Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) is Congress’ directive to schools receiving any federal funding to eliminate discrimination based on disability from all aspects of school operation. It states, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability …, shall, solely by reason of her or his 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….” Because the Hesperia Unified School District is a recipient of federal funding, it is required to provide eligible disabled students with equal access (both physical and academic) to services, programs, and activities offered by its schools.
Section 504 is a civil rights statute. At each school, the responsibility for ensuring Section 504 compliance rests with the District, the school’s Section 504 Site Chairperson and the principal or assistant principal.
There are two main purposes to Section 504. The first purpose of Section 504 is to protect students from discrimination under federal law. Section 504 assures access to educational services and the learning process that is equal to that given to students who do not have disabilities. All students who have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such an impairment, or are regarded as having such an impairment, are protected from discrimination under Section 504.
The second purpose of Section 504 is to provide a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to those students who (1) actually have a physical or mental impairment, (2) that substantially limits, (3) one or more major life activities. The provision of FAPE is accomplished through the creation and implementation of Section 504 Service Plan. Only those students who satisfy all three of these criteria are eligible for, and are provided, regular or special education and related aids and services under Section 504 (in the form of a Section 504 Service Plan).