Introduction/Purpose of Section 504
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as amended, is designed to eliminate discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Section 504 requires that no identified student who demonstrates a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (i.e., caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, and operation of a major bodily function) shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefit of, or be subject to discrimination in any program or activity offered. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it substantially limits a major life activity when active.
The determination of impact to one or more major life activities must be made without regard to any ameliorative (positive) effects of mitigating measures (i.e., medication, medical supplies, equipment, low-vision devices, prosthetics, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies).
Harlingen CISD shall offer a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to each identified student with a disability. Services provided to identified students are not required to produce identical results or level of achievement as nondisabled peers. Services must be designed to offer an equal opportunity to gain the same access, and receive benefit from, the most appropriate setting.
An identified student is a student who (a) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (b) has a record of having such an impairment, or (c) is regarded as having such as impairment. 34 CFR 104.3 (j)(1)
“Major life activity” means functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. 42 U.S.C. § 12102 (2) (A).“Major life activities” also include the “operation of a major bodily function” as follows: (1) the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. 42 U.S.C § 12102 (2) (B).
Referral for Section 504 consideration/services does not necessarily mean the student is eligible for Section 504 services. A student’s identified disability does not automatically result in eligibility for Section 504 services. Students who are found ineligible for special education and related services may not automatically be eligible for Section 504 services. It is the school Section 504 Committee’s responsibility to make an eligibility determination for each student.
Who Determines Eligibility?
Disability, qualification, and placement decisions must be made by a group of persons (i.e. more than one person). The Section 504 Committee must include persons knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options. 34 C.F.R § 104.35 (d) (3).
Section 504 regulations do not require parental involvement in all decision making, as IDEA does. The parent is only entitled to notice of the Section 504 Committee meeting.
The Section 504 Committee must draw from a variety of sources in the evaluation process so as to minimize the possibility of an error. “The information obtained from all sources must be documented and all significant factors related to the student’s learning process must be considered. These sources and factors may include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social and cultural background, and adaptive behavior.” 2009 DOE Q19.