Yes, but only if the student is otherwise qualified to participate in the program, without or without minor adjustments. 34 C.F.R. § 104.39. Section 504 does not require a private school to modify its essential enrollment criteria. If, however, the student could meet the program criteria with minor adjustments, the private school must make such adjustments. For example, if a student, because of his or her disability, needs additional time to complete a school entrance exam, this accommodation should be provided. As another example, a private school generally would be required to adjust a “no animals on campus” policy to accommodate a blind student or certain seizure disorder students who need service dogs.
The language of Section 504 applicable to private schools differs from that used in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Section 504 provides that private schools must merely provide “minor adjustments” to assist students with disabilities 34 C.F.R. § 104.39(a). The ADA, by comparison, requires the provision of “reasonable accommodations.” 34 C.F.R. § 104.12 (requiring reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities). There is very little case law construing the distinction between a “minor adjustment” and “reasonable accommodation”, however it seems logical that “minor adjustment” is a lesser standard. Hunt v. St. Peter’s School, 963 F.Supp. 843 (W.D. Mo. 1997); but see Ireland v. Kansas Dist. of Wesleyan Church, 21 IDELR 712 (D. Kan 1994).
What constitutes a minor adjustment sufficient to satisfy Section 504 is a fact intensive inquiry. The factors to be considered include nature of the program for which the accommodation is sought (for example, it is doubtful that a court would require a private school to lower its academic criteria), the administrative burden of the requested adjustment (i.e. minimal extra time to complete school work, class seating preferences, use of a tape recorder, larger print, lines paper, oral exams, an additional set of textbooks for students with physical strength related disabilities, and the like typically should be provided, whereas tutoring, a complete excusal from required work, likely are not); the expense of the requested adjustment, and related factors.