Amarillo ISD Parent Guide to Section 504: Frequently Asked Questions
Overview of Section 504
Section 504 is part of a Federal civil rights law known as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law prohibits discrimination against qualified students with disabilities and entitles them to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Discrimination, as defined in Section 504, is the failure to provide students with disabilities the same opportunity to benefit from the education programs, services, or activities as provided to their non-disabled peers. Therefore, schools cannot exclude students with disabilities from facilities, programs, benefits, activities, or services that are provided to students without disabilities. It is the responsibility of schools to make sure that all students receive equal access to educational opportunities. Students with disabilities receiving special education services, as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), are protected under Section 504, but not all Section 504 students are eligible for special education services.
Section 504 defines a person with disabilities as any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities as defined in Section 504 include caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Additional major life activities include eating, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Another major life activity is major bodily functions such as functions of the immune system, digestive, bowel, bladder, brain, and respiratory. While learning is the primary emphasis in schools, a student does not have to be substantially limited in the major life activity of learning to be eligible under Section 504.
To become eligible for Section 504, a student must be determined, as a result of an evaluation, to have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities. When a parent, teacher, or other school staff has information about a student who may have an impairment, they should contact the campus 504 coordinator. After reviewing relevant information, the campus may decide to initiate a 504 evaluation. Parents will be provide Notice of Section 504 Evaluation and asked to provide written consent to start a Section 504 evaluation. Once all 504 evaluation information has been gathered, a Section 504 committee meeting will be called to review the evaluation information. The Section 504 committee will make the determination as to whether the student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.
No. A medical diagnosis of an illness does not automatically qualify a student for Section 504. The illness must cause a substantial limitation of the student’s ability to learn or of other major life activities.
The Section 504 committee makes that decision. The Section 504 committee is a group of persons who collectively have knowledge about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and possible placement options. The campus administrator, campus Section 504 coordinator, and the student’s teacher are members of the Section 504 committee. Parents are invited to be a member of the Section 504 committee.
The amount of information required is determined by the Section 504 committee. The committee members must determine if they have enough information to make a knowledgeable decision as to whether or not the student has a disability. The regulations require the Section 504 committee to draw from a variety of sources in the evaluation process so that the possibility of error is minimized. The information obtained from all such sources must be documented.
No. The protections under Section 504 extend only to individuals who meet the regulatory definition of a person with a disability. If a school district reevaluates a student in accordance with Section 504 and determines that the student’s mental or physical impairment no longer substantially limits his or her ability to learn or any other major life activity, the student is no longer eligible for accommodations and/or services under Section 504.
A temporary impairment is not a disability unless its severity results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities for an extended period of time. Whether a temporary impairment is substantial enough to be a disability must be considered on a case-by-case basis. To make this determination the Section 504 team must consider the expected duration of the impairment and the extent to which a major life activity is limited in the school environment.
Section 504 requires schools to provide to students with disabilities appropriate educational accommodations and/or services designed to meet the individual needs of such students to the same extent as the needs of student without disabilities are met. The Section 504 committee will determine which services and/or accommodations are required for the student to access their educational program.
Yes. A parent can at any time revoke their consent to evaluate under Section 504 by contacting the campus Section 504 coordinator. Once they are eligible for Section 504, a parent may at any time refuse the Section 504 services/accommodations by contacting the campus 504 coordinator. In order to properly document this, the campus 504 coordinator will ask the parent to sign a form showing their decision to revoke or refuse Section 504.
No, the regulations do not require parental participation. However, parents will always be provided a 5 school day written notice of any upcoming Section 504 committee meetings. Once parents receive the written notice of a Section 504 committee meeting, they may request a change in date and time to better accommodate their schedule by contacting the campus 504 coordinator. If, after the notice of a Section 504 committee meeting has been sent, and the parent does not request a change in date and/or time, the meeting may be held without you on the scheduled date and time. It is important you participate in the Section 504 committee meetings for your student. Parents typically know more about their child than any other person. Regardless of whether you attend the meeting or not, the campus 504 coordinator will provide you with a copy of all forms completed during the meeting.
Ongoing communication between parents and teachers will help avoid disagreements related to the student’s service/accommodation plan. When parent’s concerns are not addressed to their satisfaction, they should contact the campus principal. If the plan is not appropriate, it should be revised following the same procedures used to develop the plan (504 committee meeting). Because situations change and students needs based on their disability change, a Section 504 committee meeting may need to be called to review and/or revise the service/accommodation plan.