligibility and services must be documented in the student’s file and reviewed periodically.
The requirements of Section 504 ensure the following:
- The educational system will provide the full range of special accommodations and services necessary for students with special needs to participate in and benefit from public education programs and activities.
- These individuals will receive a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE).
- It is required to identify, evaluate, provide appropriate services, and provide procedural safeguards.
Building administrators and superintendents of schools are responsible for the implementation of a 504 Plan within districts, while special education administrators/staff may be participants. Parents should contact a building administrator if there are questions concerning 504 Plans.