The purpose of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) as it applies to Madison City Board of Education students is to (1) eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity provided by school districts and other providers that receive federal financial assistance, and (2) ensure that students who are Section 504-eligible have equal opportunities to participate in the district’s educational activities and programs which are equivalent to those of their nondisabled peers. Unlike the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 does not limit coverage to certain specific categories of disabilities and no categorical labels are necessary. Instead, a student with a disability under Section 504 is defined as one who (1) has a physical or mental health impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.
Section 504 protects all students with identified impairments that substantially limit a major life activity, even if the student does not require a Section 504 Plan at school or during school events. (See Eligibility Determination). A student qualifies for a Section 504 Plan if he or she requires accommodations, related services (except for speech therapy) and/or other supports to access, participate in, and derive benefits from the general education program as adequately as nondisabled students (Section 504’s definition of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Academic accommodations included on a Section 504 Plan are provided by the general education teacher in the student’s general education classroom. Section 504 and its implementing
regulations provide students with disabilities and their parents/guardians with procedural safeguards regarding the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of and the
provision of a FAPE to students with disabilities. Essential to these procedural safeguards is the involvement of parents/guardians.