1 Section 504 Section 504: Just what exactly is it? Section 504 Just what exactly is it? Every school district addresses Section 504 in a different manner. School districts do have the right and responsibility to establish their own policies and procedures for implementing Section 504. What follows are answers to basic questions pertaining to the implementation of Section 504 in the Victoria Independent School District. What is Section 504? Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination based upon disability. Section 504 is an antidiscrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met. Section 504 states that: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) 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..." [29 U.S.C. 794(a), 34 C.F.R (a)]. Who is covered by Section 504? To be covered under Section 504, a student must be "qualified" which roughly equates to being between 3 and 22 years of age, depending on the program as well as state and federal law, and must have a disability that substantially limits the child in one or more major life activities or major bodily functions). [34 C.F.R (k)(2)]. Who is an "individual with a disability"? As defined by federal law: An individual with a disability means any person who has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment [34 C.F.R (j)(1)]. What is an impairment" as used under the Section 504 definition? An impairment as used in Section 504 may include any disability, long-term illness, or various disorder that "substantially" reduces or lessens a student's ability to access learning in the educational setting because of a learning-, behavior-, or health-related condition. ["It should be emphasized that a physical or mental impairment does not constitute a disability for purposes of Section 504 unless its severity is such that it results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities" (Appendix A to Part 104, #3)]. Many students have conditions or disorders that are not readily apparent to others. They may include conditions such as specific learning disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy, and allergies. Hidden disabilities such as low vision, poor hearing, heart disease, or chronic illness may not be obvious, but if they substantially limit that child's ability to receive an appropriate education as defined by Section 504, they may be considered to have an "impairment" under Section 504 standards. As a result, these students, regardless of their intelligence, will be unable to fully demonstrate their ability or attain educational benefits equal to that of non-disabled students. 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. While the definition of a disabled person also includes specific limitations on what persons are classified as disabled under the regulations, it also specifies that only physical and mental impairments are included, thus "environmental, cultural, and economic disadvantage are not in themselves covered" (Appendix A to Part 104, #3). What are "major life activities"? Major life activities include, but are not limited t self-care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, speaking, sitting, thinking, learning, breathing, concentrating, interacting with others, and working. In September 2008, Congress expanded the list of major life activities to also include, but not limited to, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. This noncomprehensive list includes individuals with 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, temporary disabilities (e.g., broken writing arm, broken leg, etc.). Students who are currently using illegal drugs or alcohol are not covered or eligible under Section 504. What does "substantially limits" mean? "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."
2 Who can refer a child for consideration for evaluation under Section 504? Anyone can refer a child for evaluation under Section 504. However, while anyone can make a referral, such as parents, teachers or a doctor, OCR stated in a staff memorandum that "the school district must also have reason to believe that the child is in need of services under Section 504 due to a disability." (OCR Memorandum, April 29, 1993.) Therefore, a school district does not have to refer or evaluate a child under Section 504 solely upon parental demand. The key to referral is whether the school district staff suspects that the child is suffering from a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity and is in need of either regular education with supplementary services or special education and related services [Letter to Mentink 19 IDELR 1127 (OCR) 1993]. If a parent requests a referral for evaluation, and the campus determines they lack evidence to support a referral for a 504 Evaluation, Victoria Independent School District will provide parents with notice of their procedural rights under Section 504. Does the school have to refer a student to 504 and conduct an evaluation if the student has been placed in a private or home school by his/her parents? Once the District has offered the child a free appropriate public education, it has no duty to provide educational services to students not enrolled in the public school program based on the personal choice of the parent or guardian. Letter to Veir, 20 IDELR 864 (OCR 1993); Hinds Co. School Board, 20 IDELR 1175 (OCR 1993). Who decides whether a student is qualified and eligible for services