Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights (anti-discrimination) statute that prohibits discrimination/harassment on the basis of a disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. It also provides that students with disabilities receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In particular, Section 504 provides that:
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance....
Who is eligible for protections under Section 504?
A student is “disabled” under the Section 504 regulations if the student has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.
The Physical or Mental Impairment
The Section 504 regulations provide a broad definition of the “physical or mental impairment.” Physical or mental impairment means
(A) 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
(B) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. (34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)).
Age and conditions resulting from cultural, environmental, or economic factors are not considered disabilities under Section 504.
Major Life Activities
Section 504 eligibility looks for impact from the physical or mental impairment on one or more major life activities. Prior to the ADAAA, major life activities included the following:
- Caring for oneself
- Performing manual tasks
The implementing regulations for Section 504 as set out in 34 CFR Part 104 provides parents and/or students with the following rights:
1. Your child has the right to an appropriate education designed to meet his or her individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students. 34 CFR 104.33.
2. Your child has the right to free educational services except for those fees that are imposed on non-disabled students or their parents. Insurers and similar third parties who provide services not operated by or provided by the recipient are not relieved from an otherwise valid obligation to provide or pay for services provided to a disabled student. 34 CFR 104.33.
3. Your child has a right to participate in an educational setting (academic and nonacademic) with non-disabled students to the maximum extent appropriate to his or her needs. 34 CFR 104.34.
4. Your child has a right to facilities, services, and activities that are comparable to those provided for non-disabled students. 34 CFR 104.34.
5. Your child has a right to an evaluation prior to a Section 504 determination of eligibility. 34 CFR 104.35.
6. You have the right to not consent to the school system’s request to evaluate your child. 34 CFR 104.35.
7. You have the right to ensure that evaluation procedures, which may include testing, conform to the requirements of 34 CFR 104.35.
8. You have the right to ensure that the school system will consider information from a variety of sources as appropriate, which may include aptitude and achievement tests, grades, teacher recommendations and observations, physical conditions, social or cultural background, medical records, and parental recommendations. 34 CFR 104.35.
9. You have the right to ensure that placement decisions are made by a group of persons, including persons knowledgeable about your child, the meaning of the evaluation data, the placement options, and the legal requirements for least restrictive environment and comparable facilities. 34 CFR 104.35.
10. If your child is eligible under Section 504, your child has a right to periodic reevaluations, including prior to any subsequent significant change of placement. 34 CFR 104.35.
11. You have the right to notice prior to any actions by the school system regarding the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child. 34 CFR 104.36.
12. You have the right to examine your child’s educational records. 34 CFR 104.36.
13. You have the right to an impartial hearing with respect to the school system’s actions regarding your child’s identification, evaluation, or educational placement, with opportunity to parental participation in the hearing and representation by an attorney. 34 CFR 104.36.
14. You have the right to receive a copy of this notice and a copy of the school system’s impartial hearing procedure upon request. 34 CFR 104.36.
15. If you disagree with the decision of the impartial hearing officer (school board members and other district employees are not considered impartial hearing officers), you have a right to a review of that decision according to the school system’s impartial hearing procedure. 34 CFR 104.36.
16. You have the right to, at any time, file a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The address of the Regional Office (which includes Georgia) is: Office for Civil Rights, Region IV, 61 Forsyth Street, Suite 1970, Atlanta, Georgia 30303.
The district School Psychologist on Special Assignment for RTI and 504 is:
Cathy McKenzie, Ed.S., ABSNP
1205 Bluffs Parkway
Canton, GA 30114
For more information regarding Section 504, or if you have questions or need additional assistance, please contact the Cherokee County School District Section 504 Coordinator at the following address:
Section 504 Coordinator Cherokee County School District
1205 Bluffs Parkway
Canton, GA 30114