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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program that receives federal funding. All schools in the Independence Community School District must comply with this law. Section 504 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities. Under Section 504, schools must provide students with disabilities the accommodations needed to access and benefit from education equally with their peers.
How Do I Get Accommodations for My Child?
Students who are entitled to a 504 plan (1) have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, and (2) need accommodations because of their disability—so they can access and benefit from their education. To determine if a student needs a 504 plan, the school must follow three steps: refer, evaluate, and determine eligibility.
1. Request an Evaluation
Anyone, including a parent or guardian, can refer a student for evaluation.
2. 504 Team Evaluates
The 504 team gathers and analyzes data about the student’s condition. Evaluation data should come from a variety of sources. The school must have consent from a parent or guardian before the evaluation begins. Without consent, a 504 team cannot evaluate a student or continue the 504 process.Anyone, including a parent or guardian, can refer a student for evaluation.
Evaluation and the Role of a Medical Diagnosis
There are two important ideas parents should understand about a medical diagnosis:
- A school cannot require a parent to provide a medical diagnosis to evaluate a student. However, a diagnosis can provide very helpful information for the 504
- A medical diagnosis does not always mean that a student needs a 504 plan. Doctors cannot prescribe a 504 plan—only the 504 team can make that decision. However, the 504 team must consider the information a doctor provides when evaluating a student.
3. School Brings a 504 Team Together
The individual needs of the student determines who joins the 504 team. The 504 team will determine if a student is eligible and will decide what accommodations should be in place to reduce or eliminate the impact of the student’s disability on his or her education.
4. 504 Team Creates a Plan. School Puts the Plan Into Action.
If the evaluation indicates that the student has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity, the team determines whether or not the student needs a 504 plan. The plan describes the accommodations the school must provide to make sure the student can experience a free and appropriate public education, as the law requires. With the 504 plan in place, all school staff members follow the plan to accommodate the student.
5. School Reviews and Evaluates the 504 Plan
Every year, the school should review the 504 plan to make sure it continues to address the student’s needs. However, a parent or teacher could ask for a review at any time if they think the plan is not meeting the student’s needs.
Periodically, the 504 team must re-evaluate the student’s eligibility for Section 504 and the accommodations in the 504 plan. This re-evaluation should take place at least once every three years, but can happen more frequently; it depends on the student’s needs.
Additional information as well as the district 504 forms can be found in the manual linked below.