Section 504: Purpose and Fact Sheet

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is designed to eliminate discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Purpose of Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as amended, is designed to eliminate discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. This act requires that no qualified student who demonstrates a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one (or more) major life activity (e.g., self-care, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, learning, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, operation of a major bodily function, and communicating) shall be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefit of, or be subject to discrimination in any program or activity offered by Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).  An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it substantially limits a major life activity when active.

The determination of a limitation to one or more major life activities must be made without regard to any ameliorative effects of mitigating measures (e.g., medication, medical supplies, equipment, low-vision devices, prosthetics, hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices, mobility devices, or oxygen therapy equipment and supplies).

FCPS shall offer a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability.  Services provided to qualified students are not required to produce identical results or level of achievement with nondisabled peers.  Services must be designed to offer an equal opportunity to gain the same benefit within the most integrated setting appropriate.

A student who is not disabled, but has a record of, or is regarded as, having a disability under Section 504 is protected from discrimination based on disability insofar as an alleged discriminatory action based on that history or perception. The fact that a student has a “record of” or is “regarded as” having an impairment is insufficient by itself to require accommodations.

FCPS School Board Regulation 1454 designates procedures for the implementation of Section 504 in FCPS.

504 Fact Sheet

Section 504 is designed to eliminate discrimination against any student with a disability in any program offered by the school division.

Who Is Covered:

  • Any student who has, has a record of, or is regarded as having, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one (or more) major life activity.

What Is Required:

  • Qualifying students must have an opportunity to access all activities and programs, and cannot be denied participation because of their disability.
  • Qualifying students with a disability must be offered a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE is the provision of accommodations, adaptations, modifications, and/or services that provides the student equal opportunity to participate.
  • Each school must provide equal opportunities to students under Section 504 to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefits, or to reach the same level of achievement. However, this does not mean that the student WILL obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement.
  • Transfers: If a student who is qualified with a disability under Section 504 transfers into FCPS from a non-FCPS school, the 504 school-based coordinator (SBC) must complete a 504 transfer process for the student, as soon as practicable but no later than five school days following enrollment and/or first day of attendance. The 504 transfer document shall be implemented until a knowledgeable committee at the receiving school convenes and develops an FCPS 504 Plan within 30 calendar days of the student’s enrollment.

Qualifying Factors:

  • The local screening committee (LSC) determines initial Section 504 qualification. Written parent consent is required for all initial 504 evaluations and for any formal assessments.
  • The LSC must identify the presence of a physical or mental impairment and the major life activity limited by the impairment.
  • The knowledgeable committee conducts reevaluations of a student’s Section 504 qualification, to occur at least once every three years or more frequently as circumstances warrant.
  • Current illegal use of drugs or alcohol is not an impairment protected under Section 504.

The Plan:

  • A knowledgeable committee composed minimally of the principal or designee and a teacher of the student develops the 504 Plan for qualified students.
  • The parent is invited, but does not have to attend or approve of the Plan.
  • The 504 Plan should reflect the unique needs of the student and relate directly to the impairment. Only the accommodations, modifications, and/or services necessary for the student to have an equal opportunity to access programs and activities should be included.
  • The knowledgeable committee must meet at least once a year to review the 504 Plan, and update as appropriate.
  • The knowledgeable committee determines if the student no longer qualifies as a student with a disability under Section 504.

Disciplinary Protections:

  • The knowledgeable committee must conduct a causality hearing following a decision to remove a student from school for more than ten days in a school year.
  • If there is no causal relationship between the disabilitiy and the behavior resulting in disciplinary action, the student may be disciplined in the same manner as a nondisabled student, including cessation of educational services.
  • Causality determination is not required if the student is engaging in the illegal use of drugs or alcohol, and is being disciplined for the use or possession of illegal drugs or alcohol.

Procedural Safeguards:

  • Parents and qualified students are entitled to certain procedural safeguards.
  • Inquiries may be directed to Due Process and Eligibility (571-423-4470)) or the Section 504 Specialist (571-423-1304).

Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

A brief overview of the differences.

Primary Focus Educational benefit Equal access for students with disabilities
Who is Covered? Handicapping conditions defined
Those with impairments that adversely affect educational performance and require special education and related services
No eligibility categories
Those with impairments that substantially limit a major life activity
Purpose of the Plan Goals and objectives outlined for the student (what the student will do) Accommodations, modifications, and/or services provided to the eligible student by the teacher(s) or relevant school staff members (what the teacher or staff member will do)
Consent Parent consent is required for eligibility, initial services, and changes in placement. Parent consent is required for initial Section 504 evaluations and any formal assessments. Parents are invited to participate in the evaluation meeting and in the development of the plan.
Regulations IDEA – many specifics Office for Civil Rights (OCR) – few specifics
Parent Participation Procedural rights to participate Invite parent participation; procedural rights to notice of all meetings
Due Process  Due process rights Right to an impartial hearing
Stay Put Last agreed-upon placement No stay-put provisions
Funding All states receive federal funding No federal funding
Monitoring Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is required to develop regulations and to monitor the provision of special education. United States Department of Education (USDOE) oversees implementation. Office for Civil Rights (OCR) monitors Section 504 compliance.