Policy Details Page
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education from discrimination due to disability. A child is a “qualified disabled person” under Section 504 if he or she (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working), has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment; and (2) is between the ages of 3 to 21 years old.
The district shall comply with the federal policies that requires the identification of the District’s 504 Coordinator to ensure compliance as set forth in 34 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR.) The 504 Coordinator for the Tacoma School District is the Director of School Support. It is the coordinator’s responsibility to ensure that a free appropriate public education, Child Find, equal educational opportunity, confidentiality of information, parent involvement, participation in least restrictive environment, evaluations, placement, reevaluation, programming to meet individual needs, placement procedures, nonacademic services, preschool and adult education programs, disciplinary exclusion, transportation, procedural requirements, appropriate funding, and accessibility are in accordance with federal law.
Free Appropriate Public Education
The district shall provide a free, appropriate public education (regular or special education and related aids and services) to school-age children with disabilities in the district’s jurisdiction. Instruction shall be individually designed to meet the needs of the disabled students as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled students are met.
The district shall annually undertake to identify and locate every qualified disabled student residing in the district’s jurisdiction who is not receiving a public education, and take appropriate steps to notify disabled children and their parents or guardians of the district’s responsibilities under Section 504.
Equal Educational Opportunity
The district shall provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the educational services it provides to non-disabled students. The teachers of disabled students shall meet comparable standards for certification that teachers of non-disabled students meet. Facilities shall be of comparable quality and appropriate materials and equipment shall be available.
Confidentiality of Information
The confidentiality of student records will be maintained throughout the period of time when such records are collected, stored, disclosed, or destroyed by the district.
The district shall obtain the informal consent of parents or guardians before conducting an initial evaluation of a student. The district will notify parents or guardians of the evaluation results and any programming and placement recommendations. The district will notify parents or guardians before initially placing a disabled student, conducting subsequent evaluations of the student, or implementing a significant change in the student’s placement. The district shall notify parents or guardians of their right to review and challenge the district’s program and placement decisions if they disagree with them. Section 504 does not give parents the right to participate in a meeting during which their child’s program is designed and placement is determined, as does the IDEA. However, this practice is recommended.
Participation in the Least Restrictive Environment
Academic setting - To the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of disabled students, the district shall educate disabled students with non-disabled students. In order to remove a child from the regular educational environment, the district must demonstrate that education of the student in the regular environment with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily for the disabled student.
Non-academic setting - In providing or arranging for the provision of non-academic and extracurricular services and activities, including meals, recess periods, and the services and activities set forth in 34 CFR 104.37, the district shall ensure that disabled students participate with non-disabled students in such activities and services to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the disabled student in question.
If a student needs or is believed to need special education or related services, the district shall evaluate the student prior to placement and before any subsequent “significant change in that placement.”
Examples of significant changes in placement include:
- Suspensions which exceed 10 consecutive days in a school year;
- Cumulative short-term suspensions which create a pattern of exclusion;
- Transferring a student to home instruction;
- Graduation from high school;
- Significantly changing the composition of the student’s class.
The district shall establish policies and procedures for evaluation and placement that assure tests
and other evaluation materials:
- Have been validated and are administered by trained personnel;
- Are tailored to assess educational need and are not merely based on IQ scores;
- Reflect aptitude or achievement or whatever else the tests purport to measure and do not reflect the student’s impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills (unless the test is designed to measure these particular deficits).
In interpreting evaluation data and in making placement decisions, the district shall (1) draw upon information from a variety of sources, including aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social or cultural background, and adaptive behavior, (2) establish procedures to ensure that information obtained from all such sources is documented and
carefully considered, (3) ensure that the placement decision is made by a group of persons, including persons knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options, and (4) ensure that the student is educated with his/her non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.
In regard to out-of-district placements, if the district affords a free appropriate education to the student but the parent chooses to place the child elsewhere, the district is not responsible to pay for the out-of-district placement.
The district shall provide for periodic reevaluation of disabled students. No time frame is specified in Section 504; however, the requirement of the IDEA to reevaluate every three years will be encouraged. A reevaluation is also required before any significant change of placement.
Programming to Meet Individual Needs
The district recognizes that to be appropriate, educational programs for students with disabilities must be designed to meet their individual needs to the same extent that the needs of non-disabled students are met. To adequately meet individual needs, academic and related services for students with disabilities may need to be significantly different in character from those offered to students without disabilities. A documented procedure such as the development of an individualized accommodation plan by a knowledgeable team of educational professionals is recommended.
The district shall provide non-academic and extracurricular services and activities in such a manner as is necessary to afford disabled students an equal opportunity for participation in such services and activities. Non-academic and extracurricular services and activities may include counseling services, athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the district, referrals to agencies which provide assistance to disabled persons, and employment of students, including both employment by the district and assistance in making available outside employment. The reasonable health and safety standards for all students shall be observed.
