What is Section 504?
Section 504 refers to a portion of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that states "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability shall, solely by reason of 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."
This means that no student in West Virginia public schools may be kept from participating in any school program or activity solely because of his/her disability and that student may not be discriminated against at school or at school activities because of the disability.
Because it is a civil rights statute and not a special education statute, county school systems receive no additional funding for providing Section 504 compliance and accommodations. The focus is on regular education students who may be subject to discrimination at school because of a disability or perceived disability.
Who is Eligible for a Section 504 Plan?
Any regular education student is eligible for Section 504 protections if he/she meets three qualifications:
- Has a mental or physical impairment (or having a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment);
- That substantially limits (the limitation must impose an important and material limitation and it must be expected to continue for a while);
- A major life activity (included are caring for oneself, sleeping, standing, walking, lifting, bending, hearing, seeing, speaking, working, breathing, reading, thinking, communicating, attending school, etc.).
What should a Section 504 Plan contain?
Once the team determines that the student meets the criteria, the team is responsible for creating a Section 504 Plan. The goal is to ensure that the student is educated with his nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate for the student.
Accommodations usually are minor adjustments in the regular classroom such as the seating arrangements, lesson presentation and assignments which provide the student with equal access to learning opportunities.
The team must identify the student's needs and accommodations and document them on the Section 504 Plan.