What is Section 504?
Section 504 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 ensures that students with medical or other disabilities have equal access to an education. Qualified students may receive accommodations and modifications planned by persons knowledgeable about the students, the meanings of evaluation data, and placement and accommodation options. In short, Section 504 ensures that an eligible student with a disability has equal access to educational opportunities and related school programs and activities, just as his or her non-disabled peers. Additional information and resources on 504 from the New Jersey Department of Education can be found here.
Who is Covered?
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 an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an 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. Major life activities include functions such as: seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, performing manual tasks, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working (this list is not exhaustive).
Referral and Eligibility
A student's teacher, parent/guardian, private practitioner, or other appropriate individual, may make a referral to the student’s school counselor or Section 504 Committee. Once a referral is received, a meeting is scheduled by the 504 Committee. During this meeting, the committee will determine if a disability is officially suspected, and if so, proceed to discussion of eligibility. During discussion of eligibility, the Section 504 Committee considers the following: (a) if a mental or physical impairment exists, (b) if the impairment substantially limits any of the student's major life functions, (c) how the impairment affects the student's access across the educational program, and (d) if the student requires an accommodation plan.
The Section 504 Plan
If a student is found eligible under Section 504, the Committee may develop an accommodation plan if accommodations or services are required to access his/her education, and/or related school programs and activities.
Section 504 plans shall be reviewed at least annually and eligibility is determined at least every three years by the 504 Committee.
Associated Forms and Links