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Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act or, more formally, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Pub. L. No. 93-112, 87 Stat. 394 (Sept. 26, 1973), codified at
et seq., was an American piece of legislation that guaranteed certain rights to people with disabilities.
Section 504 states (in part):
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 705(20) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his 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 under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.
Codified at 29 U.S.C. 794.
Section 504 is one of three laws that address the rights of children with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate education (FAPE). The other laws are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the school context, the requirements of Section 504 are normally satisfied by complying with IDEA. However, Section 504 can be useful in providing rights to students for issues outside of the normal the school day such as extracurricular activities, sports, and after school care. Section 504 is a condition to the receipt of federal grants and therefore only applies in the context of those schools who receive federal grants. Section 504 is also distinguished from IDEA in that Section 504 has a different and broader definition of what constitutes a disability.
Schools comply with Section 504 with the following process: Identify students with disabilities; evaluate those students; if the student is eligible, create a written accommodation plan. In the IDEA context, this would be similar to the Individualized Education Program (IEP). Parents, Teachers, and school staff are a part of the process. Parents have due process rights; where they disagree with the determinations of the school, they have a right to an impartial hearing.
Violations of Section 504 in the educational environment can be addressed locally with the education agency or with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education. Violations of Section 504 can result in a loss of the federal funding. According to the US Dept. of Education, individuals may also bring a private right of action for violations of Sec. 504.
Section 504 was the last sentence in the 1973 Act. However, more than three years later, no implementing rules had been issued. That spurred the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities to make "Sign 504" it's #1 priority. Section 504 was somewhat controversial because it afforded people with disabilities many rights similar to those in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Throughout the Reagan administration, many efforts were made to weaken this legislation. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 very specifically stated that it made no amendments, weakening or otherwise, to section 504, and indeed extended the reach of its principles to the private sector (hotels, stores, sporting venues, restaurants, and telecommunications, among others).
Section 504 covers extracurricular and after school programs such as sports, music lessons, and after school care. 34 C.F.R. § 104.37.
The US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has determined that Section 504 applies to
- Playgrounds - Hazelton (PA) Area School District, 17 EHLR 907 (OCR, March 7, 1991); San Francisco (CA) Unified Sch. Dist., 23 IDELR 1200 (OCR, November 26, 1995); Mill Valley (CA) Elementary Sch. Dist., 23 IDELR 1190 (OCR, October 10, 1995);
- Band Programs - Akron (OH) City Sch., 19 IDELR 793 (OCR, January 15, 1993);
- Special Programs and assemblies - Whitman-Hanson (MA) Regional Sch. Dist., 20 IDELR 775 (OCR, August 19, 1993); Atlanta (GA) Pub. Sch., 16 EHLR 19 (OCR, January 9, 1989)
- Field Trips and Off Site Programs - Ontario-MontClair (CA) Unified Sch. Dist., 24 IDELR 780 (OCR, February 7, 1996); Elk Grove (CA) Unified Sch. Dist., 21 IDELR 941 (OCR, August 1, 1994)
- Clubs - Colquitt County (GA) Sch. Dist., 25 IDELR 244 (OCR, June 6, 1996); South Central (IN) Area Special Educ. Coop., 17 EHLR 248 (September 25, 1990);
- After School and Summer Programs - Clayton (MO) Sch. Dist., 16 EHLR 766 (OCR, March 16, 1990); Conejo Valley (CA) Unified Sch. Dist., 23 IDELR 448 (OCR, June 28, 1995);
- Graduation - Aldine (TX) Indep. Sch. Dist., 16 EHLR 1411 (OCR, July 12, 1990); and
- Late Bus Transportation - Carmel Cent. (NY) Sch. Dist., 20 IDELR 1177 (OCR, September 30, 1993).
- Switzer, Jacqueline Vaughn. Disabled Rights: American Disability Policy and the Fight for Equality. Georgetown University Press, 2003.
- OCR Senior Staff Memoranda, “Guidance on the Application of Section 504 to Noneducational Programs of Recipients of Federal Financial Assistance,” January 3, 1990.
- The Act
- Section 504 at Section 508.gov
- Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities US Dept of Education
- Overview of Section 504 Section504idea.org
- Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Section 504 Handbook Filled with forms and outlines and excellent information.
- University of Iowa Section 504 Training
- Cybertelecom :: Section 504 implications for the provision of IT
- [Gaskin Class Member] A blog written by the mother of a class member in a statewide lawsuit regarding inclusion in education in Pennsylvania.
- * Section 504: Accommodations & After-School Programs Robert Crabtree
- * Non-Academic and Extracurricular Services under Section 504 Phil Stinson, Esq.
- * Beyond the Classroom, iPAT University of Iowa
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