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Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

What is Section 504?

Section 504 refers to a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The primary purpose of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is to ensure that persons with disabilities are not discriminated against. Section 504 states:

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance....”

This law requires that every public school in the United States identify, evaluate, and provide free appropriate public education to disabled individuals as defined by Section 504. Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Administrative Procedure 5146 provides guidelines and procedures for the evaluation, identification and provision of services to students with disabilities under Section 504 who attend Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Who is eligible under Section 504?

A student with a disability should be considered for eligibility under Section 504 if s/he:

  • has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • has a record of such an impairment; or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment.

What is considered to be a Substantial Limitation?

The law defines Substantial Limitation as the inability to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform without the use of mitigating measures, and may include impairments that are episodic or in remission.

What is considered to be a Major Life Activity?

Major Life Activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, sleeping, concentrating, reading, communicating, bending and major bodily functions (immune, digestive, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, neurological, brain and reproductive systems, bowel and bladder functions, and normal cell growth). PGCPS will adhere to current definitions and eligibility standards under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the ADA.

What is a Section 504 Plan?

Students who meet the eligibility guidelines for Section 504 may have a 504 Plan developed. The plan will specify the nature of the qualifying disability that substantially limits a major life activity, and the accommodations necessary to provide access based on the student’s needs. The plan will also include individual staff members responsible for implementing the accommodations. Accommodations should be specific to the individual with regard to his/her disability and its limitation on the major life activity.

How is Section 504 different from Special Education?

Special education is governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides for specialized instruction to remediate disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is solely focused on discrimination with regard to equal access to learning. Under IDEA, the disability must adversely affect educational performance. Under Section 504, the disability must substantially limit major life activity.

If my child is dismissed from special education services, will s/he get a 504 Plan?

Students who are dismissed from special education services do not automatically receive a 504 Plan. Special education teams cannot evaluate a student for Section 504 services. If a Special Education Team believes that a student qualifies for Section 504 services, a recommendation for a 504 evaluation should be made by the Special Education Team to the Section 504 Team. Within 30 days of the request for 504 Evaluation, the 504 Team will conduct a 504 evaluation. In order to be eligible for 504 services, there must be evidence of a disability and substantial limitation to a major life activity. A diagnosis of a disability does not automatically qualify a student for 504 services.

What do I do if I believe my child needs a 504 plan?

Contact your child’s school counselor and request that your child be evaluated for Section 504 eligibility. You should be certain to have documentation from your physician that identifies the disability. Requests for 504 evaluations should be made in writing.

What happens after I request a Section 504 Evaluation?

  • Schools have 30 days from receipt of a written request for 504 Evaluation to hold an evaluation meeting. Parents should receive written notification of the 504 Evaluation meeting.
  • Physician documentation of the disability should be brought to the evaluation meeting or provided to the team prior to the meeting. At the evaluation meeting, the team will consider physician information, standardized and classroom assessments, school records and teacher and parent input to make a determination of eligibility under Section 504. The team’s determination must specifically identify the disability and the major life activity that is significantly limited by the disability.
  • Once the student is found eligible under Section 504, a 504 Plan is created and accommodations, modification and services that will provide the student with equal access are identified. The team will also consider if the student will need testing accommodations. Parents should receive a copy of the Parent’s Safeguards, 504 Evaluation Summary, 504 Meeting notes, the 504 Plan and 504 Testing Accommodations.
  • 504 Plans should be reviewed annually and students are re-evaluated for eligibility every three years.

What if the accommodations on my child’s 504 Plan are not being implemented or are not effective?

  • Contact your child’s 504 Case Manager (in most schools this is the school counselor) if you have concerns about the implementation or effectiveness of a 504 Plan. The case manager may convene a 504 meeting to discuss your concerns or may be able to resolve the problem by simply speaking to the classroom teacher.
  • If you are not satisfied with the resolution provided by the Case Manager, contact the school administrator. They are the instructional leaders in the school and should be able to resolve most concerns related to Section 504.
  • If after speaking to both the Case Manager and school administration you still have concerns, contact the Office of 504 Services. They can coordinate efforts with the school to ensure that 504 services are being implemented as specified by Section 504 law and PGCPS’ Administrative Procedure 5146. Requests for a hearing or review of the 504 process by the Section 504 Central Office Review Panel should be made to the 504 Coordinator.
  • Parents can also file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.

What if I do not agree with the 504 Team’s decision regarding the 504 process or plan?

You should receive a copy of your parental rights at each 504 meeting. Parents have the right to due process when they are not in agreement with the decisions made by the school team. Options include a hearing with the 504 Coordinator or a review by the Central Office Review Panel. Parents may also exercise their rights by filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. Contact information for the Office for Civil Rights can be obtained on the PGCPS’s Section 504 website (www1.pgcps.org/504).

Will my child receive testing accommodations in addition to the 504 Plan?

Section 504 accommodations are specific to the disability and developed to provide equal access to students with disabilities. Testing accommodations are provided to ensure that student abilities are accurately assessed without interference of the disabling condition. 504 Teams should be careful to ensure that testing accommodations provide access and not an advantage over non-disabled peers. There is a separate process and criterion for receiving testing accommodations on Collegeboard exams such as the SAT.

Can my child be suspended from school for more than 10 days if s/he has a 504 Plan?

If suspension of a student with a disability under Section 504 results in more than ten consecutive or cumulative suspension days, the administrator must hold a Manifestation Determination to examine if the behavior(s) has a direct or substantial relationship to the disability and/or if the 504 Plan was being implemented properly. If a behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability, the suspension will be discontinued. If the behavior is determined NOT to be a manifestation of the disability, the student will be disciplined in accordance with the discipline procedures for non-disabled students.