Section 504 Services

  • Section 504 is the part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which applies to persons with disabilities. Section 504 is a civil rights act, which protects the civil and constitutional rights of persons with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed in 1975 as The Education of the Handicapped Act. Both require a free appropriate public education, eligibility for services, procedural safeguards, evaluations and special education services. However, in one situation of eligibility services and the provision of those services is through special education, IDEA, and in the other situation those services are provided by regular education, Section 504. The Windsor School District is attempting to be proactive in its attempts to meet the requirements of Section 504 through the development of this material and the forms which accompany it. The intent of developing the forms is to provide for all schools, and therefore, the district, a consistent application of process and procedures in order to assure appropriate supports for students who qualify.
  • Section 504 states that no person with a disability can be excluded from or denied benefits for any program receiving federal financial assistance, including public schools.

  • Section 504 and special education are two separate services.

  • All school districts should have a Section 504 Coordinator to answer your questions about Section 504. Jon Paul Burden is the Section 504 Coordinator at Weld RE-4 School District and can be reached at 686-8022 or [email protected]
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects persons from discrimination based upon their disability status. A person is disabled within the definition of Section 504 if s/he has a diagnosable mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities (e.g., walking, speaking, breathing, learning, seeing, hearing, working) and the impairment must impact the child’s education.
  • School staff should consider the potential existence of disabilities and possible Section 504 protection for children diagnosed as having asthma, HIV, Tourette’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), heart malfunctions, communicable diseases, urinary conditions, blood disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, school phobia, respiratory conditions, blood/sugar disorders, post traumatic disorders, including health issues that may affect the ability to learn (e.g., epilepsy, cancer, birth defects, tuberculosis, etc.).
  • In order to determine eligibility for Section 504 services, your child must be evaluated by a certified or licensed individual (e.g., family physician) or team of professionally credential individuals who are familiar with your child.
  • If the school or parent has reason to believe that, because of a disability as defined under Section 504, a child may need specific accommodations in order to participate in the school program, the school must evaluate the child. If it is determined that a child is eligible under Section 504 (see “Three-Pronged Rule” below), the school must develop and implement the delivery of necessary and reasonable accommodations.

ADA's Three-Pronged Rule to Disability Determination:

  1. The student must have a documented impairment (i.e., from professionals in the medical, psychological, and/or educational field);
  2. The student’s impairment must be substantially limiting (i.e., impairment must be significantly more impacting than that of non-impaired children and the impairment must be permanent in nature);
  3. The impairment must be impacting a major life activity (i.e., caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working
The mutidisciplinary team responsible for handling 504 referrals at the schools must make a determination of the need for services on an individual basis
Clues as to when an evaluation for a disability might be considered are:
  1. When a student who has been referred for special education evaluation, but is determined to be ineligible.
  2. When retention is being considered.
  3. When a student shows a pattern of not benefiting from the instruction being provided.
  4. When a student returns to school following a serious illness or injury.
  5. When a student exhibits a chronic health condition.
  6. When a student is “at risk” or shows the potential of dropping out of school.
  7. When a student may be involved in substance abuse.
  8. When a disability of any kind is known or suspected.

IEP vs. 504 Plan-What is the difference? Click here for more information. 

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Q. Who is a person with a disability under 504?
  • The definition states the following: “A person has a disability under section 504 if the individual has a diagnosable (emphasis added) physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities (i.e., self care, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working). A person can also be protected as a person with a disability because s/he has a record of an impairment or is regarded as having an impairment (without a diagnosis).
Q. Wow! The definition of a disability under section 504 is very broad. Under this wide definition, wouldn’t most everyone qualify?
  • The definition of a disability under section 504 is much broader than the disability definition by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Generally, however, a person who had a prior record of a diagnosed impairment or is regarded as having a diagnosable impairment without an official diagnosis is not entitled to accommodations. S/he is, however, entitled to the 504 protections in the disciplinary process (see below for more information about disciplinary protections).
Q. Which professionals are qualified to make the “official diagnosis” of an existing impairment?
  • There are a number of licensed human-service professionals who can diagnose impairments including, but not limited to, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language therapists, vision and hearing specialists, and so on.
Q. Are 504 privileges and protections the responsibility of general education only?
  • A student who requires a 504 plan is guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (which is no different from special education and regular education students). “An appropriate education under section 504 means providing regular or special education and related aids and services (including assistive technology as necessary) to meet the individual educational needs of children with disabilities as adequately as children without disabilities are met.” We recommend that a case manager from general education be assigned to every 504 student to ensure the 504 plan is being implemented.
Q. How are 504 accommodations determined?
  • It is recommended that the 504 Site Coordinator, the student’s teacher(s), parents, and other pertinent educators shall meet to discuss and negotiate reasonable accommodations for the child to gain access to an appropriate education. The accommodations are placed on a 504 plan and implemented accordingly.
Q. Do 504 plans have to be in writing or can a verbal plan suffice?
  • According to Section 504 law, 504 plans do not have to be in writing; however, Windsor School District feels otherwise. We require all 504 plans to be in written on our district’s Section 504 Plan form.
Q. Once written 504 plans are complete, what shall we do with them?
  • Copies of the 504 plan need to go to the following: (a) Parents, (b) Classroom teacher, (c) Student’s cumulative school file, and (d) Other pertinent educators as needed.
Q. How shall the child’s classroom teacher(s) be notified of their student’s accommodations as indicated on the 504 plan?
  • There is certainly no right answer to this question; however, we recommend that 504 Coordinators spend a few moments with the student’s classroom teacher(s) every time a teacher change is made to discuss the accommodations needed for the student to gain access to an appropriate education.
Q. How often shall 504 plans be reviewed and who needs to attend these review meetings?
  • 504 plans shall be reviewed at least once per year by the site’s 504 Coordinator, the student’s parent(s), the classroom teacher, and any other individuals who can contribute information regarding the student.
Q. Speaking of discipline, what rights do 504 students have with regard to discipline?
  • Just as with IDEA, section 504 prohibits schools from punishing students for misconduct that is related to their disability. Therefore, if a child on a 504 requires a change of placement as a result of misconduct (i.e., suspension beyond 10 days and/or expulsion), a manifestation determination meeting is required.
Q. How are students determined to be eligible for 504 privileges and protections?
  • Similar to IDEA, the schools must evaluate students who are believed to have a 504 disability through formal and informal assessment practices.
Q. Do students on a 504 plan receive similar accommodations on state standardized tests (e.g., CSAP)?
  • Yes. Students with disabilities who need accommodations when taking tests should have those accommodations specifically noted on their 504 plan.
Q. Are procedural safeguards for parents similar to those of parents whose children are receiving special education services?
  • Yes, parents have procedural safeguards similar to those of IDEA requirements (e.g. parents have the right to examine their child’s educational records, the right to notice, the right to an impartial hearing, a right to appeal actions by the school district regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the student, and so on). However, section 504 compliance is a general education responsibility rather than a special education responsibility.
Q. Are private school students who are eligible to be on a 504 plan exempt from receiving 504 privileges and protections?
  • Only agencies and programs that receive federal funding (e.g., public schools and public higher education system) are required to implement 504 privileges and protections toward 504-eligible students. Therefore, private schools are exempt from having to implement a 504 plan for their eligible students.
Q. Whom may I contact if I have further questions about section 504?

Jon Paul Burden, Exceptional Student Services Director, can be reached by phone at (970) 686-8022 or by email at [email protected]

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