What is Section 504?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of students and parents with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in any program and/or activity receiving federal funds.
Who is Eligible?
Under Section 504 and ADA, the definition of an “individual with a disability” is a person who:
has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
or has psychological problems, learning disabilities, or some chronic health impairment;
and has a record of such impairment;
or is regarded as having such an impairment.
What is a Major Life Activity?
Major life activities include caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, and learning.
School District Responsibility
It is the responsibility of the Hudson County Schools of Technology (HCST) School District to: develop and implement standards and procedures for the identification, assessment and proper placement of eligible students; ensure the provisions of necessary individualized services and support; and train instructors and support staff to enable them to perform services or make appropriate accommodations in the general education classroom.
What is the difference between Section 504 and IDEA?
Section 504 requires reasonable accommodation to insure nondiscrimination against students with disabilities. IDEA requires affirmative action in providing special education and related services. IDEA compliance involves special education while Section 504 is a regular education initiative. Students may be eligible for services under provisions of Section 504 even though they do not qualify for special education services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Students who are identified as eligible under IDEA are not addressed in these guidelines.
Identification and Referral Procedures
Any student may be referred by parents, physicians, teachers, counselors, administrator or other district employees who are knowledgeable about the child being recommended for evaluation.
All referrals must be submitted in writing to the Section 504 Officer who will prepare and send all required notices.
The 504 Committee will consider the referral and based upon a review of the student’s records will make a decision as to whether an evaluation under this procedure is appropriate. If a request for evaluation is denied, the Section 504 Officer will inform the parents/guardians of this decision and their procedural rights.
If there is reason to believe that, because of a qualifying disability, a students needs accommodations or services the school’s 504 Committee will evaluate the student and develop and implement an accommodation plan for the delivery of any needed service. The parents/guardians shall be notified of 504 Committee meetings where services for the student will be determined and shall be given an opportunity to examine all relevant records. Requirements for the section 504 evalaution and placement process are determined by the type of disability believed to be present and the type of services the student may need.The evaluation must be sufficient to accurately assess the nature and extent of the disability, its effect on major life activities and recommended services. A final decision will be made by the 504 Committee, and the parents/guardians of the student shall be notified in writing of the student’s eligibility or ineligibility and of the Section 504 procedural safeguards available to them, including the right to mediation or an impartial hearing. Students who are provided services and/or accommodations under Section 504 shall be re-evaluated every three years, or prior to a significant change in placement.
What Does “Accommodation Plan” Mean?
An appropriate education for students eligible under Section 504 may consist of education in general education classes with the needed accommodations being made and/or the use of supplementary services/programs designed to meet the unique needs of a particular student. Adjustments in academic requirements and expectations may be necessary to accommodate the needs of an individual student with a disability to enable him/her to participate in the general education program. Section 504 requires a plan describing placement and services, commonly referred to as an “accommodation plan”.
The parents/guardians have a right to be notified in writing of any decisions made by the school district concerning identification, evaluation or educational placement of students pursuant to section 504.
Parents/guardians have a right to examine, copy and request amendements to the student’s educational record.
Parents/guardians have the right to request for a Section 504 local mediation conference or due-process hearing within ten (10) calendar days of the notice of the 504 Committee’s decision with which they disagree.
The request shall be made to:
Mr. Frank Gargiulo
Superintendent of Schools
Hudson County School of Technology
8511 Tonnelle Avenue
North Bergen, New Jersey 07047
Within thirty (30) calendar days of receiving the written notice of appeal, the District 504 Officer will schedule and hold a local mediation conference or arrange a hearing with an impartial hearing officer. The District 504 Officer will provide written notice to the student’s parents/guardian of the date, time, and place of the conference or hearing.
The impartial hearing officer needs to be an individual outside the school district. It may be appropriate to use an administrator from another school or district. However, the hearing officer should not be a member of the Board of Education, a relative to any member of the Board of Education in a degree that would be prohibited under the nepotism statute. The parents/guardians have a right to counsel for the impartial hearing. The mediation conference and/or impartial hearing will be conducted in an informal and non-adversarial manner.
Review of Student’s Progress
The 504 Committee will monitor the student’s progress and the effectiveness of the student’s educational accommodation plan annually to determine whether special services and/or educational accommodations are appropriate and necessary; and that the student’s needs are being met as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students. It is each principal’s responsibility to monitor the implementation of accommodation plans within the school setting.