504 Frequently Asked Questions
What is an "impairment" under Section 504?
Under Section 504 an impairment may include any disability, long-term illness, or 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. There is no list of eligible disabilities. However, some examples include: ADHD, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, severe allergies, chronic asthma, Tourette’s syndrome, digestive disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, HIV/AIDS, behavior disorders, and temporary disorders such as broken limbs.
What is a "major life activity"?
A major life activity is an activity that is of central importance to the daily life of the average person in the general population. Major life activities include, but are not limited to: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. It also includes the operation of a major bodily function.
What is a "substantial limitation"?
Although not defined in the regulations, OCR has interpreted it to mean “unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform; or restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which an individual can perform a major life activity as compared to the condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform that same major life activity.” In a letter from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), they state, “this is a determination to be made by each local school district and depends on the nature and severity of the person’s disabling condition.”
What qualifies as a disability under Section 504?
“An individual with a disability means any person who 1) has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, 2) has record of such an impairment, or 3) is regarded as having such an impairment” [34 C.F.R. §104.3(J)(1)].
What do I do if I suspect my child has a disability?
First, discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher(s). The teacher will be able to discuss your child's learning and help you determine if they are making appropriate progress or if intervention strategies might be appropriate for your child. If you continue to be concerned about your child’s progress, contact your child’s counselor. Be sure to communicate with the school if your child has a physical or mental impairment.
Who can refer a child for consideration for Section 504
Anyone, such as parents, teachers or a doctor can refer a child for 504 evaluation. However, as stated in an OCR staff memorandum, “the school district must also have reason to believe that the child is in need of services under Section 504 due to a disability.” (OCR Memorandum, April 29, 1993).
What if my child's physician has said he/she qualifies for 504 evaluation/services?
Section 504 committees must consider information from a variety of sources, including medical information provided by a physician. However, a doctor’s note alone cannot be the basis of eligibility for Section 504.
My child has a very high IQ but only earns average grades. Isn't that a sign of a disability?
If you are thinking your child has a learning disability, remember that the Section 504 committee would compare your child's ability to learn in relation to the average student, not to your child's own potential. In this case, it sounds like your child would not be eligible under Section 504 unless there is a different major life activity being impaired.
Does a child need to fail a class or state mandated test to be eligible for Section 504?
No. Low class grades and state test scores may indicate a substantial limitation in the area of learning, but Section 504 covers other major life activities as well. For instance, if a child has a hearing impairment, the Section 504 committee would focus on how the child's hearing is compared to other children of the same age or grade. However, if a learning disability is suspected, the Section 504 committee would focus on how the child's learning is affected. Grades and state test scores are an important reflection of learning, but are still not the only factor considered.
Who decides if a student qualifies for services under Section 504?
According to federal regulations: “… placement decisions are to be made by a group of persons who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data and placement options” [§104.35(c)(3)]. New Caney ISD best practice dictates that parents receive notice of and are encouraged to attend and participate in Section 504 meetings. However, unlike Special Education, federal regulations for Section 504 do not require parents to be a part of the decision-making committee. Parents are encouraged to provide any information that would be helpful to the committee in their determination of services that the child may need. Committees are expected to make appropriate educational decisions in order that the student receives an appropriate education.
What information is considered in a Section 504 evaluation?
The committee will look at data such as grades over the past several years, teacher reports, information from parents, testing scores, observations, discipline records, attendance records, health records and adaptive behavior information. Under Section 504 no formalized testing is required and no single source of data will be the only information considered.
Are all students with dyslexia eligible to be served through Section 504?
No, not necessarily. According to The Dyslexia Handbook, Revised 2007, not all students with dyslexia are automatically eligible for Section 504 (p 18). Students with dyslexia may be eligible for special education, Section 504, a school plan, or no services at all, depending on the individual needs of the student.
If I disagree with the school's evaluation, will they pay for an outside independent evaluation?
Under Section 504 schools are not required to pay for an outside independent evaluation. If a parent disagrees with the school’s evaluation decision, they may submit a written request to have the decision reviewed by the District 504 Coordinator, request a due process hearing or file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. (See the Notice of Rights for Disabled Students and their Parents Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973).
What types of accommodations will my child receive if determined eligible under Section 504?
The determination of what is appropriate for each child is based upon the nature of the disabling condition and the individual needs of the student in order to meet the educational needs of the student with a disability as adequately as it meets the needs of his/her non-disabled peers.
