What is Section 504?
Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving federal assistance. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to: (1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdiction who have a physical and mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Aids, Benefits, and Services - means aids, benefits and services to be equally effective, are not required to produce the identical result or level of achievement for handicapped/disabled and nonhandicapped/nondisabled persons, but must afford handicapped/disabled persons equal opportunity to obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement, in the most integrated setting appropriate to the person’s needs. (34 CFR sec. 104.4(b)(2))
What is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity?
The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i) defines a physical or mental impairment as any 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; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The regulatory provision does not set forth an exhaustive list of specific diseases and conditions that may constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list.
Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. This list is not exhaustive. Other functions can be major life activities for purposes of Section 504. In the Amendments Act, Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Congress also provided a non-exhaustive list of examples of “major bodily functions” that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. The Section 504 regulatory provision, though not as comprehensive as the Amendments Act, is still valid – the Section 504 regulatory provision’s list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, and an activity or function not specifically listed in the Section 504 regulatory provision can nonetheless be a major life activity.
How is the determination for eligibility made?
An evaluation is conducted to gather information on how the disability is substantially impacting on a major life function. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but it must come from various sources including, but not limited to the school nurse, classroom teacher(s), school counselors, and outside persons with relevant information. Evaluation procedures may include review of records, assessment information, interviews with persons knowledgeable about the child’s functioning, observations and/or individualized assessments.
The Section 504 Team, a group of people knowledgeable about the student, collaboratively develops the 504 Plan, if appropriate. The purpose of the group is to examine the information regarding the person, and determine if reasonable accommodations are necessary, and subsequently what those accommodations will be if the person is considered eligible. The term substantial is not defined within the law. Therefore, the 504 Team considers the impact of the impairment on the major life function specific to the individual. The 504 Team is directed to determine if the student is afforded an equal opportunity to participate and/or benefit from education when compared to non-disabled, age appropriate peers. A frame of reference for this responsibility is to use the average student in the general population for the purposes of comparison. Periodic reevaluation is required by Section 504. Reevaluation of the 504 Plan is recommended once per school year or upon significant change in school placement or program.
Who do I contact if I suspect my child is eligible for accommodations under Section 504?
First contact should be with the student’s school counselor.
What are my rights under Section 504?
NOTICE OF PARENT/GUARDIAN AND STUDENT RIGHTS
(Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
Under Section 504
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly referred to as "§ 504," is a nondiscrimination statute enacted by the United States Congress. The purpose of the Act is to prohibit discrimination and to assure that disabled students have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to non-disabled students.
An eligible student under § 504 is a student who (a) has, (b) has a record of having, or (c) is regarded as having, a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity such as learning, self-care, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, and performing manual tasks.
Dual Eligibility: Many students will be eligible for educational services under both § 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students who are eligible under the IDEA have many specific rights that are not available to students who are eligible solely under § 504. A Parents Rights Handbook prepared by the New Jersey Department of Education is available within the Department of Special Education and sets out the rights assured by the IDEA. It is the purpose of this Notice form to set out the rights assured by § 504 to those disabled students who do not qualify under the IDEA.
The enabling regulations for § 504 as set out in 34 CFR Part 104 provide parents and/ or students with the following rights:
1. You have a right to be informed by the school district of your rights under § 504. (The purpose of this Notice form is to advise you of those rights.) 34 CFR 104.32.
United States Department of Education-OCR
New York Office
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, New York 10005
If I disagree with the decisions made within the process what is the district’s grievance procedure?
It is the policy of the Black Horse Pike Regional School District to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to all students within its jurisdiction who are handicapped consistent with the definitions set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. No student solely by reason of his or her handicap as defined by these Acts, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity operated by the school district.
A parent or guardian may file a grievance with the district. A parent or guardian who believes that they, or their child, have not received proper services or accommodations which are therefore a violation of Section 504, should file the complaint with the district’s Section 504 Coordinator in writing at the following address:
Mr. David Cappuccio
Director of Special Services
Black Horse Pike Regional School District
580 Erial Road
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Grievance Procedure - Pupils
This grievance procedure shall apply to qualified handicapped/disabled persons who are pupils with alleged discriminatory act(s) under the provisions of §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
1.The parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a qualified handicapped/disabled pupil or adult qualified handicapped/disabled pupil who believe the pupil has a valid basis for a grievance under §504, or the American Disabilities Act shall file an informal complaint in writing, stating the specific facts of his/her grievance and the alleged discriminatory act, with the District Coordinator.
2.The District Coordinator shall make all reasonable efforts to resolve the matter informally by reviewing the grievance with appropriate staff which may include, but not be limited to, the Principal, Child Study Team staff and/or the classroom teacher(s).
3.The District Coordinator will investigate and document the complaint including dates of meetings, dispositions and date of dispositions. The District Coordinator will provide a written reply to the aggrieved individual within seven working days.
4. If the complainant is not satisfied with the District Coordinator’s written reply, the complainant must file a formal complaint in writing, setting out the circumstances that give rise to the alleged grievance. This written complaint must be filed with the District Coordinator within three working days.
5. The District Coordinator will appoint a qualified hearing officer within seven working days of the receipt of the written grievance. The hearing officer will conduct a hearing within seven working days. The hearing officer will give the parent(s) or legal guardian(s), pupil or adult pupil a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issues raised under the grievance. The parent(s) or legal guardian(s), pupil or adult pupil may, at their own expense, be assisted or represented by individuals of their choice, including legal counsel. The hearing officer will present a written decision to the District Coordinator and aggrieved individual within seven working days of the hearing.
6. The complainant may file a written appeal to the Board if not satisfied with the hearing officer’s decision. The Board, through the Superintendent, will provide a written disposition of the alleged grievance.
7. The complainant may request Mediation and Due Process in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.6 and 2.7 if unsatisfied with the written decision of the Board, or if specifically requested by the parent(s) or legal guardian(s), or adult pupil the aforementioned N.J.A.C. 6A:14-2.6 and 2.7 grievance procedure must be followed.
Are there websites that will answer my questions?