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Section 504

Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. 29 USCA §§1400-1482 (2011). Section 504 is a federal law that applies to programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance and requires a level playing field to enable students with disabilities so they can participate in school, afterschool programs, child care, extracurricular activities, and higher education. Section 504 protects any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. 29 USCA §705 (9)(B)(2011). Section 504 ensures a child with a disability has equal access to an education by providing accommodations and modifications under a 504 plan. 

The ADA prohibits discrimination for persons with disabilities in employment, public services, and accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 is a federal law that significantly expands the definition of disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 and sets forth that the definition of disability “shall be construed in favor of broad coverage”.  42 USC §12102(4)(A). Major life activities include, but are not limited to, sleeping, concentrating, thinking, seeing, and working as well as major bodily functions such as functions of the immune system. The expansion of the term disability does not demand extensive analysis and is to be interpreted broadly.

FAPE

Under Section 504, every child and student is guaranteed a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE under Section 504 focuses on whether your child is receiving educational services as effective as those available to their nondisabled peers. You have a right to request that your child be evaluated in all areas of suspected disability pursuant to Child Find and your child must receive their education in the least restrictive environment. When a child has an IEP, FAPE focuses on the child’s progress in relation to their own potential and their program is individualized. If your child has a 504 Plan, your child will have accommodations and modifications to level the playing field with their non-disabled peers. You have a right to request your child be evaluated in all areas of suspected disability pursuant to Child Find.

504 Meeting

The 504 meeting will be held in your child’s school. The purpose of the meeting is to determine your child’s needs and establish a 504 plan. Having an experienced attorney by your side is important to ensure that your child’s rights are adequately protected and that the plan is drafted with specificity to your child’s needs. As the voice for your child, you want to make sure that you have a good idea of what you want in the plan with respect to accommodations and modifications prior to the meeting. Below are some key features of which all parents should be aware.

  • Five days prior to the meeting, the district must provide you with a written notice of the meeting’s date, time and the individuals who will be participating.
  • Five days in advance of the meeting, you can ask the district to provide any and all materials, assessments, and progress reports that will be presented in the meeting.
  • The meeting can be tape recorded but you need to provide notice prior to the tape recording.

One of the reasons you want to receive the records in advance is to ensure their accuracy and to prepare for the meeting. FERPA, also known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, protects your right to:

  1. Request and view records (records must be provided prior to your 504/PPT meetings if requested in a timely manner).
  2. Request corrections to the records or ask for a formal hearing, which is known as a due process hearing.
  3. Determine 3rd party accessibility to records.

How to Deal With 504 Violations

If you believe that your school district is violating Section 504, there are some definitive steps you can take. You can:

  • Hire an attorney who is well versed in education law
  • Request a 504 hearing
  • File a complaint with the OCR
  • File an action with the Department of Justice
  • File a civil action in state or federal court

Piper Paul Law realizes that your child’s short and long-term well-being is of paramount importance. Protecting the rights of children to a free and appropriate public education is key. We have represented numerous families by advocating for and protecting students’ rights. Select a firm that not only understands the process but will stand by your side to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome for your child. Call us today to find out how we can help.

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