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A Parent’s Guide to Section 504

This guide is designed to be an overview of information regarding Section 504. For complete information and instructions specific to your district, please contact your local school district or access the U.S. Department of Education website at www.2.ED.gov.

What is Section 504?

Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

Section 504 provides: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…"

To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to:

  1. Have a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities which include: Caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating. Other major life activities include major bodily functions, such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.
    1. Physical impairment includes any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine.
    2. Mental impairment includes any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
  2. Have a record of such impairment
  3. Be regarded as having such impairment

How Can a Section 504 Plan Help My Child?

A Section 504 Plan specifies the educational, related aids and supplemental support services that are needed to ensure that the individual educational needs of a disabled student are met as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students.

There are many challenges faced when caring for a child with FPIES, including dietary restrictions, illness and treatment. These challenges can be overwhelming for a parent and child when it comes to school. Not every FPIES child requires special services and accommodations. However, if needed, a request can be made to the school to develop a section 504 plan to provide specific accommodations for that child while attending school and engaging in school activities. This plan should have many sections to address the important food related issues so that the child can have the best possible chance of staying safe.

The criteria by which a child with severe food allergy (i.e. FPIES) can be eligible for protection under Section 504 is that the physiological condition or disorder of food allergy affects the respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular and skin body systems. The U.S. Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education formally recognizes allergy as a “hidden disability,” or not readily apparent to others.

NOTE: Solely having a physical or mental impairment does not constitute a disability. The impairment must substantially limit one or more of the student’s major life activities in order to be considered disabled under Section 504. Each request requires a student evaluation and eligibility determination is made on a case-by-case basis.

What is the Process for Obtaining a Section 504 Plan?

  1. A request can be initiated by parents or legal guardians, teachers or other licensed school employees.
  2. Each school district may have slightly different steps, so it is important to first contact the school the child is attending to initiate the 504 request and obtain the necessary paperwork.
  3. For elementary and secondary school levels, determining whether a child is a qualified disabled student must begin with an evaluation process.
    1. School districts must establish standards and procedures for initial evaluations and periodic re-evaluations.
  4. An evaluation team, generally consisting of teachers and specialists (possibly including special education personnel, parents and the child), will meet and evaluate all the information and determine if the child qualifies for protection under Section 504.
    1. You may be asked to provide specific medical information and physician recommendations to help aid in the determination.
  5. Once the child is determined to be eligible, a 504 accommodation plan will be created. The final modifications and accommodations will be individualized, according to the specific state regulations.

Resources

  1. U.S. Department of Education
  2. U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights
  3. Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
  4. American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders