Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act 1973

At Central York School District, we work to provide educational opportunities through which ALL learners strive to achieve their full potential. The purpose of this webpage is to provide a general overview of how learner with an impairment is identified, evaluated, and provided with a free and appropriate education (FAPE), in accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The uniform application of the rules governing learners with impairments benefits learners, parents, and teachers alike. Central York School District is committed to ensuring learners with impairments receive equal access to the services they need to achieve their full potential. 

Questions
1)  What is Section 504?
2)  Who is considered to be "otherwise qualified"?
3)  What is a "program or activity"?
4)  Who is an "individual with a disability"?
5)  What are "major life activities"?
6)  When does an impairment "substantially limit" a major life activity?
7)  What are some examples of discrimination that could occur against a patron of a school district who qualifies for services under Section 504?
8)  What are the accessibility requirements of Section 504?
9)  Who enforces Section 504?
10)  Must OCR investigate every complaint?
11)  What are the Procedural Safeguards under Section 504?
12)  Is it possible for my child to have a disability and not qualify for services under Section 504?
13)  My child has been diagnosed with ADHD; isn't he/she automatically qualified for Section 504 services?
14)  What information will CYSD use to make a determination on whether my child with ADHD qualifies for services under Section 504?
15)  Who should I contact if I believe that my child qualifies for services under Section 504?
 
Answers

1)  Q What is Section 504?

A
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides that: “No otherwise qualified disabled individual in the United States….shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.” 29 USC § 794.

2)  Q Who is considered to be "otherwise qualified"?

A
1.All students with disabilities who are entitled to attend school under state law;
2.Parents with a disability;
3.An employee with a disability who can, with or without reasonable accommodations, meet the essential requirements of the job;
4.Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), persons who are discriminated against because of their association with individuals with disabilities.

3)  Q What is a "program or activity"?

A
The term includes all programs or activities of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and all school districts receiving federal funds regardless of whether the specific program or activity involved is a direct recipient of federal funds (e.g., if a district contracts with an alternative education program, the alternative education program may not discriminate against persons with disabilities even though it may not receive any federal funds). 34 CFR § 104.3(f); Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 (PL 100-259).

4)  Q Who is an "individual with a disability"?

A

For school districts, all school-age children (5 to 21). 34 CFR § 104.3(k) There are three ways that a person may qualify as an individual with disabilities under the regulations. A person is considered disabled under Section 504 if he or she:

1. Has a physical or mental impairment/disability which substantially limits one or more major life activities (caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working). The term does not cover children disadvantaged by cultural, environmental, or economic factors.

2. Has a record or history of such impairment. The term includes children who have been misclassified (e.g., a non-English speaking student who was mistakenly classified as having mental retardation).

3. Is regarded as having such an impairment. A person can be found eligible under this section if he or she:

a. Has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit a major life activity but is treated by the district as having such a limitation (e.g., a student who has scarring, a student who walks with a limp);

b. Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity only as a result of the attitudes of others toward such an impairment (e.g., a student who is obese); or

c. Has no physical or mental impairment but is treated by the district as having such an impairment (e.g., a student who tests positive with the HIV virus but has no physical effects from it).

NOTE: Students with a record or history of impairment (#2) or those regarded as having an impairment (#3) are protected against discrimination but are not eligible for services or accommodations.

Examples of potentially disabling conditions under Section 504 if they substantially limit a major life activity may include:

1. Communicable diseases: AIDS, AIDS related complex (ARC) or asymptomatic carriers of the AIDS virus (HIV); tuberculosis

2. Temporary disabilities: The factors to consider are the anticipated length of disability, the seriousness of the illness/injury and the needs of the student (e.g., Students injured in accidents, broken limbs)

3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

4. Chronic asthma and severe allergies

5. Physical disabilities such as spina bifida, hemophilia, and conditions requiring children to use crutches

6. Diabetes



5)  Q What are "major life activities"?

A
There is very little guidance in the regulations concerning established, specific limitations relating to the educational arena. However, the regulations do define major life activities as normal, daily “functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.” This list is not exhaustive. Only one major life activity needs to be limited by an impairment in order for a student to be eligible for services under Section 504. It is important to note that “Learning” is only one of the “major life activities”. A student may be qualified for services in the educational environment under Section 504 based on a substantial limitation of a major life activity other than learning.

6)  Q When does an impairment "substantially limit" a major life activity?

A

Although this term is not defined in Section 504 regulations, an impairment substantially limits a life activity when the student is unable or is significantly restricted as to the manner which he or she can perform the major life activity as compared to the average person.

The eligibility team should consider the following factors when making a determination:

• The nature and severity of the impairment.

• The duration or expected duration of the impairment, and

• The permanent or long-term impact resulting from the impairment.

In determining whether or not an impairment “substantially limits” a major life activity, the team must take into account the effects, both positive and negative, of any mitigating measure (medication, hearing aids, glasses or contacts, etc.) used by the student. The impairment must substantially limit a major life activity despite the use of the mitigating measure. For example, a student’s poor vision does not substantially impact the major life activity of seeing if the student normally wears glasses or contacts to correct the poor vision.


7)  Q What are some examples of discrimination that could occur against a patron of a school district who qualifies for services under Section 504?

A

1. Deny a qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit, or service. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(i). For example, a school district cannot only provide summer school or after school care for non-disabled students.

2. Afford a qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit, or service that is not equal to that afforded others. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(ii). For example, a school district cannot prevent all students with epilepsy from participating on the Varsity soccer team because they allow them to participate on the intramural soccer team instead.