Can my child receive accommodations in advanced classes such as Pre-AP/AP?
Students with disabilities are allowed the same opportunity to participate in Pre-AP and AP classes as their non-disabled peers. In order to receive an accommodation in an advanced class, the student must be eligible to receive the accommodation in a regular class. For example, if the student needs the use of a computer in a regular class setting, the student would also be allowed to use a computer in an advanced class. Conversely, if a student does not need additional time to complete tests in a regular class, the student could not receive extended time for tests in the advanced class. One other factor to be considered when determining appropriate accommodations is the unique nature of advanced classes. If the accommodation would change the nature of the Pre-AP or AP class, it would not be allowable in the advanced class. Reduced assignments would be an example of an alteration of content.
Can my child be disciplined if he/she is served under Section 504?
Under Section 504 students are still expected to follow the district’s student code of conduct. However, when disciplining a student under Section 504, schools must consider the relationship between the disability and the misbehavior if the student is to be removed from the regular setting for longer than 10 days. In this case, a Section 504 committee must determine whether the student's conduct is a manifestation of, or caused by, the identified disability. If it is a manifestation, the student remains in his or her placement. This meeting is referred to as an MDR. If the conduct is not a manifestation, the student will receive the same discipline that a non-disabled student would receive. In cases where the student is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at school, the student is not entitled to this manifestation determination.
Will my child automatically receive accommodations on college entrance exams?
Not necessarily. You must apply through the organization that provides the testing well in advance of the registration deadline. The school counselor can assist you and your child, but you must initiate the process. In addition, testing organizations have very strict requirements regarding the diagnosis of the disability. It is not uncommon for the documentation that is required by the school for Section 504 eligibility to be different than the documentation that the testing organization requires. The school district is not required to pay for or provide this testing unless it is necessary in order to provide services in the classroom. Therefore, you may be required to obtain additional testing at your own expense. For specific information on the process and requirements, visit www.collegeboard.org &/or www.act.org.
Will my child automatically receive accommodations in college?
Not necessarily. Although most colleges must comply with Section 504 and the ADA, there are several differences in eligibility and services that a student may receive. It is important to be aware that the bulk of responsibility is on the student at the college level, so self-advocacy is an important skill for your child to learn before he/she leaves high school. Attending his/her 504 meetings while in high school is a good way to learn that skill. One difference is in what is called "child find". Public schools are required to locate and identify students who have disabilities. In contrast, at the college level, students with disabilities are required to approach the college to request accommodations. In addition, any testing required to substantiate the disability must be provided by the student at student expense. After receiving notification of disability, the college reviews any information provided and determines what accommodations the student will receive. Accommodations are usually less extensive than those on a high school Section 504 plan. Typical accommodations found at college are the opportunity to register early, maintain a reduced course load or time extensions on tests. It would be rare to receive accommodations such as time extensions on assignments, no penalty for spelling errors or notification of missing assignments. Due to the differences in the process to obtain accommodations and available services among colleges, it is important to investigate each college your child is interested in attending early in the college application process.
How often will my child be re-evaluated?
While there are no specific time lines regarding this issue, students must be re-evaluated at least every 3 years or whenever there is going to be a “significant change in placement” that would require an MDR. The accommodation plan may be revised during the school year if necessary.
Once eligible for Section 504, will my child always be eligible?
Not necessarily. Eligibility must be reestablished at every meeting. In some situations, children are no longer eligible for Section 504 because an injury or illness has been cured. In other cases, a student will learn to compensate for difficulties due to an impairment and no longer meet eligibility requirements. Keeping in mind our goal of serving all students in their least restrictive environment, this change in eligibility should be looked at positively.
What are my rights as a parent/guardian under Section 504?
You have the right to:
- Receive notice regarding the identification, evaluation, and/or placement of your child.
- Examine relevant records pertaining to your child.
- File a complaint with the district 504 Coordinator, who will investigate the allegations regarding Section 504 matters other than your child’s identification, evaluation, and placement.
- Request an impartial hearing with respect to the district’s actions regarding the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child, with an opportunity for you to participate in the hearing, to have representation by an attorney at your own expense, and to have a review procedure.
- File a complaint with the appropriate regional Office for Civil Rights.
For additional information, contact:
Office for Civil Rights, Region IV
1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620
Dallas, Texas 75201-6810