Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U. S. Department of Education, such as public schools. Section 504 says that no student shall be excluded from participating in a program or activity solely by reason of their disability, and requires schools to provide a free and appropriate public education to each qualified student who is in the district’s boundaries, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Section 504 aims to provide students with disabilities an education equal to that of their nondisabled peers. The focus of the 504 plan is on leveling the playing field, not just providing “extra” services and supports that students without disabilities do not receive. If student has a qualifying disability under IDEA, they are also protected under Section 504. Students can also qualify for Section 504 even though they do not qualify under IDEA.
To qualify for Section 504’s antidiscrimination provisions students must:
- Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Have a record of such impairment
- Be regarded as having such an impairment
Schools meet the requirement to provide a free and appropriate public education when they provide a plan that includes:
- education services designed to meet the individual education needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met
- the education of each student with a disability with nondisabled students to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the student with a disability (i.e., education in the least restrictive environment);
- evaluation and placement procedures established to guard against misclassification or inappropriate placement of students and a periodic reevaluation of students who have been provided special education or related services;
- transportation services designed to meet the individual transportation needs of students with disabilities; and
- establishment of due process procedures that enable parents and guardians to:
- receive required notices;
- review their child’s records; and
- challenge identification, evaluation, and placement decisions.
Development of the plan includes the following steps:
IDENTIFICATION of students with disabilities
- Indicators of possible 504 eligibility include:
- When a student shows a pattern of not benefiting from instruction.
- When a student returns to school after a serious illness or injury.
- When a student has a chronic health condition.
- When an impairment of any kind is suspected.
- When a student is identified as at risk for dropping out of school.
- When parents repeatedly express concerns about their student and believe the child may be disabled.
REFERRAL & PARENT NOTIFICATION
- Within 48 hours of receiving referral, parents must be notified and permission requested for evaluation
- Notice of Parent/Student Rights sent to parent
- Principal must be notified of referral
- Evaluation must be completed within 50 days of receiving the referral
- Evaluation team must review all submitted documentation including doctor statement, teacher reports, past records and tests
INITIAL 504 CONFERENCE
- Review data collected during evaluation and answer parent questions, then proceed with determination of eligibility for Section 504 services
- Create 504 plan if eligible; plan must be followed exactly as written
- Must be designed to meet the student’s individual education needs and provide the student access to education equal to his non-disabled peers
- Must allow the student to remain with his non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible
- Must be feasible
- Must include consideration of the student’s individualized need for special transportation or nursing services. Special transportation services include curb to curb pick up and drop off, use of wheelchair bus, use of attendant, use of safety equipment such as seat belts, safety vests, etc. that the student may need.
IMPLEMENTATION OF 504 PLAN
- Section 504 plan must be distributed to all of the student’s teachers and all service providers within 1 business day, including nursing and transportation
- Provide any necessary training to teachers and service providers
- Each student’s 504 plan must be reviewed periodically and no less than annually
- Notify parents and appropriate personnel to conduct a review of the student’s performance since the last meeting and determine whether the 504 Plan should be changed or updated
- Evaluation must be done every three years or when there is a question of continued eligibility or change of placement
For all inquiries regarding Section 504 compliance, please address inquiries to the following:
IPS Special Education Department
Attn: Health Services Coordinator
120 E. Walnut St., Room 602D
Indianapolis, IN 46204