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Your Child’s Rights Under Section 504 and the ADA

(October 25, 2011): Section 504 and Title II of the ADA are broad civil rights statutes designed to promote equal access to and participation in programs and services. The regulations implementing these laws require that students with disabilities receive benefits and services comparable to those given their non-disabled peers. Specifically, these laws make it illegal for schools to discriminate on the basis of disability by:

• Denying a student the opportunity to participate in or benefit from a benefit or service,
• Providing an opportunity to participate or benefit that is unequal to that provided others,
• Providing a benefit or service that is not as effective as that provided to others,
• Providing lower quality benefits, services or programs than those provided others, or
• Providing different or separate benefits or services, unless it is necessary to provide benefits or services that are as effective as those provided to others.

For benefits or services provided to be “Equally Effective,” they must afford students with disabilities an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement as other students.

I.  What is Required Under Section 504?

Section 504 regulations mandate that school systems receiving federal funds provide a free appropriate public education to children with disabilities in accordance with the Section 504 requirements regarding least restrictive setting, evaluation and placement, and procedural safeguards. Furthermore, under Section 504, the education provided to students with disabilities must meet those students’ needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students are met.

II. Criteria and Methods of Administration:

It is illegal under the Section 504 and ADA regulations for school systems to use policies and practices that, intentionally or not, result in discrimination.  The regulations for both Section 504 and ADA use the term “criteria and methods of administration.” “Criteria” are written or formal policies. “Methods of Administration” are the school system’s actual practices and procedures. The ban on discriminatory policies, practices, and procedures includes those that:

• Have the effect of discriminating against students with disabilities, or
• Have the effect of defeating or impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the education program (or school reform initiative) in regard to students with disabilities.

III.  Reasonable Accommodations Requirements Under Section 504:

School systems must make accommodations and modifications to address the needs of students with disabilities to meet the responsibilities to students with disabilities under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA,  Making accommodations and modifications means changing the way things are usually done in order to take into account a child’s disability-related needs. Examples of accommodations and modifications include modifying rules, policies or practices; removing architectural or communication barriers; or providing aids, services, or assistive technology.

IV.  Maximum Feasible Integration Under Section 504:

Under Section 504, children with disabilities must be educated with their non-disabled peers “to the maximum extent appropriate,” and “removal . . . from the regular educational environment” occurs “only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.”

The ADA regulations similarly provide that a public entity, such as a school system, “shall administer services, programs, and activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.”  Schools have the burden of demonstrating that any removal from regular education is appropriate.

Ashley Morgan Healthcare AttorneyAshley Morgan, J.D., represents students and their families in connection with Section 504 matters.  For a complimentary consultation, please call Ashley at:  1 (800) 475-1906

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