Counseling Services - In providing personal, academic or vocational counseling, guidance, or placement services to its students, the district shall provide these services without discrimination on the basis of disability. The district shall ensure that qualified students with disabilities are not counseled toward more restrictive career objectives than are non-disabled students with similar interests and abilities.
Physical education and athletics - In providing physical education courses and athletics and similar programs and activities to any of its students, the district shall not discriminate on the basis of disability. As the district offers physical education courses and operates or supports interscholastic, club, or intramural athletics, it shall provide an equal opportunity for qualified students with disabilities to participate in these activities.The district may offer to disabled students physical education and athletic activities that are separate or different from those offered to non-disabled students only if separation or differentiation is consistent with the requirements of 34 CFR 104.34 and only if no qualified disabled student is denied the opportunity to compete for teams or to participate in courses that are not separate or different.
Preschool and Adult Education Programs - In the operation of preschool education, or daycare program or activity, or an adult education program or activity, the district shall not, on the basis of disability, exclude qualified students with disabilities from the program or activity and shall take into account the needs of such persons in determining the aid, benefits, or services to be provided under the program or activity.
Students with disabilities are protected from being improperly excluded from school for disciplinary reasons. Certain disciplinary exclusions of disabled students from school constitute a significant change in the student’s educational placement. Such disciplinary exclusions cannot be implemented until the district has satisfied the required change of placement procedures. Qualified disabled students should be recognized as having a disabling condition before discipline is imposed on them, especially before imposing long-term suspension (a suspension of more than ten days duration) or regular expulsion. The school principal or educational staff person responsible for the imposition of discipline must ensure that a group of qualified professionals determine whether or not there is a causal relationship between the student’s misconduct and his or her disability. They are also to consider the appropriateness of the
student’s current placement and program. This determination will take into account the student’s current evaluation and Individualized Accommodation Plan (IAP), under Section 504. For students considered disabled under Section 504, there is no obligation to provide educational services during periods of long-term suspension or expulsion when the student’s misconduct has been properly determined not to be disability-related or due to an inappropriate placement or program. When a student’s misconduct is determined causally related to his/her disabling condition, procedures below shall be instituted in lieu of either long-term suspension or expulsion.
When a student poses an immediate and continuing danger to himself or herself and/or others or to disruption of the educational process, (see WAC 180-40-295), an emergency expulsion of up to ten (10) consecutive school business days may be used.
When a student has engaged in misconduct which is causally related to his or her disability aside from emergency expulsion (see above), expulsion or suspension should not be imposed for more than ten (10) consecutive school days for the school year, or when the student has been suspended or expelled for more than ten (10) school days and the suspension/expulsion reflect a pattern of exclusion. Instead, the need for additional evaluation and/or a change of placement should be considered.
In this circumstance, the principal or designee responsible for the imposition of discipline, the Section 504 compliance officer, and a team of professionals from the school who are knowledgeable about the student will meet to determine if there is a need for further evaluation or a change of program or placement. If further evaluation is recommended, it will be conducted as soon as possible. If the student poses an immediate risk to him or herself or others, or to disruption of the educational process the procedure above may be instituted by the principal or designee.
Students and their parent/guardian shall be notified of the results of the decision regarding the causal relationship of the misconduct and the student’s disability and of their right to challenge this decision. Students/parents/guardians objecting to procedures outlined above shall be entitled to exercise their rights under Section 504 to file a grievance or initiate a due process hearing. See Procedural Requirements below.
Students who are considered disabled under Section 504 are subject to the same disciplinary processes and results as non-disabled students for misconduct regarding the use, sale, or possession of drugs or alcohol at school. The extra due process requirements regarding change of placement do not apply.
If the district places a student in a program not operated by the district, the district shall assure that adequate transportation to and from the program is provided at no cost to the parent. Since the district provides transportation to all its students within a certain geographic area, it shall not discriminate in its provision of transportation to students with disabilities. If the district proposes to terminate a qualified disabled student’s bus transportation for inappropriate bus behavior, the district shall first determine the relationship between the student’s behavior and his or her disabling condition, the appropriateness of the related service of transportation, and the need for reevaluation. The parent or guardian shall be provided with notice of the results of such determinations and of their right to challenge such determinations. The length of the bus rides for qualified disabled students should not be longer than that of non-disabled students.
The district 504 Coordinator will develop a brochure outlining parent rights and safeguards with respect to actions regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of persons who, because of disability, need or are believed to need special instruction or related services.
- The district 504 Coordinator will be available to answer questions or concerns regarding identification, evaluation, or educational placement. The process for identifying students for 504 services however, begins with the school Guidance Counselor.
- A group of people at the school site, who are knowledgeable about the student, will be convened to review evaluation data and consider accommodation options before determining whether the student is eligible under 504. The educators at the school site will make recommendations for accommodations.
