Most provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and IDEA related to discipline are the same. A student has the right to a manifest determination when there is a change of placement decision under both Section 504 and IDEA.
In addition, state laws on school discipline apply to all students in Massachusetts.
Section 504 provides that a school district cannot discipline a student with a disability for behavior that is a manifestation of his disability if the disciplinary action is a significant change in placement. However, if the manifestation determination finds no relationship between disability and conduct, the discipline resulting in change of placement may occur. (See Springfield School District #186, 55 IDELR 206 (OCR June 29, 2010))
Section 504 is different from IDEA in several ways. Unlike the IDEA, Section 504:
- has no list of specific questions to determine if behavior was a manifestation of a disability. (34 CFR 104.36)
- has no list of who attends the manifestation determination (just persons knowledgeable).(34 CFR 104.35(c))
- has no provision for interim alternative placements.
Finally, if the incident involves illegal drugs or alcohol, a student on a 504 Plan may be expelled without a manifestation determination. (29 USC 705(20)(c)(iv))
Generally, yes. All school districts, colleges, and universities receiving federal financial assistance and employing 15 or more persons must designate at least one employee to coordinate their efforts to comply with and carry out their responsibilities under Section 504. This person is often, though not always, referred to as a Section 504 coordinator.
Your school is required to publish your Section 504 coordinator’s contact information in your school’s notice of nondiscrimination, typically found in any bulletins, announcements, publications, catalogs, application forms, or other recruitment materials. The Section 504 coordinator’s contact information should also be prominently posted on your school’s website. Section 504 coordinators for public school districts can also be found on OCR’s coordinators website at http://www.ed.gov/civ-rts-coordinators.
Yes. All programs in a school or college are covered by Section 504 if the school district, college, or university receives federal financial assistance. Section 504 covers all the operations of a school or college that receives financial assistance including academics, extracurricular activities, athletics, and other programs. Section 504 applies to actions of a school or college regardless of where they occur, including those that take place in the facilities of the school, on a school bus, at a class or training program sponsored by the school at another location, or elsewhere off campus.
School districts, colleges, and universities are required to ensure that students and others with disabilities, including parents, are not denied access to programs or activities because of inaccessible facilities, including academic buildings, walkways, restrooms, athletic facilities, and parking spaces.
The precise requirements schools, colleges, and universities must meet to ensure physical accessibility depends on the date a building (or facility) was initially built (constructed) or altered. For more information about accessibility requirements, please visit www.ada.gov.
Even if a building does not have to be made fully physically accessible because of its age, Section 504 and Title II require that every program or activity of the school district, college, or university be made accessible. A common way this is done is to relocate the program to an accessible portion of the building or to another building that is accessible.
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.
No. Section 504 and Title II protect all persons with disabilities from discrimination, including parents and guardians, students, and employees.
School districts are required to provide each student with a disability any special education and/or related aids and services necessary to ensure the student is receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Examples of aids and services a school district may be required to provide include physical therapy or speech language therapy.
In addition, a school district may need to modify the regular education program in order to provide FAPE. Examples of such modifications include additional time to take tests or a modification to a policy regarding the permitted number of absences in a school year when a student’s absences are due to a disability.
More information is available on OCR’s webpage addressing Frequently Asked Questions about FAPE.
Colleges and universities are required by Section 504 and Title II to provide students with disabilities with appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in the school’s program. An example of an academic adjustment is extra time to take a test. Examples of auxiliary aids include notetakers, interpreters, readers, and specialized computer equipment.
Generally yes. All public school districts are covered by Section 504 and/or Title II – this includes public charter schools and magnet schools. All public colleges and universities are covered by Section 504 and Title II. Virtually all private colleges and universities are also covered by Section 504 because they receive federal financial assistance by participating in federal student aid programs. There are some private schools that do not receive any federal assistance, and Section 504 and Title II do not apply to them.