What is Section 504?
Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving federal assistance. 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 jurisdiction who have a physical and mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
What is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity?
The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i) defines a physical or mental impairment as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The regulatory provision does not set forth an exhaustive list of specific diseases and conditions that may constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list.
Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), include functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. This list is not exhaustive. Other functions can be major life activities for purposes of Section 504. In the Amendments Act (see FAQ 1), Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Congress also provided a non-exhaustive list of examples of “major bodily functions” that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. The Section 504 regulatory provision, though not as comprehensive as the Amendments Act, is still valid – the Section 504 regulatory provision’s list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, and an activity or function not specifically listed in the Section 504 regulatory provision can nonetheless be a major life activity.
How is the determination for eligibility made?
An evaluation is conducted to gather information on how the disability is substantially impacting on a major life function. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but it must come from various sources including, but not limited to the school nurse, classroom teacher(s), guidance counselors, and outside persons with relevant information. Evaluation procedures may include review of records, assessment information, interviews with persons knowledgeable about the child’s functioning, observations and/or individualized assessments.
The Section 504 Team, a group of people knowledgeable about the student, collaboratively develops the 504 Plan, if appropriate. The purpose of the group is to examine the information regarding the person, and determine if reasonable accommodations are necessary, and subsequently what those accommodations will be if the person is considered eligible. The term substantial is not defined within the law. Therefore, the 504 Team considers the impact of the impairment on the major life function specific to the individual. The 504 Team is directed to determine if the student is afforded an equal opportunity to participate and/or benefit from education when compared to non-disabled, age appropriate peers. A frame of reference for this responsibility is to use the average student in the general population for the purposes of comparison. Periodic reevaluation is required by Section 504. Reevaluation of the 504 Plan is recommended once per school year or upon significant change in school placement or program.
Who do I contact if I suspect my child is eligible for accommodations under Section 504?
Each building in the Deptford Township Public School District has a designated Section 504 Coordinator. They can be contacted at the student’s school.
What are my rights under Section 504?
NOTICE OF PARENT/GUARDIAN AND STUDENT RIGHTS
(Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
Under Section 504
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly referred to as “§ 504,” is a nondiscrimination statute enacted by the United States Congress. The purpose of the Act is to prohibit discrimination and to assure that disabled students have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to non-disabled students.
An eligible student under § 504 is a student who (a) has, (b) has a record of having, or (c) is regarded as having, a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity such as learning, self-care, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, and performing manual tasks.
Dual Eligibility: Many students will be eligible for educational services under both § 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students who are eligible under the IDEA have many specific rights that are not available to students who are eligible solely under § 504. A Parents Rights Handbook prepared by the New Jersey Department of Education is available within the Department of Special Education and sets out the rights assured by the IDEA. It is the purpose of this Notice form to set out the rights assured by § 504 to those disabled students who do not qualify under the IDEA.
The enabling regulations for § 504 as set out in 34 CFR Part 104 provide parents and/ or students with the following rights:
1. You have a right to be informed by the school district of your rights under § 504. (The purpose of this Notice form is to advise you of those rights.) 34 CFR 104.32.
2. Your child has the right to an appropriate education designed to meet his/ her individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students are met. 34 CFR 104.33.
3. Your child has the right to free educational services except for those fees that are imposed on non-disabled students or their parents. Insurers and similar third parties are not relieved from an otherwise valid obligation to provide or pay for services provided to a disabled student. 34 CFR 104.33.
4. Your child has a right to placement in the least restrictive environment. 34 CFR 104.34.
5. Your child has a right to facilities, services, and activities that are comparable to those provided for non-disabled students. 34 CFR 104.34.
6. Your child has a right to an evaluation prior to an initial § 504 placement and any subsequent significant change in placement. 34 CFR 104.35.
