Do you have a child with autism, or a learning disability that has suffered discrimination in school related to their disability? Have they been harassed, emotionally damaged, or physically hurt in school by another student or school staff that is disability related? Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits disability related to a persons disability in any program that receives federal funding. This article will be discussing 11 things about Section 504 that you can use to protect your child.
1. Disability harassment defined. In a letter from the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (that investigates Section 504 complaints) describes what is considered disability harassment. The letter states: When the harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates a hostile environment, adversely affecting the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the educational program.
The letter further states that harassment based on disability may decrease the student’s ability to benefit from his or her education and amount to denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under IDEA and Section 504.
2. In the above letter the Department of Education also states that the discrimination can be done not only by school staff, but also by students. Many school districts have taken the position that they are not responsible for student’s actions-though many courts have found that they are.
3. Children with disabilities who receive special education services under IDEA are automatically eligible for the protections under Section 504.
4. Children with disabilities have the right to achieve as adequately as persons without disabilities under this law.
5. Children also have the right to receive services and benefits that are comparable to those given their non disabled peers. For benefits or services provided to be equally effective they must afford students with an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, gain the same benefit, or reach the same level of achievement as other students. This is so important to know because many children’s services are not the same as their non disabled peers, and the child is not expected to reach the same level of achievement as their non disabled peers! Though I have believed for many years that will appropriate related and special education services children with disabilities can achieve the same as their non disabled peers.
6. Reasonable accommodations must be given to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
7. Children with disabilities must be educated with their nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate, and in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the child.
8. Children with disabilities must be taught using state standards that apply to general education, and their non disabled peers. Failure to apply standards to students with disabilities is a failure to provide comparable benefits and services under Section 504.
9. A child being excluded from taking district and state wide standardized tests may be a violation of the laws comparable benefits. Why? Because standardized testing makes school districts accountable for teaching children according to the academic standards set by the state for all children. Testing is accountability and should be used for most children.
10. Some parents have been successful in getting services for their children under this law that they have been unable to get under IDEA. The Early Complaint Resolution Process is a good way for parents to give input on how their complaint can be resolved, to benefit their child.