504 FOR PARENTS
Section 504, a civil rights law, states that any school district receiving federal financial assistance cannot discriminate against handicapped persons, both students and staff members, preventing them from participating in and benefiting from public education programs and activities. This includes all programs or activities regardless of whether the specific program or activity is a direct recipient of federal funds.
Under Section 504 is the requirement that handicapped students be identified, evaluated, provided appropriate services, and have procedural safeguards in every public school in the United States. Under Section 504, handicapped students are defined as those having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Examples of these handicaps include, but are not limited to, communicable diseases, medical conditions, temporary medical conditions, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, behavioral difficulties, and drug/alcohol addiction. Students considered handicapped under Section 504 require a response from regular education staff and curriculum, as opposed to students disabled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), who need specially designed instruction through special education.
The school district must evaluate a student if it believes that, because of a handicap as defined under Section 504, a student needs either special accommodations or related services in the regular setting in order to participate in the regular school program. The district must develop and implement a plan for the delivery of all needed services if a student is determined to be handicapped under Section 504.
The type of handicap believed to be present and the type of services the student may need will determine the kind of evaluation to be used. The evaluation must be sufficient to accurately and completely assess the nature and extent of the handicap. The determination of what services are needed must be made by a group of persons knowledgeable about the student. The group should review the nature of the handicap, how it affects the student's education, whether specialized services are needed, and, if so, what those services are. The decision about Section 504 eligibility and services must be documented in the student's file and reviewed periodically.
Under Section 504, the parent or guardian must be provided with notice of actions affecting the identification, evaluation, or placement of the student and are entitled to an impartial Section 504 hearing if they disagree with the district’s decisions in those areas. Parents should be provided their rights under Section 504 when eligibility is determined, when a plan is developed, and before a significant change in placement is made.
Section 504 is not an aspect of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Section 504 is the responsibility of the comprehensive general public and does not apply only to educational settings. In the educational arena, however, the intent of Section 504 is to accommodate for differences within the regular education environment.