under Section 504? According to the federal regulations: "...placement decisions are to be made by a group of persons who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, placement options, least restrictive environment requirements, and comparable facilities" [34 C.F.R (c)(3)]. Unlike Special Education, the federal regulations for Section 504 do not require or even mention that parents are to be a part of the decision-making committee. The decision to include parents in the decision-making committee is a determination that is made by each school district and should be spelled out in the district's procedures for implementing Section 504. Best practices in Victoria Independent School District is to provide parents notice of Section 504 Meeting and invite parents to participate in the Section 504 Meeting. Parents are asked and encouraged to contribute any information that they may have (e.g., doctor's reports, outside testing reports, etc.) that would be helpful to the Section 504 committee in their determination of what the child may need. Schools are expected to make sound educational decisions as to what the child needs in order to receive an appropriate education. What information is used in a Section 504 Evaluation? Under Section 504, no formalized testing is required. The 504 Committee should look at grades over the past several years, teacher's reports, information from parents or other agencies, state assessment scores or other school administered tests, observations, discipline reports, attendance records, health records, and adaptive behavior information. Schools must consider a variety of sources. A single source of information (such as a doctor's report) cannot be the only information considered. Can my child be placed under Section 504 without my knowledge? No. Parents should always be given notice in writing before their child is evaluated and/or placed under Section 504. (34 C.F.R ). Parents must also be given a copy of their child's Section 504 accommodation plan if the committee determines that the child is eligible under Section 504. What types of accommodations will my child receive if determined eligible under Section 504? Each child's needs are determined individually. Determination of what is appropriate for each child is based on the nature of the disabling condition and what that child needs in order to have an equal opportunity to compete when compared to the non-disabled. There is no guarantee of A's or B's or even that the student will not fail. Students are still expected to produce. The ultimate goal of education for all students, with or without disabilities, is to give students the knowledge and compensating skills they will need to be able to function in life after graduation. Will my child still be in the regular classroom or will he/she be in a "special class"? For the most part, a Section 504 eligible child will always be in the regular classroom unless the student is pulled from class occasionally to receive instruction in the dyslexia program. Can my child still be disciplined under Section 504? Yes. Children under Section 504 are still expected to follow the district's student code of conduct. However, when disciplining a child under Section 504, schools must consider the relationship between the disability and the misbehavior if the child is going to be removed from the regular setting for longer than 10 days. This does not mean that a student with a disability cannot be sent to a discipline center or that they cannot go to in-school suspension, or be suspended from school for three days. Very strict guidelines exist for schools in discipline issues with students who have a disability under Section 504. Your campus 504 coordinator can assist you in this area should you have additional questions concerning the discipline of students with disabilities. Children having disabilities with behavioral components should have individual discipline plans as well as behavior intervention plans.
3 If I disagree with the school's evaluation, will the school district pay for an outside independent evaluation? Under Section 504, schools are not required to pay for an outside independent evaluation. If a parent disagrees with the school's evaluation decision, they may submit a written request to have the 504 Committee decision reviewed by the District 504 Coordinator, request a due process hearing or file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. (See Notice of Parent and Student Rights Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.) How often will my child be re-evaluated? While there are no specific time lines on this issue, students must be re-evaluated at least every three years or whenever there is going to be a "significant change in placement". In the Victoria Independent School District, the student s Section 504 Committee will convene annually to determine continued eligibility and revise your child's plan to make sure that his or her accommodation plan is appropriate based on their current schedule and individual needs. The accommodation plan may be revised during the school year if needed. Will my child still be able to participate in non-academic services? Yes. Victoria ISD must provide equal opportunity in areas such as counseling, physical education and/or athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, and special interest groups or clubs. However, the "no pass, no play" standard used for students in Texas also