What is Section 504?
The focus of Section 504 is on non-discrimination as applied to the schools. The language broadly prohibits the denial of public education participation or enjoyment of the benefits offered by public school programs because of a child’s disability.
Section 504 is a federal law enacted in 1973, which states….
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…, shall solely by reason of her or his handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance….”
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on basis of disability. Public entities receiving federal funding are required to follow this provision of the law.
A student should be referred to §504 when the district believes that the child may be eligible. Prior to the referral and evaluation for §504, the district uses Response to Intervention (RtI) and the Collaborative Student Support committee to address the child’s needs.
The campus §504 committee will conduct an evaluation. This simply means that the committee will gather data or information from a variety of sources to make a proper determination about the child.
For §504 purposes, “placement” means the regular education classroom setting with the individually planned accommodations.
The key distinctions lie in the laws’ different eligibility criteria and processes, and in the differences in the procedural rights and safeguards they provide. Services provided under Section 504 tend to be less intensive and detailed, as they are meant for students with less severe disabilities and serve to provide only an equal opportunity to receive an education. Services provided under IDEA tend to be more intensive, are set out in highly detailed IEPs, and must be reasonably designed to confer a beneficial education—a higher standard than under Section 504.