The Raul Yzaguirre Schools for Success takes very seriously it responsibility to identify and serve students who are disabled and as a result of the disability need special services/accommodations within the general education program. RYSS is committed to meeting these students’ needs under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is a federal law that prohibits discrimination of the basis of disability.
Who is eligible under Section 504?
Students may qualify for protection under Section 504 if they have a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more of life’s major activities. A label, disability, or diagnosis, alone, does not make a student eligible under Section 504. The disability must substantially limit the student’s performance as compared to the performance of the average student in the general population.
If a student does not qualify under Section 504 but requires instructional and/or behavioral interventions beyond those available in general education, RYSS will meet the student’s needs through its Response to Intervention (RTI) process.
Students may be eligible for services under Section 504 even though they do not meet the eligibility criteria for one of the disabling conditions covered by IDEA. Students who eligible for services under IDEA are not addressed in these guidelines.
What is meant by “substantially limits”?
Under judicial interpretation, a major life activity is substantially limited when a person is “unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform.”
In referencing the “general population,” the intent of the law was to compare each person’s performance against the general population in the community and the nation – not the population at a particular school.
What is a major life activity?
Major life activities refer to functions such as, but not limited to, caring for oneself, eating, sleeping, reading, walking, seeing, hearing, bending, standing, speaking, breathing, thinking, concentrating, communicating, and performing manual tasks. Major life activities also include major bodily functions of the immune system, bladder, bowel, brain, respiratory, circulatory, and endocrine functions, as well as, normal cell development.
Where does RTI fit in the 504 process?
Raul Yzaguirre School for Success uses a tiered RTI model as a system for gathering data to determine whether a student may have need for referral to 504 status. It is through the RTI process that campuses document a student’s response to interventions for academic, physical, or behavioral difficulties.
All students receive differentiated instruction in their general education classes at Tier I. A student, who makes minimal or no progress academically at Tier I, may be referred to an RTI collaborative team to determine whether the student requires targeted supplementary intervention at Tier II. Tier II is still a part of the general education program. If the student does not make progress at this level, the student may require more intensive interventions at Tier III and/or a referral to Section 504.
Students with physical and/or behavioral needs are typically served within the general education classroom with appropriate levels of support from a licensed specialist in school psychology or a campus nurse.
What are the referral procedures?
In most cases, students referred to a campus 504 coordinator will have been served previously through the RTI process. Any student may be referred for a 504 evaluation by a parent, teacher, counselor, administrator, or other district employee who is knowledgeable about the student and has reason to believe that the student has a disability that is substantially limiting one of life’s major activities. All referrals must be submitted in writing to an official campus 504 coordinator, who prepares and sends all required notices. The district has 45 days to complete the evaluations.
What constitutes an evaluation under Section 504?
An evaluation under Section 504 usually does not involve testing. It may consist of a review and analysis of existing records such as vision and hearing screening, test scores, attendance records, discipline records, educational history, current academic performance, teacher observations, and behavior. Data provided from external sources are also considered but within the context of the school.
A 504 committee is responsible for gathering, reviewing and analyzing the evaluation data and for making decisions regarding a student’s eligibility based upon current legal standards.
Who are the members of the 504 committee?
The federal regulations governing Section 504 do not specify the titles or classifications of individuals who must participate in a 504 committee. The regulations do state that the 504 committee must include “a group of persons knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and the placement options.” While parents are not required members of a 504 committee in federal regulations, RYSS encourages parent participation.
How is placement defined?
In the context of 504, “placement” refers to the general education classroom or program with individually planned accommodations or interventions. Placement may include such things as tutorials, math lab, block-math classes, or reading improvement classes. In other words, an eligible 504 student is entitled to the same access to programs and activities as any other student. The district is not required to alter requirements or standards for participation. There is no modification of the essential knowledge and skills for 504 students. Eligibility under Section 504 is not intended to reduce expectations for students with disabilities. The intent of 504 is to provide eligible students with reasonable accommodations that will give them an equal chance to achieve.
Can eligible 504 students take an alternative STAAR test?
No. Unlike students with disabilities who are eligible under the special-education umbrella of IDEA, 504 students cannot be given an alternate or modified STAAR test. Therefore, since graduation is conditioned on passing STAAR and/or End-of-Course exams, eligible 504 students must be held accountable for the same curriculum requirements and standards as their nondisabled peers. To do otherwise would not give eligible 504 students an equal opportunity to earn a diploma. Eligible 504 students may be entitled to limited testing accommodations as allowed by TEA or the testing manufacturer, as appropriate.