504 Accommodation Information

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program that receives federal funding.  All schools in the Iowa City Community School District must comply with this law.  Section 504 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.  Under Section 504, schools must provide students with disabilities the accommodations needed to access and benefit from education equally with their peers.

Section 504 Overview

  • What Is a Disability Under Section 504?

    Section 504 defines disability as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities. This definition of disability should be interpreted broadly.

    Major life activities are activities that are important to most people’s daily lives. Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, eating, sleeping, standing, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating are some examples of major life activities. Major life activities also include major bodily functions, such as functions of the digestive, bowel, bladder, brain, circulatory, reproductive, neurological, or respiratory systems.

    Substantially limits should also be interpreted broadly. A student’s impairment does not need to prevent, or severely or significantly restrict, a major life activity to be substantially limiting. 

    Evaluate Disability without Mitigating Measures
    Mitigating measures cannot be considered when evaluating whether or not a student has a substantially limiting impairment. Mitigating measures could include medications, prosthetic devices, assistive devices, or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications a student uses to eliminate or reduce the effects of an impairment.

    An impairment that is episodic or in remission remains a disability if, when in an active phase, this impairment substantially limits a major life activity.

    How Do I Get Accommodations for My Child?

    Students who are entitled to a 504 plan (1) have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, and (2) need accommodations because of their disability—so they can access and benefit from their education.

    To determine if a student needs a 504 plan, the school must follow three steps: refer, evaluate, and determine eligibility.

    Parents Have Rights Under Section 504. The school will give parents a copy of their rights, called Procedural Safeguards, before anyone takes the first step toward evaluating a student or developing a 504 plan. 

    1. Request a Referral for Evaluation
    Anyone, including a parent or guardian, can refer a student for evaluation. A Section 504 referral should be in writing and ask that the school evaluate whether or not a student has a disability and needs accommodations, aids, and services.  Referral forms can be found online at www.iowacityschols.org on the Student Services Department page, select 504 Accommodation Information.  Forms are also available at each school building.

    2. 504 Team Evaluates
    First, the 504 team gathers and analyzes data about the student’s condition. Evaluation data should come from a variety of sources. Grades, test scores, attendance, health room visits, parent and student input, teacher observations, medical or psychological evaluations, special education data, and medical information are just a few examples.

    The 504 team should collect data that answers these two questions:

    1. Does the student have an impairment or disability that substantially limits one or more major life activity?
    2. If so, what accommodations does the student need to access and benefit from their education? 

    The school must have consent from a parent or guardian before the evaluation begins. Without consent, a 504 team cannot evaluate a student or continue the 504 process. 

    Evaluation and the Role of a Medical Diagnosis
    There are two important ideas parents should understand about a medical diagnosis:

    • A school cannot require a parent to provide a medical diagnosis to evaluate a student. However, a diagnosis can provide very helpful information for the 504
    • A medical diagnosis does not always mean that a student needs a 504 plan. Doctors cannot prescribe a 504 plan—only the 504 team can make that decision. However, the 504 team must consider the information a doctor provides when evaluating a student.

    3. School Brings a 504 Team Together
    The individual needs of the student determines who joins the 504 team. There are three core members of any 504 team:

    Someone who knows the student—for example, a parent, teacher, physician, nurse, or counselor. While parents are not required to join the 504 team, the participation of a parent can be incredibly helpful.
    Someone who can analyze and interpret the evaluation data
    Someone who is knowledgeable about options within the school 
    The 504 team will determine if a student is eligible and will decide what accommodations should be in place to reduce or eliminate the impact of the student’s disability on his or her education. 

    4. 504 Team Creates a Plan. School Puts the Plan Into Action.
    If the evaluation indicates that the student has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity, the team determines whether or not the student needs a 504 plan. 

    The plan describes the accommodations the school must provide to make sure the student can experience a free and appropriate public education, as the law requires. 