7. Testing and other evaluation procedures must conform with the requirements of 34 CFR 104.35 as to validation, administration, areas of evaluation, etc. The district shall consider information from a variety of sources, including aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social and cultural background, adaptive behavior, physical or medical reports, student grades, progress reports, parent observations, anecdotal reports. 34 CFR 104.35.
8. Placement decisions must be made by a group of persons (i.e., the § 504 Committee), including persons knowledgeable about your child, the meaning of the evaluation data, the placement options, and the legal requirements for least restrictive environment and comparable facilities. 34 CFR 104.35.
9. If eligible under § 504, your child has a right to periodic reevaluations to determine whether there has been a change in educational need. 34 CFR 104.35.
10. You have the right to notice prior to any action by the district in regard to the identification, evaluation, or placement of your child. 34 CFR 104.36.
11. You have the right to examine relevant records. You have the right to obtain copies at a reasonable cost unless the fee would effectively deny you access to the records. 34 CFR 104.36.
12. You have the right to challenge the actions of the Section 504 committee in regard to your child’s identification, evaluation or educational placement. You should file a request in writing with the district’s Section 504 Coordinator (Mrs. Johanna Vicchairelli, Deptford Township Public Schools Department of Special Education, 2022 Good Intent Road, Deptford, New Jersey 08096). The district grievance procedures will be enacted, out lined below. 34 CFR 104.36.
13. On § 504 matters other than your child’s identification, evaluation, and placement, you have a right to file a complaint with the district’s § 504 Coordinator (or designee), who will investigate the allegations to the extent warranted by the nature of the complaint in an effort to reach a prompt and equitable resolution. 34 CFR 104.36.
14. You have the right to have an interpreter provided in case of language differences.
15. You have the right to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR office for New Jersey is located at:
United States Department of Education-OCR
New York Office
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, New York 10005
If there are questions, please feel free to contact the Michael Nicely, Assistant Director of Special Education for Deptford Township Public Schools at 856-232-2700.
If I disagree with the decisions made within the process what is the district’s grievance procedure?
DEPTFORD TOWNSHIP PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT SECTION 504 GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES
SECTION 504 OF THE REHABILITATION ACT OF 1973 PRINTABLE COPY
It is the policy of the Deptford Township Board of Education to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to all students within its jurisdiction who are handicapped consistent with the definitions set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. No student solely by reason of his or her handicap as defined by these Acts, shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity operated by the school district.
504 GRIEVANCE PROCEDURES
A parent or guardian who believes that the district is violating Section 504 procedures may file a grievance with the district. A parent or guardian who believes that they, or their child, have not received proper services or accommodations which are therefore a violation of Section 504, should file the complaint with the district’s Section 504 Coordinator in writing at the following address:
Mrs. Johanna Vicchairelli
Deptford Township Schools
Department of Special Education
2022 Good Intent Road
Deptford, NJ 08096
The complaint should be in writing and explain why the complainant believes there is a violation of the law. Upon receiving the complaint, the district’s 504 coordinator will schedule an informal hearing within fifteen (15) working days. The parent/guardian has the right to be accompanied by counsel; however notice should be given to the school prior to the meeting.
At the informal meeting, the purpose is to clarify each party’s concerns and understandings of the specific alleged violation. At the informal meeting the parties will attempt to resolve the complaint. A description of the alleged violation will be reduced to writing.
If it is determined that a satisfactory conclusion cannot be reached a meeting will be scheduled within five (5) working days with the superintendent of schools.
If after meeting with the superintendent of schools, the complainant believes that the violation remains unresolved, the complainant may request a meeting with the Deptford Township Board of Education. The Deptford Township Board of Education will arrange such a meeting within thirty (30) calendar days of such a request and hold such a meeting within the rules, regulations of the board, and in accordance with prevailing law.
Who is the district’s Section 504 Coordinator?
Mrs. Johanna Vicchairelli
Department of Special Education
2022 Good Intent Road
Deptford, NJ 08096
(856) 232-2700 extension 3502
Are there websites that will answer my questions?
504 Frequently Asked Questions