What is Section 504?
Part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
Section 504 is a civil rights law to protect disabled individuals from
What is an "impairment" as used in Section 504?
An impairment as used under Section 504 may
include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that
“substantially” reduces or lessens a student’s ability to access
learning in the educational setting because of a learning, behavior or
health related condition. There is no list of eligible or ineligible
disabilities. However, examples include: AD/HD, dyslexia, cancer,
diabetes, severe allergies, chronic asthma, Tourette’s Syndrome,
digestive disorders, cardiovascular disorders, depression, conduct
disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, HIV/AIDS, behavior disorders,
and temporary disorders such as broken limbs.
What are my rights as a parent under Section 504?
As a parent or legal guardian, you have the right to:
Receive notice regarding the identification, evaluation, and/or placement of your child;
Examine relevant records pertaining to your child;
File a complaint with your school district Section 504 Coordinator;
an impartial hearing with respect to the district’s actions regarding
the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child;
File a complaint with the appropriate regional Office for Civil Rights.
What do I do if I suspect my child has a disability?
First and foremost, discuss your concerns
with your child’s classroom teacher. He or she may be able to reassure
you that your child is making appropriate progress. If you continue to
be concerned about your child’s progress, contact your child’s assistant
principal in writing, expressing your concerns. All referrals are
processed through the Student Success Team (SST). The SST will meet and
recommend intervention strategies for the classroom teacher to use in
order to help your child. Based on the results of these interventions,
your child may or may not be referred on to dyslexia testing, Section
504 or Special Education.
What is the difference between an impairment and a disability?
Many people have impairments. An impairment
is only considered a disability under Section 504 when it reaches the
level that it is limiting a major life activity.
Who determines whether a student is "substantially limited?"
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, and
comparable facilities” [34 C.F.R. §104.35(c)(3)]. 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. In Clear Creek ISD, parents are notified of meetings, but are
not required members of the committee.
What is a major life activity?
A major life activity is an activity that is
of central importance to the daily life activity of the average person
in the general population. Major life activities include, but are not
limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing,
hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending,
speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking,
communicating and working. It also includes the operation of a major
What is a substantial limitation?
Although not defined in the regulations, OCR
has interpreted it to mean “unable to perform a major life activity
that the average person in the general population can perform; or
restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which an
individual can perform a major life activity as compared to the
condition, manner, or duration under which the average person in the
general population can perform that same major life activity.”
Who is disabled under Section 504?
A qualified individual with a disability
under Section 504 is an individual with an impairment that substantially
limits a major life activity.
Are there any impairments that automatically qualify someone for Section 504?
No, each decision on eligibility is made on an individual basis.
What do I do if I suspect that my child has a disability?
Anyone may refer a child for evaluation.
However, the school district also must suspect that the child is in need
of services (OCR Memorandum, April 29, 1993) to conduct a Section 504
In Clear Creek ISD, each campus has a Student Success Team (SST), which
will meet and discuss the concerns. The SST committee is comprised of
regular education teachers, an administrator, counselors and
specialists, as necessary. The committee will review information about
the student (teacher observations, grades, attendance, TAKS scores,
discipline records, medical reports, etc.) and may make recommendations
for intervention in the classroom. Depending on the outcome of these
interventions, the committee may recommend continuation of these
interventions, or further evaluation under Section 504 or Special
Aren't all students with dyslexia eligible for Section 504?
No, not necessarily. According to The
Dyslexia Handbook, Revised 2007, not all students with dyslexia are
automatically eligible for Section 504 (p9). Students with dyslexia may
be eligible for special education, Section 504, a school plan, or no
services at all, depending on the individual needs of the student.
How is Section 504 different than special education?
Section 504 is similar to special education
in some ways, yet very different in other ways. Section 504 eligibility
is broader than special education, in that special education limits
eligibility to 13 categories of “disabilities” and requires an
educational need for services. Section 504 law does not specify a list
of impairments that may qualify a student and requires a substantial
limitation to a major life activity, which may or may not be learning.
In addition, most services (typically accommodations) that students
receive in Section 504 are provided within the classroom by the
classroom teacher. Section 504 procedures, paperwork and parental rights
are also very different than in special education. However, contrary to
popular misconception, Section 504 is not “special education light” or a
consolation to students who are not eligible for special education.
child’s physician has written a note saying that my child is eligible
for accommodations under Section 504, doesn’t the school district have
to follow my doctor’s orders?
Section 504 committees must consider
information from a variety of sources, including medical information
provided by a physician. However, a doctor’s note alone cannot be the
basis of eligibility for Section 504.
Can my child receive accommodations in advance level courses such as Pre-AP and AP classes?
Students with disabilities are allowed the
same opportunity to participate in Pre-AP and AP classes as their
non-disabled peers. In order to receive an accommodation in an advanced
class, the student must be eligible to receive the accommodation in a
regular class. For example, if the student needs the use of an
electronic keyboard in a regular class setting, the student would also
be allowed to use an electronic keyboard in an advanced class.
