Section 504 Services
Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. When a student is Section 504 eligible, the student is entitled to receive regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet their educational needs as adequately as the needs of a student without disabilities are met. Included in the protections of Section 504 is the equal opportunity of students with a disability the opportunity to participate in athletics and extracurricular activities, and to be free from bullying and harassment based on a disability.
Section 504 Child Find Notice
Pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the District has a duty to identify, refer, evaluate and if eligible, provide a free, appropriate public education to disabled students. For additional information about the rights of parents of eligible children, or for answer to any questions you might have about identification, evaluation, and placement into Section 504 programs, please contact the Coordinator of Section 504 Services, Bianca Patterson at 830-221-2079 or [email protected].
Under Section 504, an individual with a disability is defined as a persons who: (i) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity; (ii) has a record of such an impairment; or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment" [34 C.F.R.§104.3(j)(1)].
Section 504 defines a physical or mental impairment an any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting a person's body systems including neurological, musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine (for example, thyroid, pituitary, and pancreas).
The physical or mental impairment must also affect a major life activity. Major life activities include, but is not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading (such as Dyslexia), concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Bodily functions such as bowel, bladder, and brain; normal cell growth; and the immune, endocrine, respiratory, reproductive, circulatory, digestive, and neurological systems may also be affected. This is not an exhaustive list. If a physical or mental impairments affects a major life activity not listed above, it might be considered a major life activity under Section 504.
The physical or mental impairment must also substantially limit a major life activity. What does substantially limit mean? This means that students must be measured against their same age, non-disables peers in the general populations and without benefit of medication or other mitigating measures including learned adaptive neurological or behavioral modifications, assistive technology or accommodations.
A student with a record of a disability may or may not need special education related aids and services or accommodations. Section 504 does not obligate a school district to provide aids or services that the student does not need. But, even if a student does not need services, the student is protected from disability-based discrimination under Section 504's general non-discrimination requirements [34 C.F.R. §§ 404.4(b), 104.21-23, 104.377, 104.61 (incorporating 34 C.F.R. § 100.7(e)].
For more information, the 504 Resource Guide is located in the 504 Resources section below.
The 504 Referral Process
Anyone can refer a child for evaluation under Section 504 by contacting your child's campus 504 Coordinator. However, while anyone can make a referral, such as parents, teachers or a doctor, OCR stated in a staff memorandum that "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.). Therefore, a school district does not have to refer or evaluate a child under Section 504 solely upon parental demand. The key to referral is whether the school district staff suspects that the child is suffering from a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and is in need of either regular education with supplementary services or special education and related services [Letter to Mentink 19 IDELR 1127 (OCR) 1993]. If a parent requests a referral for evaluation, and the campus determines they lack evidence to support a referral for a 504 Evaluation, Comal Independent School District will provide parents with notice of their procedural rights under Section 504.
The 504 Evaluation Process
Under Section 504, no formalized testing is required. Schools must consider a variety of sources. A single source of information (such as a doctor’s report/diagnosis) will not be the only information considered. Schools must be able to assure that all information submitted is documented and considered. The 504 Committee should look at grades over the past several years, teacher’s reports, information from parents or other agencies, state assessment scores or other school administered tests, observations, discipline reports, attendance records, and health records.
According to the 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, placement options, least restrictive environment requirements...” [34 C.F.R. §104.35(c)(3)]. This group of knowledgeable persons is referred to as the Section 504 Committee.
Unlike Special Education, the federal regulations for Section 504 do not require or even mention that parents are to be a part of the decision-making committee. The decision to include parents in the decision-making committee is a determination that is made by each school district. In Comal ISD, we will provide parents notice of Section 504 Meeting and invite parents to participate in the Section 504 Meeting. Parents are asked and encouraged to contribute any information that they may have (e.g., doctor's reports, outside testing reports, etc.) that would be helpful to the Section 504 committee in their determination of what the child may need. Schools are expected to make sound educational decisions as to what the child needs in order to receive an appropriate education.
A child cannot be placed under Section 504 without parent permission. Parents must always be given notice before their learner is evaluated and/or placed under Section 504 (34 C.F.R. §104.36). Parents must also be given a copy of their learner’s Section 504 student services plan if the committee determines that the learner is eligible under Section 504.
Review of Section 504 Plans and Services
While there are no specific regulations regarding this issue, federal regulation requires that learners must be re-evaluated at least every three years or whenever there is going to be a significant change in placement. In Comal ISD, the campus 504 committee reviews each learner’s plan annually to make sure it is appropriately based on the student's individual needs.
Parental Rights Under Section 504
As a parent or legal guardian, you have the right to:
- Request a Section 504 or Special Education evaluation for your child;
- Receive a copy of procedural safeguards that explain the process for identification, evaluation, and the educational placement of students with disabilities;
- Examine relevant records pertaining to your child;
- File a complaint with your school district's Section 504 Director, who will investigate the conditions regarding the identification, evaluations, or placement of your child, with an opportunity for the parent/guardian to participate in the hearing, to have representation by an attorney, and have a procedure review.
- File a complaint with the appropriate Office for Civil Rights. For more information, contact:
Office for Civil Rights, Region VI
1999 Bryan Street, Suite 160
Dallas, TX 75201-6810
Telephone (214) 661-9600