Section 504 States that:
No qualified handicapped person shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives Federal financial assistance. (34 C.F.R§104.4[a]).
In school settings, this means that a student who is handicapped (disabled) and eligible to participate in public school programs or activities in every other way (as defined by the eligibility criteria) may not, based solely upon his or her disability, be prevented from participating in a school program or activity.
General Responsibilities of a public school:
Public schools are responsible for identifying a Section 504 coordinator, assembling a multidisciplinary team to identify students as disabled, determining appropriate placements and services, implementing the identification process, and providing any required services.
Determining Eligibility for services under section 504
Key components of the law provide guidance to school teams in determining eligibility for a Section 504 plan. The team must confirm that the student has a disability as defined under Section 504. A person with a disability under Section 504 is:
...any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment. (34 C.F.R. §§ 104.3 [J-L]
For the purpose of determining eligibility and the resulting accommodation plan and protections, the key qualifying phrases to understand in this definition are: "physical or mental impairment," "substantially limits," "major life activities," "has a record of," and "is regarded as having such impairment."
Physical or mental impairment. A physical or mental impairment is:
... (a) 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 (b) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. (34 C.F.R. §104.3[j]  [i])
Section 504 requires that the physiological or mental impairment defined above not only be present, but also substantially limit the student's ability to perform a major life activity. The severity of a person's impairment often varies over time and may be mitigated by personal compensations and other factors such as medication. Sometimes the impact of an impairment may be the result of a fluctuation in the intensity of a physical or mental condition.
Major life activities.
Under Section 504, major life activities include: ... functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking,
breathing, learning, and working. (34 C.F.R. § 104.3[j] [iii])
Has a record of/ls regarded as having such an impairment.
Because Section 504 is an antidiscrimination statute, the personal history of an individual should also be considered when determining if protect ions
should extend to the individual. The phrases "has a record of an impairment" or "is regarded as having such an impairment" are intended to cover the situations where a person is treated as a person with a disability regardless of whether he or she has actually been identified as having a disability.
If you feel your child may need a 504 plan, please contact your child’s school principal.