Section 504 Services
The purpose of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, is designed to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity offered by Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS). Policy 8030 requires that no student shall, on the basis of a disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity.The LCPS procedures related to Section 504 identification, evaluation, placement, discipline, procedural safeguards, grievance procedures, and impartial hearings are outlined in the LCPS Section 504 Procedure Manual.As a resource, parents and families may access the Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools developed by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. This guide helps parents of students with disabilities and members of the community understand the obligations and requirements of Section 504.
Section 504 Frequently Asked Questions
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal statute designed to eliminate discrimination, on the basis of disability, in any school division program or activity. A qualified disabled student shall not, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity offered by LCPS.
To be protected from discrimination under Section 504, a student must be determined to: (1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
LCPS is required to identify and locate qualified students with disabilities under Section 504 who reside in the school division. LCPS must refer a student for an evaluation for possible services if the student, because of disability, needs or is believed to need such services.
Anyone, including parents, teachers, administrators, or a school-based team, can refer a child if they suspect a disability. Referrals will be accepted in written, electronic, or oral form for children suspected of having a disability. A Multi-Purpose Referral Form is available at the school and completed by the person initiating the referral. The referring source must explain the reasons that an evaluation is requested and any efforts that have been made to address the concerns.
Referrals are made to the child's school principal or designee. The principal or designee will schedule a meeting generally within ten (10) business days upon receipt of the referral and will notify the parent(s) of the meeting date and time to discuss the referral and determine whether to evaluate.
Determining whether a child is a qualified student with a disability under Section 504 starts with the evaluation process. Section 504 requires the use of evaluation procedures that ensure that children are not inappropriately classified or labeled as having a disability. LCPS must individually evaluate a student before classifying the student as having a disability or providing the student with services and draw from a variety of sources in the evaluation process so that the possibility of error is minimized. The amount of information required as part of the evaluation is determined by the multi-disciplinary committee.
Based upon information from a variety of sources, an eligibility decision for Section 504 is made by a group of school professionals, which includes individuals who are knowledgeable about the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options within the student's school. The team must establish on a case-by-case basis with respect to each individual student the following:
- Presence of a recognized physical or mental impairment;
- Impairment affects a major life activity or major bodily function; and
- the major life activity or major bodily function is substantially limited.
The term "disability" under Section 504 does not include students who are currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs.
An impairment is defined as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. The regulatory definition is not intended as an exhaustive list of specific diseases and conditions that may constitute physical or mental impairments.
An impairment in and of itself is not a disability. The impairment must "substantially limit" one or more major life activities in order to be considered a disability under Section 504. Substantial limitation means an important and material limitation and must be made on a case-by-case basis with respect to each individual student. Substantial limitation in a major life activity must be measured against most people (or the average student) in the general population. Furthermore, this analysis must be done without consideration of the benefits of mitigating measures, such as medication; medical supplies, equipment or appliances; low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses); prosthetics (including limbs and devices); hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices; mobility devices; oxygen therapy equipment and supplies; use of assistive technology; reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; and learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.
"Major life activities" include but are not limited to functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. As of January 1, 2009, Congress added additional examples to include eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Major life activities also includes “major bodily functions” that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. The list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, and an activity or function not specifically listed in the Section 504 regulatory provision can be a major life activity.
In order to receive Section 504 accommodations and services, the school must refer and evaluate a student to determine whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.
- Qualifying students with a disability regardless of the nature and severity must be offered a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE is the provision of free services and accommodations that allow the student equal opportunity to participate in school programs and services.
- Accommodations are designed to offer disabled students an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement, in the most integrated setting appropriate to the student.
- Accommodations are not required to produce the identical result or level of achievement for nondisabled students.
For qualified disabled students under Section 504, a committee of knowledgeable individuals shall develop a Section 504 Plan generally within 30 calendar days of the student's eligibility determination. The committee includes individuals who are knowledgeable of the student, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options. The Section 504 Plan includes the accommodations, aides, and/or services that are necessary to afford the student an equal opportunity to access and benefit from activities and programs offered to all students enrolled in LCPS. Accommodations are focused on what is necessary to meet the student's needs related to their limitation as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students. Parents are invited to the meeting to participate in the development of the Section 504 Plan. Parental consent for the implementation of the plan is not required. The plan is reviewed annually.
A student may be removed for less than 10 days (short-term removal) due to misconduct in the same manner as nondisabled students. A 504 team must conduct a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) following a decision to remove a student from school for more than ten (10) consecutive school days or for a series of short-term removals that constitute a pattern in a school year. If the misconduct was caused by the student's disability, the student may not be removed. If the misconduct was not related to the student's disability, the school may impose the same discipline it would impose on a nondisabled student under the same circumstance. If the student is engaging in the illegal use of drugs or alcohol and is being disciplined for the use or possession of illegal drugs or alcohol, an MDR is not required.
Loudoun County Public Schools implements a system of procedural safeguards for parents/guardians regarding the identification, evaluation, and placement of disabled students under Section 504 that includes:
- notice for meetings;
- an opportunity for the parents or guardian of the child to examine relevant records;
- an impartial hearing with an opportunity for participation by the child’s parents or guardian and representation by counsel; and
- a review procedure for appealing impartial hearing decisions.
For assistance in understanding Section 504 for students with disabilities, contact Eligibility Services, 21000 Education Court, Ashburn, Virginia 20148, Phone: 571-252-1016.
LCPS Division Section 504 Coordinator: John J. Lody, Director of Diagnostic & Prevention Services
Sarah Fowler, Supervisor of Eligibility & Section 504 Services
Additional Information regarding Section 504 can also be found on the Office for Civil Rights website.