applies to students under Section 504 (34 C.F.R ). What Are My Rights as a Parent under Section 504? As a parent or legal guardian, you have the right to Receive notice regarding the identification, evaluation, and/or placement of your child; Examine relevant records pertaining to your child; File a complaint with your school district Section 504 Coordinator, who will investigate the allegations regarding Section 504 matters other than your child's identification, evaluation, and placement. Request an impartial hearing with respect to the district's actions regarding the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child, with an opportunity for the parent/guardian to participate in the hearing, to have representation by an attorney, and have a review procedure; File a complaint with the appropriate regional Office for Civil Rights. For additional information, contact: Director Office of Civil Rights, Region VI 1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620 Dallas, Texas Telephone (214) Does TEA (Texas Education Agency) have jurisdiction over Section 504? No. TEA has no jurisdiction over Section 504 implementation. Complaints may be addressed to Tammy Nobles, District 504 Coordinator, or to the Office of Civil Rights. Who do I contact if I have questions about Section 504? Each campus has a Section 504 Campus Coordinator, usually the Counselor or Assistant Principal. Any questions regarding your child's possible eligibility for Section 504 should first be brought to the attention of the 504 Campus Coordinator. (portions of information excerpted from Pflugerville ISD s website)
4 Notice of Rights for Disabled Students and their Parents Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 Notice of Rights for Disabled Students and their Parents Under 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly known in the schools as Section 504, is a federal law passed by the United States Congress with the purpose of prohibiting discrimination against disabled persons who may participate in, or receive benefits from, programs receiving federal financial assistance. In the public schools specifically, 504 applies to ensure that eligible disabled students are provided with educational benefits and opportunities equal to those provided to nondisabled students. Under 504, a student is considered disabled if he or she suffers from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities, such as learning, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, working, and performing manual tasks. Section 504 also applies to students with a record of having a substantially limiting impairment, or who are regarded as being disabled even if they are truly not disabled. Students can be considered disabled, and can receive services under 504, even if they do not qualify for, or receive, special education services. The purpose of this Notice is to inform parents and students of the rights granted them under 504. The federal regulations that implement 504 are found at Title 34, Part 104 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and entitle parents of eligible students, and the students themselves, to the following rights: 1. You have a right to be informed about your rights under 504. [34 CFR ] The School District must provide you with written notice of your rights under 504 (this document represents written notice of rights as required under 504). If you need further explanation or clarification of any of the rights described in this Notice, contact appropriate staff persons at the District s 504 Office and they will assist you in understanding your rights. 2. Under 504, your child has the right to an appropriate education designed to meet his or her educational needs as adequately as the needs of non disabled students are met. [34 CFR ]. 3. Your child has the right to free educational services, with the exception of certain costs normally also paid by the parents of non disabled students. Insurance companies and other similar third parties are not relieved of any existing obligation to provide or pay for services to a student that becomes eligible for services under 504. [34 CFR ]. 4. To the maximum extent appropriate, your child has the right to be educated with children who are not disabled. Your child will be placed and educated in regular classes, unless the District demonstrates that his or her educational needs cannot be adequately met in the regular classroom, even with the use of supplementary aids and services. [34 CFR ].
5 5. Your child has the right to services, facilities, and activities comparable to those provided to nondisabled students. [34 CFR ]. 6. The School District must undertake an evaluation of your child prior to determining his or her appropriate educational placement or program of services under 504, and also before every subsequent significant change in placement. [34 CFR ]. 7. If formal assessment instruments are used as part of an evaluation, procedures used to administer assessments and other instruments must comply with the requirements of 504 regarding test validity, proper method of administration, and appropriate test selection. [34 CFR ]. The District will consider information from a variety of sources in making its determinations, including, for example: aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, reports of physical condition, social and cultural background, adaptive behavior, health records, report cards, progress notes, parent observations, scores on TAKS tests, and mitigating measures among others. [34 CFR ]. 