What is 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S.. Department of Education. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to : (1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
The Section 504 regulatory provision [(34 C.F.R 104.3(j)(2)(i)] defines a physical or mental impairment as 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 any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations [34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii)], include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. The Section 504 regulatory provision's list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, and an activity or function not specifically listed in the Section 504 regulatory provision can nonetheless be a major life activity. For example, in the Amendment Act of 2008, Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. In addition, Congress also provided a non-exhaustive list of examples of "major bodily functions" that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
As part of the on-going identification and referral process, the District will make reasonable efforts to identify and locate every qualified disabled student residing within the District who is not receiving a public education. The District shall inform the parents or guardians of these potentially eligible students (who may be attending private or homeschools) of the District's duties under 504. As part of the Child Find effort the District shall annually publish the Child Find Notice in local newspapers, student handbooks, and/or place the Notice in locations likely to be seen by parents of eligible students (such as supermarkets, pediatrician's offices, etc.). Additionally, every teacher and campus administrator within the District should have information regarding the District's overall early intervention process (RtI), understand how to initiate a 504 referral and know how to identify students who should be referred.