Section 504 is a federal, civil rights law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education. 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 . . . ."
District 181 must provide a free appropriate public education to its students who are eligible under Section 504. Instruction must be individually designed to meet the needs of those students as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities. A free appropriate public education under Section 504 requires that the services be uniquely tailored to meet each student's needs.
If school staff or parents believe that a student may require supports through Section 504, a referral should be made for an evaluation. Although Section 504 does not require schools to develop an Individualized Education Program(“IEP”) with annual goals, District 181 does provide written documentation for each eligible student in the form of a Section 504 Plan. This Plan provides the needed accommodations, modifications, and/or services under Section 504.
Section 504 is not a special education plan. The school staff and parents should collaborate to help ensure that students are provided the supports to maintain their instructional delivery in the general educational environment. If the team feels that the supports are more appropriately addressed within an Individual Educational Plan, a referral for a case study evaluation may be warranted.
Parents' Rights Guide: A link to the Illinois State Board of Education’s guide for parents in understanding special education services in Illinois.