Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance from the United States Department of Education. The West Plains School District is a recipient of federal financial assistance from the United States Department of Education and, therefore, is covered by Section 504.
Which students are covered?
- Under 504, a person with a disability is defined as an individual who:
- Has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such impairment.
Students who satisfy the first definition above are entitled to a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) in the least restrictive environment. FAPE, under Section 504, is defined as the provision of regular or special education and related services that are designed to meet the individual educational needs of the disabled student as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students.
Students who satisfy only the second and third definitions are not entitled to FAPE, but are entitled to be free from discrimination.
Mental or physical impairments are broadly defined and include any physiological disorder or condition or any mental or psychological disorder, whether formally diagnosed or not. However, impairment, alone, is insufficient to qualify a student as Section 504 disabled. In addition, a medical diagnosis or the fact that a student takes medication is not controlling in determining whether that student has a 504 disability. The Office for Civil Rights, which is charged with the responsibility to enforce 504, has stated that finding a student 504 eligible solely on the basis of a diagnosis generally violates Section 504.
A student’s eligibility under Section 504 is not determined by a doctor or psychologist but by a multidisciplinary team convened by the District. That team must include persons who are knowledgeable about the student, the evaluation data to be considered, the placement options and Section 504 requirements.
Major life activities, as defined by Section 504 and the 2008 ADAAA, include – but are not limited to – activities such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for one’s self, bending, standing, learning, thinking, concentrating, reading, eating, sleeping, communicating and performing manual tasks. Pursuant to the 2008 ADAAA, major life activities also include the operation of a major bodily function, including, but not limited to, the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive functions, bowel functions, bladder functions, neurological functions, brain functions, the respiratory system, the reproductive system, the circulatory system and the endocrine system.
An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity does not need to limit other major life activities for the student to be considered disabled.
To be disabled under Section 504, the student’s mental or physical impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. Minor or moderate limitations are not sufficient for a student to be eligible under 504. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
Substantial limitation is not defined in Section 504 or the 2008 ADAAA. In the 2008 ADAAA, Congress stated that the phrase “substantially limits” must be interpreted consistently with the findings and purposes of the 2008 Amendments. However, pursuant to the 2008 ADAAA, substantial limitation means less than “significantly restricted.” The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures such as the following: medication; medical supplies, equipment, or appliances; low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eye-glasses or contact lenses); prosthetics, including limbs and devices; hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices; mobility devices; oxygen therapy equipment and supplies; the use of assistive technology; reasonable accommodations; auxiliary aids or services; learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications; the acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; and other similar services and actions. The ameliorative effects of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses can be considered in determining whether impairment substantially limits a major life activity.
In determining whether a student’s impairment substantially limits a major life activity, the District must conduct an evaluation and, based on that evaluation, compare the student to his or her average peer in the population. Students, therefore, are measured by reference to the performance of children at the same age or grade level. Under Section 504, the student is not compared to his or her own potential.
When determining eligibility under Section 504, the District also is required to determine if environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage are the primary reason for any limitations that the student may exhibit.
Temporary impairments may be covered by 504 if the impairment is substantially limiting and if it is of sufficient duration. A transitory and minor impairment, however, is not a disability. A transitory impairment is one with an actual or expected duration of six months or less. The District can voluntarily accommodate a student’s transitory and minor impairment without violating the “regarded as” definition of disability.
504/TITLE II PUBLIC NOTICE
The West Plains R-VII School District, as a recipient of federal financial assistance from the United States Department of Education and operates a public elementary or secondary education program and/or activity, is required to undertake to identify and locate every qualified person residing in the District who is not receiving a public education; and take appropriate steps to notify disabled persons and their parents or guardians of the District’s duty.
The West Plains R-VII School District assures that it will provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each qualified disabled person in the District’s jurisdiction regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability. For purposes of Section 504of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the provision of an appropriate education is the provision of regular or special and related aids and services that (i) are designed to meet individual educational needs of disabled persons as adequately as the needs of nondisabled persons are met and (ii) are based on adherence to procedures that satisfy the requirements of the 504 federal regulations.
The West Plains R-VII School District has developed a 504/Title II Procedures Manual for the implementation of federal regulations for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Subpart D. This Procedures Manual may be reviewed Monday-Friday at West Plains R-VII Administrative Office.
This notice will be provided in native languages as appropriate.
Please contact Ronnie Harper, Dean of Students West Plains R-VII Schools, if you have any further questions.