Conversely, if a student does not needed additional time to complete
tests in a regular class, but needs additional time to complete tests in
an advanced class, the student could not receive the accommodation. One
other factor to be considered when determining appropriate
accommodations is the unique nature of advanced classes. If the
accommodation would alter the content or academic standards of the
Pre-AP or AP class, it would not be allowable in the advanced class.
Reduced assignments would be an example of an alteration of content.
Can my child be disciplined if he or she is eligible for Section 504?
Students eligible for Section 504 may still
be disciplined in the same manner as their peers, unless the discipline
becomes a significant change in placement. A significant change in
placement is when the student is suspended or expelled for more than 10
days. In this case a Section 504 committee must determine whether the
student's conduct is a manifestation, or caused by, the identified
disability. If it is a manifestation, the student remains in his or her
placement. If the conduct is not a manifestation, the student will
receive the same discipline that a non-disabled student would receive.
In cases where the student is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at
school, the student is not entitled to this manifestation
campus wants my teenage child to attend his Section 504 meeting, but I
am worried he will be uncomfortable talking about his disability. Why
should he attend the meeting?
It is very important for students to attend
their Section 504 meeting, especially at the high school level. One
reason is that your child will be responsible for seeking out services
in college or employment, if necessary, and will need to be able to
discuss his disability, how it impacts his ability to do things, and
what does and does not help him. In addition, your child’s input to the
effectiveness and his willingness to use specific accommodations is very
important to the Section 504 committee. While the ultimate decision is
yours (until the child is 18), we strongly encourage you to allow your
child to participate.
I could not attend a scheduled Section 504 meeting for my child, but the school went ahead and met without me. Is that legal?
While Clear Creek ISD encourages parent
participation in Section 504 meetings and should attempt to accommodate
parent’s schedules, parents are not required members of the committee.
Does a child need to fail a class or TAKS to be eligible for Section 504?
No. Low class grades and TAKS scores may
indicate a substantial limitation in the area of learning, but Section
504 covers other major life activities as well. For instance, if a child
has a hearing impairment, the Section 504 committee would focus on how
the child's hearing is compared to other children of the same age or
grade. However, if a learning disability is suspected, the Section 504
committee would focus on how the child's learning is affected. Grades
and TAKS scores are an important reflection of learning, but are still
not the only factor considered.
My child has a very high IQ but only earns average grades, isn't that a sign of a disability?
If you are thinking your child has a
learning disability, remember that the Section 504 committee would
compare your child's ability to learn in relation to the average
student, not to your child's own potential. In this case, it sounds like
your child would not be eligible under Section 504 unless there is a
different major life activity being impaired.
What do I do if I have a complaint about Section 504?
You have several options. First and foremost
we would encourage you to communicate any problems you have with the
campus your child attends. Each campus has one or more assistant
principals who are responsible for Section 504. If you would prefer, you
may also speak with the campus principal. If you are not satisfied with
the outcome at the campus level, you may contact the district Section
504 coordinator, Lisa Hardcastle at 281-284-0078. She will listen to
your concerns, review the situation and offer advice. Parents also have
the right to request a hearing before an impartial hearing office. Your
notice of rights has more information regarding this. You may also file a
complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at 214-661-9600 at any time.
Will my child automatically receive accommodations on college entrance exams?
Not necessarily. Remember, you must apply
through the organization that provides the testing well in advance of
registration deadlines. The school counselor can assist you and your
child, but you must initiate the process. In addition, testing
organizations have very strict requirements regarding the diagnosis of
the disability. It is not uncommon for the documentation that is
required by the school for Section 504 eligibility to be different than
the documentation that the testing organization requires. The school
district is not required to pay for or provide this testing unless it is
necessary in order to provide services in the classroom, therefore you
may be required to obtain additional testing at your own expense. For
specific information on the process and requirements, visit the links to
the College Board website and ACT website in the "Helpful Links"
section of this website.
Once eligible for Section 504, will my child always be eligible?
Not necessarily. Eligibility must be
reestablished at every meeting. In some situations, children no longer
are eligible for Section 504 because an injury or illness has been
cured. In other cases, a student will learn to compensate for
difficulties due to an impairment and no longer meet eligibility
requirements. This change in eligibility should be looked at in a
positive way, and not looked at as a “bad” thing or a “taking away” of
Will my child automatically receive accommodations in college?
Not necessarily. Although most colleges must
comply with Section 504 and the ADA, there are several differences in
eligibility and services that a student may receive. It is important to
be aware that the bulk of responsibility is on the student at the
college level, so self advocacy is an important skill for you child to
learn before he or she leaves high school. One difference is in what is
called "child find". Public schools are required to locate and identify
students who have disabilities. In contrast, at the college level,
students with disabilities are required to approach the college to
request accommodations. In addition, any testing required to
substantiate the disability must be provided by the student at student
expense. After receiving notification of disability, the college reviews
any information provided and determines what accommodations the student
will receive. Accommodations are usually less extensive than those on a
high school Section 504 plan. Typical accommodations found at college
are the opportunity to register early, maintain a reduced course load or
time extensions on tests. It would be rare to receive accommodations
such as time extensions on assignments, no penalty for spelling errors
or notification of missing assignments. Due to the differences in the
process to obtain accommodations and available services among colleges,
it is important to investigate each college your child is interested in
attending early in the college application process.