- Parents shall be provided notice of the opportunity to review relevant records prior to any action taken by the district in regard to the identification, evaluation or placement of the child. Parents, at their own expense, can submit data to be considered in the evaluation process.
- Appeals to the decision of the school 504 committee must be submitted in writing to the district’s 504 Coordinator, Tacoma School District, Central Administration Building, 601 So. 8th, Tacoma, WA 98405.
- An impartial hearing by some one other than an employees of the district, school, board of directors, or employees of a district that shares a contractual arrangement for the provision of service to disabled children, will be convened at the initiation of either the parents/guardian or the school district. The parent/student is entitled to having representation by legal counsel.
- Hearings will be convened and a decision rendered within reasonable time frames without undue delays.
- Students/parents are entitled to file grievances to resolve complaints of discrimination. (The grievance procedures for the district are set out in the Procedure for Policy 3210, Nondiscrimination.)
The district’s responsibility to make buildings accessible: facilities which were constructed prior to June 3, 1977, need not necessarily be made accessible so long as the program or activity, viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to persons with disabilities.
The district’s options other than major modifications: the district can redesign equipment, reassign classes or other services to accessible buildings, assign aides to students, deliver services at alternate accessible sites, or alter existing facilities. So long as there are other methods which are as effective in achieving compliance, a district need not undertake structural changes to a building.
District recognition of unacceptable accommodations: carrying a student upstairs; segregating all students with mobility impairments due to inaccessibility of other buildings; having disabled students eat on a separate floor due to an inaccessible cafeteria; denying certain programs such as music, art, or assemblies because these programs are inaccessible.
District obligation for new buildings and additions: buildings or additions constructed on or after June 3, 1977, must be designed and constructed to allow disabled persons the ability to access and use them readily.
The district’s obligation when a building is altered: to the maximum extent feasible, all facilities which are altered on or after June 3, 1977, must be altered to allow accessibility and usability by persons with disabilities.
District recognition of the meaning of the phrase “to the maximum extent possible:” this provision covers the occasional instance where the nature of an existing facility is such as to make it impractical or prohibitively expensive to renovate in a manner that results in its being entirely barrier-free. However, in all of these instances, the alteration should provide the maximum amount of physical accessibility feasible.
Special Issues Related to Drug or Alcohol Addicted Students
If a district suspects that the drug or alcohol problem of a student may be substantially limiting a major life activity, such as learning, the district is obligated to recommend an evaluation. If the evaluation verifies the existence of a disabling condition which substantially limits a major life activity, the student is considered disabled under Section 504 and should be planned for appropriately.
With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, Congress excluded persons who are “currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs” from the definition of individuals with disabilities and Section 504.
Therefore, the school district is not required to consider whether a current illegal drug user could successfully participate in the district’s education programs. Furthermore, the district is not required to make accommodations for the student if he or she is currently using drugs. The district can treat the student as it treats non-disabled students.
Congress did not amend Section 504 with respect to students with alcoholism in so far as their coverage as qualified disabled persons. Unlike students addicted to drugs, students whose alcoholism constitutes a disabling condition under Section 504 and who continue to use alcohol are protected by Section 504, although these protections are limited as follows: for purposes of programs and activities providing educational services, the district may take disciplinary action pertaining to the use, sale, or possession of illegal drugs or alcohol at school against any disabled student who currently is engaged in the illegal use of drugs or in the use of alcohol at school to the same extent that such disciplinary action is taken against non-disabled students. Furthermore, the due process procedures at 34 CFR 104.36 shall not apply to such disciplinary actions.
Special Consideration For Students Having AIDS or HIV Infection
Students with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), AIDS Related Complex (ARC), or otherwise infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-infected) are individuals with disabilities under Section 504. They either qualify as actually having a physical impairment which substantially limits a major life activity, or are regarded as having such a disabling condition. Depending on the nature of the disease and the student’s other conditions, the student may also qualify for services under the IDEA.
Placement of the student must be made by a group of persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation and medical information, and placement options. Subject to an authorized release of confidentiality by the parent or adult student, a public health representative should be on the team. Unless currently presenting a risk of contagion due to the stage of the disease (e.g., a contagious opportunistic infection, open lesions that cannot be covered) or parents and school agree on an alternative, a student with AIDS should remain in the regular classroom.
Special Consideration for ADD/ADHD Students
If a district suspects or has knowledge that a student has an Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) that may be substantially limiting a major life activity, such as learning, the district is obligated to recommend an evaluation.
Evaluation of the student, and service and placement recommendations should be made by a group of persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation and medical information, and service and placement options.
A qualified medical practitioner’s assessment should be considered as well as the impact the student’s ADD/ADHD has on his or her ability to learn or to otherwise benefit from his or her educational program. The district shall ensure that the student’s educational program meets the full range of his or her individual educational needs.
Revised: 09/26/06; 03/13/07
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