Section 504 Referral and Eligibility

Anyone can refer a learner for evaluation under Section 504; however, while anyone can make a referral, such as parents or a doctor, OCR has stated in a staff memorandum that “the school district must also have reason to believe that the learner is in need of services under Section 504 due to a disability” (OCR Memorandum, April 29, 1993). Therefore, a school district does not have to refer or evaluate a learner under Section 504 solely upon parental request. The key to a referral is whether the school district staff suspects that the learner is suffering from a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, and is in need of either regular education with supplementary services or special education and related services [letter to Mentink, 19 IDELR 1127 (OCR) 1993]. If a parent requests a referral for evaluation, and the school district refuses, the school district must provide the parent with notice of their procedural rights under Section 504.

Under Section 504, no formalized testing is required. Schools must consider a variety of sources. A single source of information (such as a doctor’s report/diagnosis) will not be the only information considered. Schools must be able to assure that all information submitted is documented and considered. The 504 Committee should look at grades over the past several years, teacher’s reports, information from parents or other agencies, state assessment scores or other school administered tests, observations, discipline reports, attendance records, and health records.

According to the federal regulations: “…placement decisions are to be made by a group of persons who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, placement options, least restrictive environment requirements…” [34 C.F.R. §104.35(c)(3)]. In Richardson ISD, this group of knowledgeable persons is referred to as the Section 504 Committee.

Unlike Special Education, the federal regulations for Section 504 do not require or even mention that parents are to be a part of the decision-making committee. The decision to include parents in the decision-making committee is a determination that is made by each school district. Richardson ISD parents are encouraged to contribute any information that they may have (e.g., doctor’s reports, private evaluations, etc.) that would be helpful to the Section 504 committee in making their determination of what the learner may need and they are encouraged to participate in Section 504 Meetings.

No. Parents must provide consent for evaluation and be given notice before their learner is evaluated and/or placed under Section 504 (34 C.F.R. §104.36). Parents must also be given a copy of their learner’s Section 504 student services plan if the committee determines that the learner is eligible under Section 504.
While there are no specific regulations regarding this issue, federal regulation requires that learners must be re-evaluated at least every three years or whenever there is going to be a significant change in placement. Richardson ISD follows a re-evaluation schedule to ensure we are meeting, and in all cases, exceeding federal regulations regarding re-evaluation timelines.

To determine eligibility under Section 504, a committee of knowledgeable people must consider all the following questions:

  • Does the student have a physical or mental impairment?
  • Does the physical or mental impairment substantially limit one or more major life activities? It is important to specifically identify what the substantial limitations are and how they impact student’s performance and progress.
  • Does the student require Section 504 services in order for his/her educational needs to be met as adequately as those of non-disabled peers.

Section 504 does not require a public school to provide students with disabilities with potential-maximizing education, only reasonable accommodations that give those students the same access to the benefits of a public education as all other students.” (J.D. v. Pawlet School District, 224 F.3d. 60, 33 IDELR 34 (2nd Cir. 2000)