8. Placement decisions regarding your child must be made by a group of persons (a 504 committee) knowledgeable about your child, the meaning of the evaluation data, possible placement options, and the requirement that to the maximum extent appropriate, disabled children should be educated with non disabled children. [34 CFR ]. 9. If your child is eligible for services under 504, he or she has a right to periodic evaluations to determine if there has been a change in educational need. Generally, an evaluation will take place at least every three years. [34 CFR ]. 10. You have the right to be notified by the District prior to any action regarding the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child. [34 CFR ] 11. You have the right to examine relevant documents and records regarding your child (generally documents relating to identification, evaluation, and placement of your child under 504). [34 CFR ]. 12. You have the right to an impartial due process hearing if you wish to contest any action of the District with regard to your child s identification, evaluation, or placement under 504. [34 CFR ]. You have the right to participate personally at the hearing, and to be represented by an attorney, if you wish to hire one. 13. If you wish to contest an action taken by the 504 Committee by means of an impartial due process hearing, you must submit a Notice of Appeal or a Request for Hearing to the District's 504 Coordinator at the address below: Tammy Nobles Victoria ISD 504 Coordinator
6 102 Profit Dr. Victoria, TX A date will be set for the hearing and an impartial hearing officer will be appointed. You will then be notified in writing of the hearing date, time, and place. 14. If you disagree with the decision of the hearing officer, you have a right to seek a review of that decision before a court of competent jurisdiction (normally, your closest federal district court): 1111 W 6 th Street, Austin, TX With respect to other issues surrounding your child's education that do not specifically involve identification, evaluation, or placement, you have a right to present a grievance or complaint to the District s 504 Coordinator (or their designee), who will then investigate the situation, taking into account the nature of the complaint and all necessary factors, in an effort to arrive at a fair and speedy resolution. 16. You also have a right to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education. The address of the OCR Regional Office that covers Texas is: Director, Office for Civil Rights, Region VI 1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620 Dallas, Texas Tel. (214)
7 Aviso a Padres de Estudiantes Incapacitados de sus Derechos Legales bajo la Seccion 504 del Decreto de Rehabilitacion de 1973 Aviso a Padres de Estudiantes Incapacitados de sus Derechos Legales bajo la Sección 504 del Decreto de Rehabilitación de 1973 El Decreto de Rehabilitación de 1973, conocido generalmente como la Sección 504, es una ley federal legislada por el Congreso de los Estados Unidos. El propósito de esta ley es de prohibir discriminación contra estudiantes incapacitados y asegurar que tengan oportunidades y beneficios educativos tan adequados como los de estudiantes sin incapacidades. Bajo la Sección 504, un estudiante es considerado incapacitado si padece de un impedimento o condición física o mental que limita substanciálmente una de sus actividades vitales, como la de aprender, caminar, ver, oir, hablar, respirar, trabajar y desempeñar tareas manuales. La ley tambien protege a estudiantes que han tenido un impedimento o condición física o mental substancial en el pasado, o que son considerados incapacitados aunque realmente no lo son. Estudiantes pueden ser considerados incapacitados bajo la Sección 504 y pueden recibir asistencia educativa bajo esa ley aunque no reciban educación especial. El propósito de este Aviso es de explicarle los derechos legales garantizados bajo la Sección 504 a estudiantes incapacitados y a sus padres. Los reglamentos federales que dan efecto a la Sección 504 (los cuales se encuentran en el Título 34, Parte 104 del Código Federal de Reglamentos, o CFR) otorgan a los padres de familia y a estudiantes incapacitados los siguientes derechos: 1. Usted tiene derecho a ser informado de sus derechos bajo la Sección 504. [34 CFR ]. El distrito escolar debe darle información escrita sobre sus derechos (este Aviso precísamente sirve para informarle de sus derechos). Si necesita que le expliquen o clarifiquen cualquier de los siguientes derechos, los dirigentes apropiados del distrito escolar le ayudarán a resolver sus preguntas. 2. Bajo la Sección 504, su hijo/a tiene derecho a una educación apropriada diseñada para satisfacer sus necesidades educativas individuales tan adecuádamente como las de estudiantes sin incapacidades. [34 CFR ]. 3. Su hijo/a tiene derecho a servicios educativos gratuitos, con la excepción de gastos que normalmente se les cobran tambien a estudiantes sin incapacidades (o a sus padres). Compañías de seguros, y otras terceras personas similares, no son libres de sus obligaciones normales para proporcionar o pagar por servicios para un estudiante considerado incapacitado bajo la Sección 504. [34 CFR ]. El recibir asistencia educativa bajo la Sección 504 no disminuye su derecho a recibir otra asistencia pública o privada de cualquier tipo.
