Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Civil rights law to protect “otherwise qualified” individuals with disabilities from discrimination in relation to participation in or access to activities, programs, or facilities that receive federal funding, but provides no funding itself
- Guarantees a legal right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for eligible students as those receiving services under the IDEA
- Eligible for protection under Section 504 when he or she “(i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more… major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.”
- Physical or mental impairment – [a]ny physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive, digestive, genitor-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine”; or “[a]ny mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities”
- Major life activity – “functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working” (italics added)
- Substantially limits – determined by OCR to be defined by the local education agency
- Allows for a broad spectrum of disabling conditions
- Eligible students may or may not need special education services
- Provides 504 plan, which includes specific details of student’s needs and services, for eligible students
- All school districts with 15 or more employees must appoint a Section 504 coordinator to ensure the district is in compliance with the Act.
- A student under 504 may not be suspended for more than ten days if the behavior is a manifestation of his or her disability.
- Does not require written notice to parents regarding intent to evaluate a child nor require consent prior to evaluation
- The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education is responsible for enforcement. Complaints are filed here.
- Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the alleged infraction.
- All programs within a local or state agency may lose federal funding if one program within the agency is found guilty of discrimination under 504.