About Section 504
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504’s main emphasis in the schools is equal educational opportunity, which is mainly accomplished by providing appropriate classroom accommodations to eligible disabled students. Section 504 also requires that eligible students are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in school extracurricular and nonacademic activities.
For Section 504 eligibility consideration, a student must be determined to:
- Have a physical or mental impairment
- Does the physical or mental impairment must affect one or more major life activities (including major bodily functions)
- Does the physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities
What is a physical or mental impairment?
The definition does not set forth a list of specific diseases, conditions or disorders that constitute impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list. Examples: 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 disabilities (e.g., broken writing arm, broken leg, etc
What are major life activities?
Major life activities include, but are not limited to: self-care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, speaking, sitting, thinking, learning, breathing, concentrating, interacting with others, working, reading, concentrating, standing, lifting, and bending.
What does substantially limits means?
Substantially limits is not defined in the federal regulations. However, in a letter from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), they state, “this is a determination to be made by each local school district and depends on the nature and severity of the person’s disabling condition.”
An evaluation under Section 504 is the collecting, gathering, and interpreting of data from a variety of sources about the student’s educational functioning. Data can include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical and health information, adaptive behavior data, discipline information, parent input, privately-obtained data, prior Special Education evaluations, grade and progress reports, and any other relevant information.
How Does the Identification of Dyslexia Relate to the Protection of Section 504?
Texas Legislature singled out dyslexia from other disabilities, which created a special program and procedures for eligibility students. Assessment of a student for dyslexia triggers the protections of Section 504. Dyslexia program eligibility and placement is determined by a committee of knowledgeable people – a properly constituted Section 504 Committee.
When the Section 504 committee determines if the student is dyslexic they must also determine if the child should be served under Section 504. Merely having dyslexia does not qualify an individual as Section 504.