8 4. Su hijo/a tiene derecho a ser colocado en el ambiente educativo que permita máximo contacto y relaciones con estudiantes sin incapacidades. [34 CFR ]. A menos que sus necesidades educativas no puedan ser satisfechas ahí, su hijo/a será colocado en clases regulares. 5. Su hijo/a tiene derecho a equipo, clases, edificios, servicios y actividades comparables a las que son proporcionadas a estudiantes sin incapacidades. [34 CFR ]. 6. Su hijo/a tiene derecho a una evaluación antes de determinar una colocación educativa o programa de asistencia bajo la Sección 504, y tambien antes de cualquier cambio importante en colocación subsequente. [34 CFR ]. 7. Procedimientos utilizados para administrar pruebas y otras evaluaciones educativas deben cumplir con los requisitos de la Sección 504 en cuanto a la validez de las pruebas, su forma de administración, y las areas necesarias de evaluación. [34 CFR ]. El distrito considerará información de diversas fuentes y orígenes, incluyendo, por ejemplo: pruebas de aptitudes y aprovechamiento, recomendaciones de maestros, reportes de condición física, antecedentes sociales y culturales, análysis de comportamiento adaptado, reportes médicos, calificaciones, reportes de progreso, observaciones de los padres, anécdotas de maestros, y calificaciones en los exámenes estatales, entre otras. [34 CFR ]. 8. Las decisiones de colocación educativa deben realizarse por un grupo de personas (llamado el comité 504) que conocen la situación de su hijo/a, el significado de los resultados de las evaluaciones, las opciones de colocación, y la obligación legal de asegurar el ambiente educativo que permita el máximo contacto con estudiantes no incapacitados. [34 CFR ]. 9. Si es considerado incapacitado bajo la Sección 504, su hijo/a tendrá derecho a que se le den nuevas pruebas y evaluaciones a ciertos tiempos, para determinar si sus necesidades educativas han cambiado. Generalmente evaluaciones educativas se pondrán al corriente para cada niño incapacitado por lo menos cada tres años. [34 CFR ] 10. Usted tiene derecho a que el distrito escolar le avise antes de tomar cualquier acción en relación a la identificación, evaluación o colocación educativa de su hijo/a. [34 CFR ]. 11. Usted tiene derecho a examinar archivos y documentos relacionados a la educación de su hijo/a (normalmente archivos y documentos con relación a la identificación, evaluación o colocación educativa de su hijo/a). [34 CFR ]. 12. Usted tiene derecho a una audiencia imparcial si no esta de acuerdo con las acciones del distrito en relación a la identificación, evaluación, o colocación educativa de su hijo/a. Usted tiene la oportunidad de participar personalmente en tal audiencia y de ser representada por un abogado, si desea contratarlo. [34 CFR ]. 13. Si desea protestar o disputar las acciones del Comité 504 del distrito a traves de una audiencia imparcial, debe presentar un Aviso de Apelación escrito ante el Coordinador 504 del distrito, en la siguiente dirección. Se fijará una fecha para una audiencia ante un oficial imparcial, y serán notificados por escrito de la fecha, hora, y lugar de la audiencia.
9 Tammy Nobles Victoria ISD 504 Coordinator 102 Profit Dr. Victoria, TX Si usted está en desacuerdo con la decisión final del oficial imparcial de audiencia, tiene derecho a apelar esa decisión a una corte de jurisdicción adequada; normalmente, la corte federal local: 1111 W 6 th Street, Austin, TX [34 CFR ]. 15. Tambien tiene el derecho de presentar una queja local al Coordinador de 504 del Districto Escolar (o su dirigente), quien investigara la situacion, considerara los temas de la queja y todo factor necesario, y respondera apropiadamente a usted en un plazo de tiempo razonable. 16. Usted también tiene el derecho a presentar una queja ante la Oficina de Derechos Civiles de el Departamento de Educación de los Estados Unidos. La dirección de la Oficina Regional a la cual pertenece a este distrito es: Director, Office for Civil Rights, Region VI 1999 Bryan Street, Suite 1620 Dallas, Texas Tel. (214)