3. Provide a qualified individual with a disability an aid, benefit, or service that is not as effective as that provided to others. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(iii). For example, a school district cannot provide a shortened school day for students in a self-contained classroom because of transportation problems.

4. Provide different or separate aids, benefits, or services to individuals with disabilities or to any class of individuals with disabilities unless such action is necessary to provide a qualified individual with disabilities aids, benefits, or services that are as effective as those provided to others. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(iv). For example, a school district cannot segregate students with disabilities in basements, portable classrooms, or separate wings.

5. Aid or perpetuate discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability by providing significant assistance to an agency, organization or person that discriminates on the basis of disability in providing any aid, benefit, or services to beneficiaries of the recipient’s program. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(v). For example, a school district could not provide a work-study program that is connected to a business that will only accept students without disabilities.

6. Deny a qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participate as a member of planning or advisory boards. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(vi). For example, a school district could not deny an otherwise qualified student from being a student board representative because the student has a disability.

7. Otherwise limit a qualified individual with a disability in the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage, or opportunity enjoyed by others receiving an aid, benefit or service. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(vii). This is referred to as the “catch-all” subsection.


8)  Q What are the accessibility requirements of Section 504?

A
All school districts are required to provide students with disabilities services and facilities comparable to the services and facilities provided to non-disabled students. According to the regulation of 34 CFR 104.3(i), facility is defined as “all or any portion of buildings, structures equipment, roads, walks, parking lots, or other real or personal property or interest in such property.” The important thing to remember is that a student qualified under Section 504 must be afforded an equal opportunity to enjoy the full range of services offered by the district.

9)  Q Who enforces Section 504?

A
The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing the provisions of Section 504 as applied to publicly funded educational institutions. If an individual files a complaint against a school district, OCR will investigate the complaint under both Section 504 and The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

10)  Q Must OCR investigate every complaint?

A
OCR must have subject matter and personal jurisdiction in order to proceed with a complaint. OCR does not investigate every complaint it receives. Instead, it screens incoming complaints for, among other things, substantive merit.

11)  Q What are the Procedural Safeguards under Section 504?

A

The Procedural Safeguards under Section 504 can be different than the Procedural Safeguards provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act (IDEIA). Section 504 regulations establishes that school districts must establish a system of procedural safeguards that afford parents the following:

• Notice of their rights under Section 504

• An opportunity to examine relevant educational records

• An opportunity to file a grievance under the district grievance policy

• The right to an impartial hearing with opportunity for participation for the parents and representation by counsel


Please contact your building administrator for a copy of the Procedural Safeguards.


12)  Q Is it possible for my child to have a disability and not qualify for services under Section 504?

A

Yes, it is very possible that a student may have a disability and not qualify for services under Section 504. Section 504 clearly states that the disability must substantially limit one or more major life activities.

Examples, from case law (taken from Norlin, J. & Gorn, S. (2005). What Do I Do When…The Answer Book on Section 504. Pennsylvania: LRP Publications.), of impairments that did not limit a student’s performance of a major life activity:

1. Cardinal Spellman High Sch., 38 IDELR 212 (SEA MA 2002) (migraine headaches and shin splints impeded a student’s ability to run on a daily basis and compete as a member of the track team; but running is not a “life activity” within the meaning of Section 504).

2. Weymouth Pub. Sch., 21 IDELR 578 (SEA MA 1994) (student with a speech impairment capable of expressing himself orally and capable of communicating effectively is not substantially limited in the major life activity of ability to express oneself orally to communicate).

3. Worth County (GA) Schs., 27 IDELR 224 (OCR 1997) (student diagnosed with ADD who made academic progress as shown by grades and standardized test scores is not substantially limited in the major life activity of learning).

4. School Dist. of River Falls (WI), 20 IDELR 1364 (OCR 1993) (student whose mild allergy to cats did not adversely affect his physical health was not substantially limited in any major life activity).

5. Graves County (KY) Sch. Dist., 20 IDELR 384 (OCR 1993) (student with permanent hip disability who was not limited in physical activities was not substantially impaired in his ability to walk).


13)  Q My child has been diagnosed with ADHD; isn't he/she automatically qualified for Section 504 services?

A
No. Although a formal diagnosis is a good first step, it does not automatically mean your child will qualify for accommodations under Section 504. Eligibility for Section 504 is based on the existence of an identified physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The diagnosis of ADHD is not enough; his ADHD must significantly impact his learning or behavior.

14)  Q What information will CYSD use to make a determination on whether my child with ADHD qualifies for services under Section 504?

A
Central York School District will look at a variety of sources of information including grade reports, teacher/parent comments, discipline record, attendance record, psychological/psychiatric reports, and many other sources relevant to your individual child. In addition, CYSD believes in a "team" approach to making a determination. The determination is not made by one individual; rather, a team of individuals knowledgeable about your child and the evaluation/eligibility requirements under Section 504.

15)  Q Who should I contact if I believe that my child qualifies for services under Section 504?

A

There is a Section 504 building coordinator assigned to each school in the Central York School District. Please contact the building coordinator assigned to the school building your child attends.

Central York High School:

Central York Middle School: Mr. Robert High (Assistant Principal)

Sinking Springs Elementary School: Mr. Joel Gugino (Assistant Principal)

North Hills Elementary School: Mr. Kevin Youcheff (Assistant Principal)

Hayshire Elementary School: Mr. Matthew Miller (Assistant Principal)

Stony Brook Elementary School: Mr. Ryan Billet (Assistant Principal)

Roundtown Elementary School: Mrs. Anne Strayer (Assistant to the Principal)