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Lytle ISD Identifies Students as 504 to Provide Educational Assistance

People talk about 504 a great deal in the education business, but many have misconceptions as to what it actually means. Section 504 refers to a single paragraph in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 706(8) of this title, shall, solely by reason of her or his handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service....” —29 U.S.C. § 794(a) (1973).

The essence of Section 504 was to ensure that those students that need additional assistance with their education because of a disability will receive the assistance they need without discrimination. Typically these students do not qualify for special education services. However, section 504 has broadened over the years to include many more individuals with a variety of disabilities. Section 504 defines the term “individual with a disability” as any person who: has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s “major life activities”, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.  What is considered a “major life activity”? These activities include but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. As you can see section 504 now deals with a very wide range of disabilities that may or may not have to do with the academic part of a student’s education. Some examples of students that would qualify for 504 now include students with asthma, severe allergies, diabetes and eating disorders. Although these students may do very well academically, there may be a need to put some accommodations in place to meet their individual needs regarding other areas of the school environment.

Who decides if a student qualifies for 504? A team of people that have knowledge of the student are assembled and look at all the information regarding the student. This should include demographic information, evaluations and academic results. They will identify any mental and physical impairment. Identify the major life activity that is significantly restricted from the impairment. Take into consideration any mitigating factors such as medication, medical supplies, prosthetics, etc. They will consider cultural, environmental and economic factors. Classroom and school behavior will be reviewed. After all this information is considered the team will make a determination of eligibility for the student and if any accommodations need to be made.

What kind of accommodations can be made for eligible students? Students with academic need can receive accommodations such as, small group instruction, extended time on assignments and any other accommodations that the team thinks the child needs to improve. Students that do not need academic accommodations may need physical accommodations. An example might be a student with a broken leg may need to leave class early to get around campus on time.  Can a 504 student be exempt from the TAKS test? No, all students will take some sort of TAKS tests, but they may receive a variety of accommodations.  What do the changes to 504 mean? Many more students may be eligible for the “504 only” group. These include students with a disability that substantially limit a major life activity other than learning. Mitigating measures do not matter. Students with an impairment that is episodic or in remission also may qualify. Students that have been exited from special education may be monitored through section 504.

Who do you contact if you have questions regarding 504? Talk with your student’s principal to get any information that you may need or you may contact Jimmy Gouard, the 504 coordinator for Lytle ISD.