Notice of Rights for Disabled Students and their Parents Under Section 504
Notice of Rights for Disabled Students and their Parents Under Section 504
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to prohibit discrimination against persons with a disability. As it applies to public schools, it is written to ensure that eligible students with a disability are provided with educational benefits and opportunities equal to those provided for students without disabilities.
Under Section 504, a student is considered a "student with a disability" if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities such as learning, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, working and performing manual tasks. Section 504 also applies to students with a record of having a substantially limiting impairment, or who are regarded as being disabled even if they are truly not disabled. Students can be considered disabled and can receive services under Section 504, even if they do not qualify for, or receive special education services.
You have the right to:
- Have the School District inform you of your rights under federal law. The School District must provide you with written notice of your rights under Section 504.
- Have your student take part in, and receive benefits from, a free and appropriate public education designed to meet his or her educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students are met.
- Have your student receive free educational services, with the exception of certain costs normally also paid by the parents of non-disabled students. Insurance companies and other similar third parties are not relieved of any existing obligation to provide or pay for services for a student who becomes eligible for services under Section 504.
- Have your student be educated with children who are not disabled, to the maximum extent appropriate. Your student will be placed and educated in general education classes unless the School District demonstrates that his or her educational needs cannot be adequately met in the general education setting, even with the use of supplementary aids and services.
- Have your student receive services, be educated in facilities, and participate in nonacademic activities offered by the School District comparable to those provided to non-disabled students.
- Have an evaluation of your student by the School District prior to determining his or her appropriate educational placement or program of services under Section 504 and also before every subsequent significant change in placement.
- If formal assessment instruments are used by the School District as part of an evaluation, procedures used to select and administer assessments and other instruments must comply with the requirements of Section 504 so as not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis and to have been validated for the specific purpose for which they were used. The School District will appropriately consider information from a variety of sources in making its determination, including, for example, aptitude and achievement tests, including FSA and benchmark tests, teacher recommendations, reports of physical conditions, social and cultural background, adaptive behavior, health records, report cards, progress notes, parent observations and other information supplied by parents, and mitigating measures, among others.
- Have placement decisions about your student be made by a group of people (a Section 504 team) knowledgeable about your student, the meaning of the evaluation data, possible placement options, and the requirement that to the maximum extent appropriate, disabled children should be educated with non-disabled children.
- Have your student, once determined eligible for services under Section 504, be re-evaluated periodically to determine if there has been a change in educational need. Generally, such a re-evaluation will take place at least every three years.
- Be notified by the School District, in writing, in your native or preferred language, prior to any action regarding the identification, evaluation, or placement of your student.
- Examine relevant documents and records regarding your student (generally documents related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of your student under Section 504).
- Request an impartial hearing related to decisions or actions regarding your child's identification, evaluation, educational placement, or provision of services under Section 504. The hearing will be conducted before a hearing officer appointed by the District who is not an employee of the District. The hearing officer may not have direct interest in the outcome of the hearing. The hearing officer shall conduct the hearing in a fair and impartial manner. The hearing officer will have adequate training or experience relating to the requirements of Section 504.
Procedures upon request for an impartial hearing:
- The District shall give the parent or guardian notice of the time, date and place of the hearing at least 21 days in advance of the hearing.
- The parent or guardian and the District shall have a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issues raised. The parents or guardians may, at their own expense, be represented by one or more individuals of his or her own choice, including an attorney, and shall have an opportunity to examine relevant records.
- The hearing officer shall make a decision in writing within a reasonable period of time after the hearing. The decision must be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing and must include a summary of the evidence and the reasons for the decision.
- The hearing officer's decision may be reviewed by filing a notice of appeal with the clerk of the School Board within 20 days of the rendition of the hearing officer's decision.
Thereafter, the appealing party shall, within 15 days, file with the clerk of the School Board and serve on the other party a memorandum not to exceed 20 pages explaining why the appealing party believes the hearing officer's decision violates Section 504.
Thereafter, the other party may, within 15 days, file and serve a responsive memorandum that does not exceed 20 pages.
The hearing officer's decision, the two memoranda and the record below shall be considered by a reviewing hearing officer appointed by the District who is not an employee of the District and who shall render a decision in writing within 21 days. The reviewing officer may not have a direct interest in the outcome and may not be the same person who served as the initial hearing officer. The hearing officer will have adequate training or experience relating to the requirements of Section 504.
- If you believe that your student, solely by reason of his/her disability, has been excluded from participation in, been denied the benefits of, or been subjected to discrimination, under any of the district’s educational programs or activities, a signed written request for an impartial due process hearing should be submitted to the District contact below:
Jennifer Benton, 504 Program Specialist
3955 West Pensacola Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32304
- File a grievance. The grievance will follow a review procedure as described in the Code of Student Conduct Handbook.
- A complaint or appeal may be withdrawn by the person making it at any level without prejudice. At each of the above three levels, the individual registering the complaint will be given the opportunity to be present (if there is a meeting) to be heard and to be represented by an attorney if the individual hires one. All decisions at levels two and three shall be in writing and shall include supporting reasons.
- File a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education. The address of the OCR Regional Office is:
Atlanta Office of Office for Civil Rights
US Department of Education
61 Forsyth St. S.W., Suite 19T10
Atlanta, Georiga 30303-8927
Telephone: (404) 974-9406
Fax: (404) 974-9471