Section 504 Implementation Guidance

Student wearing headphones

Effective Section 504 programs are guided by established processes and involve the most appropriate people to support the needs of the student served. To gain practical information on Section 504 implementation review Section 2 - DESE EAC Section 504 Manual (PDF).

Practices & Procedures Self-Evaluation

Districts and charter schools may conduct a self-evaluation of compliance with Section 504 using the guiding questions listed in the LEA Practices and Procedures Self-Evaluation (PDF).

Professional Development Quiz 

Individuals may quickly assess understanding of Section 504 compliance using the true and false questions listed in the Professional Development Quiz (PDF).

Roles & Responsibilities

Download the Roles & Responsibilities Visual or click on the image below.

Section 504 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

For answers to common Section 504 questions, click on a question below.

Are there any impairments that automatically qualifies a student under Section 504?

No. An impairment itself is not a qualified disability, but the mental or physical impairment must substantially limit a major life activity (34 C.F.R. §§ 104.3(j), 104.35).

Can a medical diagnosis suffice as an evaluation and how may the Section 504 Team utilize a physician’s request for specific accommodations? 

A formal diagnosis is not required. The Section 504 Team needs only to determine that a student is substantially limited in a major life activity based on a review of data. A physician’s medical diagnosis may be considered among other data resources by the Section 504 Team, but does not dictate the team’s decision of eligibility or accommodations.  It is the educational team’s responsibility to determine how the student may achieve a free and appropriate public education.

How often does re-evaluation or plan review occur?

Periodic re-evaluation is required.  This may be conducted at three-year intervals or more frequently.  A re-evaluation is required prior to a significant change in placement. The Section 504 Plan should be updated by the Section 504 Team when it is no longer appropriate.

Can placement include resource placement, self-contained placement, homebound placement, or Alternative Learning Environments (ALE)?

Yes. A free and appropriate public education should be provided in the most Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) utilizing an “incremental approach” when recommending more restrictive settings (J.H., v. Fort Bend Independent School District, No. 11-20718 [5th Circuit] July 26, 2012).

What is the relationship between attendance policies and student’s being served under Section 504?

Attendance policies must allow a student’s parent to petition the school or district administrator for additional absences and allow exceptions as necessary to satisfy the Section 504 Plan. For additional guidance, see ADE Commissioner Memo 12-013: Student Attendance Policies and Excused and Unexcused Absences (Act 1223 of 2011). The district/charter school must be cautious in facilitating truancy complaints when there is suspicion that the student’s excessive absences may be the result of a disability. The student’s reason for excessive absences should be investigated to prevent Section 504 referral process violations. Collaboration between necessary individuals (i.e. Section 504 Team, school nurse, parent, or student) is key when determining the impact of a disability on attendance.

How is student misconduct and discipline reviewed under Section 504?

The district/charter school must conduct an evaluation before changing an educational placement for disciplinary reasons. Section 504 regulations do not specifically state “manifestation determination”, but the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) suggests the first step would be to consider if the misconduct was caused by the student’s disability. The same questions from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be used: (1) was the conduct caused by or have a direct substantial relationship to the student’s disability and (2) whether the school implemented the plan. Decisions must be based on recent evaluation data and an understanding of the student’s current behavior. If a student served under Section 504 is involved with either alcohol or illegal drugs, they can be expelled even if the conduct was a manifestation of the disability.

What happens if the behavior was caused by the disability?

The school, parent(s), and student collaborate to improve the Section 504 Plan and its implementation. This may include completing a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) or adding a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to the Section 504 Plan.

What happens if the behavior was not caused by the disability?

The school may implement their local school board approved actions, sanctions or consequences for the offense.

If a parent disagrees with the Section 504 Team’s decision regarding a student’s eligibility for services, what can they do?

The parent may communicate their concern to the District Section 504 Coordinator, utilize the local school board approved Grievance Procedures, request a due process hearing, submit a complaint to the Equity Assistance Center (EAC), submit a complaint to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), or file for civil recourse.

How does the Equity Assistance Center (EAC) get involved in disability issues within a district/charter school?

The EAC receives complaints from parents, students or advocates, conducts complaint investigations, and provides technical assistance to districts/charter schools. Except in extraordinary circumstances, EAC does not review the result of individual placement or other educational decisions as long as the school system complies with the procedural requirements of Section 504.

A portion of this FAQ is from Protecting Students with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities, U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

For additional frequently asked questions on the topic of Section 504 see the DESE EAC Section 504 Manual (PDF) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR): Protecting Students with Disabilities.

For more information, please contact:

Oliver Dillingham, Public School Program Manager
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Legal Services
Four Capitol Mall, Mail Slot 25
Little Rock, AR 72201
Phone: 501-682-4213
Fax: 501-682-7288
 
Lasonia Johnson, Public School Program Advisor
 
Lance LeVar, Public School Program Advisor