Understanding Section 504
Section 504 is the part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which protects persons with disabilities from discrimination. Within a school, this civil rights law ensures students with disabilities are provided access to educational and extracurricular opportunities to the same extent as that of their non-disabled peers. In Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Schools, the RtI framework successfully supports most students, including those students with disabilities. A Section 504 Equal Education Opportunity Plan (EEOP) may be created for students with disabilities who require program changes beyond the RtI interventions available to all students.
Evaluation and Section 504 Eligibility Determination
Evaluations under Section 504 involve gathering information from current school and medical records in order to determine if a child’s disability prevents him or her from accessing the education program or achieving educational outcomes like typical peers. The 504 Team will determine eligibility for protection and services under Section 504 by considering the impact of the disability on academics, achievement, attendance, behavior and interactions with others. Eligibility determinations must be made without regard to mitigating measures.
What are Mitigating Measures? Mitigating Measures are those things that act to reduce or eliminate the effects of an impairment, including medication, RtI supports, health plans, and support outside of school. Although mitigating measures cannot be considered when determining if a person has a disability, they will be considered in determining if an EEOP is necessary to avoid discrimination. Section 504 is not intended to maximize individual potential but instead to ensure that a disabled student is able to access education programs as adequately as nondisabled peers. A student with a disability may be an eligible person under Section 504 even if a Section 504 EEOP is not required to ensure nondiscrimination.
Are there any disabilities which automatically qualify a student for protection under Section 504?
No. The impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities.
Is a medical diagnosis sufficient to qualify for Section 504 eligibility? No. Although a physician's medical diagnosis is sufficient for documenting a disability, the school must conduct a 504 evaluation as explained above.
What program changes are available to students through the EEOP?
Each (EEOP) is written to address the unique needs of the qualified student. The EEOP will describe the interventions, supports and instructional strategies necessary for the student to access the program or to achieve educational outcomes like typical peers, while remaining in the regular classroom setting. Interventions and supports available to all students through the RtI Framework will continue to be available to students eligible under section 504 and do not require inclusion in an EEOP.
Once a student is identified as eligible under Section 504, is that student always eligible? No. A student’s eligibility under Section 504 and need for a Section 504 Plan must be re-evaluated periodically; usually before the student transitions to a new school.
What is the process to request and timeline to complete an evaluation? Although the specific timelines can vary depending on individual circumstances, the process follows this general sequence:
After a parent, guardian or student representative submits a request for evaluation along with necessary medical documentation or releases of information, the school will provide a written response to the request within 15 school days. All responses will include the Notice of Procedural Safeguards explaining Parent/Student rights under Section 504, including information on how to appeal any district decision. The district will review the request and respond with one of the following decisions:
- The evaluation will PROCEED and will be completed with 45 school days. The school will gather information from academic records, staff observations and prior interventions. The school’s Section 504 team (which includes staff members familiar with the student), will review the evaluation data to determine eligibility for protection and/or services under Section 504.
- The request to evaluate is put ON HOLD while the school puts additional levels of support in place and evaluates the student response to interventions in Tiers I and II.
- The request to evaluate is DENIED and the School will provide a written summary of the reasons for denial.
If a student is eligible for program changes under Section 504, an Equal Education Opportunity Plan (EEOP) will be created with the assistance of the school’s Section 504 team.
For more information please contact your building Section 504 Coordinator:
320.254.8211 ext. 2180