Section 504 refers to a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The primary purpose of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is to ensure that persons with disabilities are not discriminated against. Section 504 states:
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of his or her 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....”
This law requires that every public school in the United States identify, evaluate, and provide free appropriate public education to disabled individuals as defined by Section 504. Prince George’s County Public Schools Administrative Procedure 5146 provides guidelines and procedures for the evaluation, identification, and provision of services to students with disabilities under Section 504 who attend Prince George’s County Public Schools.
A student with an impairment should be considered for eligibility under Section 504 if he/she:
The law defines Substantial Limitation as the inability to perform a major life activity that the non-disabled peer can perform without the use of mitigating measures and may include impairments that are episodic or in remission.
Major Life Activities include but are not limited to caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, sleeping, concentrating, reading, communicating, bending, and major bodily functions (immune, digestive, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, neurological, brain and reproductive systems, bowel and bladder functions, and normal cell growth). PGCPS will adhere to current definitions and eligibility standards under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the ADA.
Students who meet the eligibility guidelines for Section 504 may have a 504 Plan developed. The plan will specify the nature of the qualifying disability that substantially limits at least one major life activity or major bodily function, and the accommodations necessary to provide access based on the student’s needs. The plan will also include individual staff members responsible for implementing the accommodations. Accommodations should be specific to the individual with regard to his/her disability and its limitation on the major life activity.
Special education is governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides for specialized instruction to remediate disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is solely focused on discrimination with regard to equal access. Under IDEA, the disability must adversely affect educational performance. Under Section 504, the disability must substantially limit a major life activity or bodily function.
Students who are dismissed from special education services do not automatically receive a 504 Plan. Special education teams cannot evaluate a student for Section 504 services. If a Special Education Team believes that a student qualifies for Section 504 services, a recommendation for a 504 evaluation should be made by the Special Education Team to the Section 504 Team. Within 30 school days of the request for 504 Evaluation, the 504 Team will conduct a 504 evaluation. In order to be eligible for 504 services, there must be evidence of an impairment and substantial limitation to a major life activity or bodily function. A diagnosis of a disability does not automatically qualify a student for 504 services.
Contact your child’s school counselor and request that your child be evaluated for Section 504 eligibility. You should be certain to have documentation from your physician that identifies the disability. Requests for 504 evaluations should be made in writing.
What happens after I request a Section 504 Evaluation?
What if the accommodations on my child’s 504 Plan are not being implemented or are not effective?
What if I do not agree with the 504 Team’s decision regarding the 504 process or plan?
You should receive a copy of your parental rights at each 504 meeting. Parents have the right to due process when they are not in agreement with the decisions made by the school team. Options include a hearing with the 504 Instructional Specialist or a review by the Central Office Review Panel. Parents may also exercise their rights by filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. Contact information for the Office for Civil Rights can be obtained on the PGCPS’s Section 504 website (www.pgcps.org/504).
Will my child receive testing accommodations in addition to the 504 Plan?
Section 504 accommodations are specific to the disability and developed to provide equal access to students with disabilities. Testing accommodations are provided to ensure that student abilities are accurately assessed without interference from the disabling condition. 504 Teams should be careful to ensure that testing accommodations provide access and not an advantage over non-disabled peers. There is a separate process and criterion for receiving testing accommodations on CollegeBoard exams such as the SAT.
Can my child be suspended from school for more than 10 days if he/she has a 504 Plan?
If suspension of a student with a disability under Section 504 results in more than ten consecutive or cumulative suspension days, the administrator must hold a Manifestation Determination to examine if the behavior(s) has a direct or substantial relationship to the disability and/or if the 504 Plan was being implemented properly. If a behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability, the suspension will be discontinued. If the behavior is determined NOT to be a manifestation of the disability, the student will be disciplined in accordance with the discipline procedures for non-disabled students.