As a recipient of federal funding, the Franklin County Schools (FCS) is subject to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). In the context of the education of children, Section 504 generally protects students with disabilities from discrimination. The United States Department of Education has issued regulations to implement the provisions of Section 504. These regulations are found in 34 CFR Part 104.
Section 504’s purpose is to assure that students with disabilities have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to students without disabilities. Responsibilities of school districts under Section 504 include Child Find, Evaluation, Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), Placement, and Procedural Safeguards. An eligible student under Section 504 is a student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.
The operative language of Section 504 states:
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States... shall solely by reason of his or her 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...”
The regulations implementing Section 504 require school districts to offer “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person’s disability. Under Section 504, FAPE consists of the provisions of regular or special education and related aids and services, including accommodations, designed to meet the student’s individual and educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students.
Section 504 compared to IDEA
A student who qualifies for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a qualified student with disabilities under Section 504. However, a qualified student with disabilities under Section 504 is not qualified to receive special education services and the protections IDEA.
If a student is receiving special education services in accordance with IDEA, Franklin County Schools’ obligations to provide FAPE have been met, but the student is still entitled to the nondiscrimination protections under Section 504.