504 Accommodations and Plans
What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met. Section 504 is not a special education statute, although it addresses the provision of education to qualified individuals with disabilities. Public school districts are required to provide a free appropriate public education to all qualified students with disabilities. This must include an education designed to provide educational benefit despite the child’s disability.
Which students are covered?
A person with a disability under 504 is defined by an individual who:
- Has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (i.e. learning);
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
Students who satisfy the first definition are entitled to a free and appropriate public education (‘FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment and an individualized accommodation plan. Students who satisfy only the second and third definitions are not entitled to FAPE or accommodations, but are entitled to be free from discrimination.
Who is an “individual with a disability?”
As defined by federal law: “An individual with a disability means any person who: (i) has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.”
What is an “impairment” as used under the Section 504 definition?
An impairment as used in Section 504 may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that “substantially” reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning-, behavior- or health-related condition. [“It should be emphasized that a physical or mental impairment does not constitute a disability for purposes of Section 504 unless its severity is such that it results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities.”]
The United States Supreme Court has stated that, to be substantially limited, the impairment’s impact must be permanent or long term. Other courts have defined substantial as limited considerably or to a large degree. Minor or moderate limitations are not sufficient for a student to be eligible under 504. In determining whether a student’s impairment substantially limits a major life activity, the District is required to compare the individual to his or her average peer in the population. Students, therefore, are measured by reference to the performance of children at the same age or grade level. Under Section 504, it is not proper to compare the student to only his own potential. When determining eligibility under Section 504, the District also is required to determine if environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage are the primary reason for any limitations that the student may exhibit. Temporary impairments may be covered by 504 if the impairment is substantially limiting and if it is of sufficient duration. However, temporary, non-chronic impairments of short-duration, with little or no permanent long-term impact, usually are not disabilities as defined by Section 504.
Is medical diagnosis required for consideration for a 504 plan?
A medical diagnosis or report are pieces of information to be considered regarding eligibility. A diagnosis from a medical provider does not automatically determine eligibility. The disability must be determined to be substantially impacting a major life activity (i.e. learning). A student’s eligibility under Section 504 is not determined by a doctor or psychologist, but by a multidisciplinary team convened by the District. That team must include persons who are knowledgeable about the student, Section 504, and the evaluation data to be considered. The 504 committee may review medical documentation, academic achievement, and feedback from teachers, parents, and the student.
Are there grievance procedures?
If a parent or guardian disagrees with the school’s decision regarding their child’s 504 plan, a written statement stating the specific facts of the grievance shall be submitted to the District 504 Coordinator at the following address:
Supervisor of Guidance and Counseling
55A Pop Kramer Blvd., Clayton, NJ 08312
856-881-8701 ext. 1010
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the event the grievance is directed towards or involves the District 504 Coordinator, the written grievance described shall be submitted to:
Superintendent of Schools
350 East Clinton Street, Clayton, NJ 08312
856-881-8701 ext. 3052
Email address: email@example.com
Are accommodations designed to produce achievement equal to that of non-disabled students?
504 accommodation plans are designed to level the playing field for equal access to and opportunity for free and appropriate education. They are not intended to guarantee increased achievement.
How do I refer my child for consideration for a 504 Accommodation Plan?
If you wish for your child to be reviewed for 504 plan eligibility, please contact your child’s counselor.
Is there an annual review process?
Each student with accommodations and/or services will have the plan reviewed annually. The review may occur more often if the student’s rate of progress changes significantly, if there is noticeable change in behavior, or upon parental request.
The review should address the need for additional evaluation information, whether the student continues to have a qualified disability, and the effectiveness of the accommodations.
How are transfer student Section 504 accommodation plans handled?
When a student transfers to the Clayton School District from another school district with an existing Section 504 plan, the 504 team will meet to review the plan. If there are no concerns about the transfer student’s eligibility or the accommodation plan, the plan will be implemented immediately. Conversely, if the 504 team does not agree with the decision and/or plan from the previous school district, the student should be promptly evaluated to determined eligibility and the need for accommodations. In this case, the existing plan will be followed until the reevaluation and eligibility determination are completed.
Click HERE for the Reasonable Accommodations 504 Form