Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any programs and activities which receive federal financial assistance. Educationally, Section 504 guarantees certain rights to students with disabilities, including the right to full participation and access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
Section 504 requires school districts to provide students with disabilities the same opportunity to succeed in school as is provided to students without disabilities. For this to occur, programs must be accessible for students with disabilities by providing reasonable adaptations and/or modifications for instructional purposes.
For a student to be eligible under section 504 he/she must have the presence of a documented physical or mental impairment and the disabling impairment must result in substantial limitation of major life activities. Some examples of major life activities include self-care, walking, communicating, seeing, hearing, breathing, etc. A diagnosis of a disability does not automatically qualify a student for eligibility under Section 504. School teams and parents who feel a student may meet the criteria for Section 504 eligibility may request a 504 Team meeting and/or 504 evaluation of the student. Eligibility is determined by:
- Input referenced from written documentation from medical, psychological, or outside agency reports;
- An evaluation in which appropriate information is gathered (such as student records, observations, anecdotal reports, teacher reports, individual and group tests, aptitude and achievement tests, medical information, nursing/OT/PT/SLP assessments, emergency care plans, and behavior assessment);
- Determination that the disability substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Students who meet the eligibility guidelines for Section 504 will have a 504 plan developed for use in the general education classroom. The plan will specify the disability, major life activities affected by the disability, and necessary accommodations specific to the student. The 504 Team will review each student’s 504 plan on a yearly basis to ensure its effectiveness, yet parents or school staff may request the plan be reviewed and/or revised at any time as needed.
Any questions or concerns regarding Section 504 should be forwarded to Belchertown’s 504 Coordinator, Lynn Forgette. Ms. Forgette can be reached at (413) 323-9419 x5206 or Lforgette@belchertownps.org.
For more information about Section 504, please follow the links below.