    The school must have consent from a parent or guardian before staff take action on the 504 plan. Schools must give parents a copy of their Section 504 Procedural Safeguards

    With the 504 plan in place, all school staff members follow the plan to accommodate the student. It is the school’s responsibility—not the student’s or parent’s—to make sure teachers are aware of the services, aids, or accommodations in the plan. 

    Teachers should consult the building’s 504 point person (usually the administrator) or if needed, the district’s Section 504 coordinator, if they need help or clarification on what to do for the student.  

    5. School Reviews and Evaluates the 504 Plan
    Every year, the school should review the 504 plan to make sure it continues to address the student’s needs. However, a parent or teacher could ask for a review at any time if they think the plan is not meeting the student’s needs. 

    Periodically, the 504 team must re-evaluate the student’s eligibility for Section 504 and the accommodations in the 504 plan. This re-evaluation should take place at least once every three years, but can happen more frequently; it depends on the student’s needs. 

    Discipline and Section 504

    Before a school disciplines a student with a disability, especially if it involves a suspension or expulsion, the school must determine if there is a need for a special meeting called a manifestation determination. In this meeting, the 504 team decides if there is a relationship between the student’s disability and the student’s behavior that led to the disciplinary action. 

    The 504 team must hold a manifestation determination meeting before a student with a disability is suspended or expelled for:

    • More than ten consecutive school days, OR
    • More than a total of ten school days during a school year, which could indicate a pattern of removal

    There are two questions the 504 team must answer at a manifestation determination meeting:

    1. Was this behavior caused by, or did it have a direct and substantial relationship to, the student’s disability?
    2. Was this behavior the direct result of the school’s failure to follow the student’s Section 504 plan? 

    If the answer is yes to either question, the behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability and the student can remain in school. The 504 team should review the student’s 504 plan and modify if necessary. 

    If the answer is no to both questions, the school can discipline the student in the same way it would discipline a student who does not have a disability. 

    Discriminatory Harassment

    Harassment of any form is prohibited in the Iowa City School District. Discriminatory harassment is harassment based on a student’s disability.  All schools must take steps to protect students from discriminatory harassment. 

    School staff must investigate possible discriminatory harassment—as soon as they know, or reasonably should know—even if a parent or student does not file a formal complaint. 

    If an investigation reveals that harassing conduct created a hostile environment, staff must act quickly to stop the behavior and put an end to the hostile environment. 

    The school must:

    1. Address any effects discriminatory harassment had on the student at school, AND
    2. Make sure that harassing conduct does not happen again 

    Find more information about discriminatory harassment and guidelines for district procedures, go to:  https://www.iowacityschools.org/Domain/64

    Resolve Concerns or Disagreements

    1. A discussion with your school principal is often the best first step to address your concerns or disagreements about discrimination and work toward a solution.
      • Focus on the facts related to discrimination and harassment, as you understand them, AND
      • Let the principal know what you want them to do to resolve the problem 
    1. If attempts to address your concerns are not resolved at the school building, contact the district Section 504 Coordinator at (319) 688-1281 or (319) 688-1000 and ask for the Director of Student Services. You may also email to: callahan.kate@iowacityschools.org

    Formal Complaints — Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment

    If you believe the school is not following your child’s Section 504 plan or your child is experiencing discrimination or harassment, you can file a formal complaint.

    • On the Iowa City Community School District website, http://www.iowacityschools.org, information is available through both Student Services department and the Equity department, about how to file a formal complaint and follow the steps.
    • You may also contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights at (206) 607-1600 (TDD: 1-800-877-8339), or visit the website, www.ed.gov/ocr.
    • You may contact the Chicago Office for Civil Rights:
      U.S. Department of Education
      Citigroup Center
      500 W. Madison Street, Suite 1475
      Chicago, IL 60661-4544 

    For the Section 504 Coordinator in your school district:
    Contact Student Services at (319) 688-1281 or (319) 688-1000, 
    Kate Callahan:  Director of Student Services, callahan.kate@iowacityschools.org
    Diana Langfield:  Student Services Coordinator, langfield.diana@iowacityschools.org