Under Section 504 of the rehabilitation Act of 1973, school systems are required to ensure that no qualified handicapped person shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives or benefits from federal finical assistance.
“Handicapped person” means any person who:
- Has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity/activities;
- Has a record of such an impairment; or
- Is regarded as having such an impairment.
However, the term “handicapped person” does not include a student who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs. The term “handicapped person” does not exclude students who:
- Have successfully completed a supervised drug rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs, or have otherwise been rehabilitated successfully and are no longer engaging in such use;
- Are participating in a supervised drug rehabilitation program and are no longer engaging in such use;
- Are erroneously regarded as engaging in such use, but are not engaging in such use.
“Physical or mental impairment” means:
- Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems; neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respirator, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitor-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or
- Any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
“Major life activities: means:
- Functions such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
“Has a record of such impairment” means:
Has a history of, or has been misclassified as having a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits, one or more major life activities,
“Is regarded as having an impairment” means”
- Has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but that is treated by a recipient as constituting such limitation;
- Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others towards such impairment; or
- Has none of the impairments defined as a “physical or mental impairment” but is treated by a recipient as having such as impairment.
Any condition or characteristic that renders a person a handicapped person as defined above.
“Qualified handicapped person” means a handicapped person who is:
- Of an age during which non-handicapped persons are provided such services,
- Of an age during which it is mandatory under state law to provide such services to handicapped persons, or
- To whom the state of Maryland is required to provide a free appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
“Appropriate public education” means:
The provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual educational needs of handicapped persons as adequately as the needs of non-handicapped persons are met.
“Free education” means:
The provision of education and related services without cost to the handicapped person or to his or her parents or guardian, except for those fees that are imposed on non-handicapped persons or their parents or guardian.
The Child Find screening process applies to students who are or who may be “handicapped persons” under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (See charts at the end of this packet entitled “Procedures for Identifying Qualified Handicapped Students.”)
Prior to the initial placement of a student who is or is believed to be handicapped under Section 504, the student shall be evaluated to:
- Determine eligibility for services as a “handicapped person” and
- Establish the services needed by the student.
The evaluation procedures to be followed may, but need not be, all those evaluation procedures which are followed for evaluating students who are eventually identified as having a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, for student who may be handicapped under Section 504, but not also disabled under the IDEA, the evaluation procedures must ensure that:
- Assessments are written;
- Tests and other evaluation material have been validated for the specific purpose for which they are used and are administered by trained personnel in conformance with the instructions provided by their producer;
- Tests and the evaluation materials include those tailored to assess specific areas of education need and not merely those which are designed to provide a single general intelligence quotient; and
- Tests are selected and administered so as best to ensure that when a test is administered to a student with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills, the test results accurately reflect the student’s aptitude or achievement level or whatever other factor the test purports to measure, rather than reflecting the student’s impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills (except where those skills are the factors that the tests purport to measure).
With regard to a student who is determined to be a “handicapped person” under Section 504, but who is not determined to be disabled under the IDEA, the Pupil Services/504 Team shall conduct a re-evaluation of the student periodically and/or prior to any significate change in the student’s placement.
PERSONS RESPONSIBLE FOR IMPLEMENTATION
The 504 chairperson is the Coordinator of Special Programs, as the 504 Team is a function of the Pupil Services Team. It is flexible, which means different staff members may be assigned as needed to participate on the team according to student needs.
The Pupil Services/504 Team and Coordinator of Special Programs will:
- Maintain a list of students eligible for services/accommodations under Section 504;
- Facilitate implementations of specific procedures in order to refer for evaluations, develop plans, and ensure compliance and regular review of the 504 Plan;
- Receive referrals of students needing assessments;
- Write 504 Plans consisting of reasonable accommodations to the general education program;
- Plan update assessments; and
- Review cases for dismissal as needed.
The 504 Coordinator is responsible for assuring that Garrett County Public Schools complies with Section 504.
Services to students identified as handicapped students under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 will be determined by the Pupil Services/504 Team at the school. The team may be composed of the following members:
- school nurse,
- school counselor,
- school psychologist,
- classroom teacher, and
- others as needed.
Referral is initiated through the Child Find screening process. Referrals may be made to the Pupil Services/504 Team by the parent, a community professional, or any school-based personnel.
If after screening, the Pupil Services/504 Team determined that the students is a “handicapped person” under Section 504, the committee shall develop a 504 Plan to ensure that the student receives a free appropriate public education.
DISCIPLINE PROCEDURES FOR ELIGIBLE STUDENTS
If a student is determined to be a “student with a disability” under Section 504, any action taken with respect to the suspension or expulsion of that student shall conform to the “Guidelines for Suspension of 504 Students” located in the Garrett County Public Schools Student’s Rights, Responsibilities, and Discipline Handbook.
However, notwithstanding the above, for students who are handicapped solely under Section 504:
- When a student with a disability is subject to a suspension(s) totaling more than ten (10) days and/or the removal constitutes a change in placement, the 504 Team shall meet within ten (10) business days of the removal to develop an assessment plan to conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA), if one has not already been completed. As soon as possible after the completion of the assessments determined appropriate by the 504 Team, the team shall meet to develop appropriate behavioral interventions to address the behavior and implement the Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). If the student with a disability has a BIP, the 504 Team shall meet to review and make modifications to the plan or its implementation to address the behavior.
- When a student with a disability has been removed for more than ten (10) school days or a request of expulsion, the 504 Team shall meet to determine whether a student’s behavior that resulted in a disciplinary removal is a manifestation of the student’s disability.
- If the 504 Team determines that the student’s behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability, the 504 Plan may need to be revised.
- If the 504 Team determined that the student’s misconduct which prompted the disciplinary action was not a manifestation of the student’s disability, the student may be disciplined in the same manner as similarly situated students without a disability. In such a situation, all educational services to the student may cease.
- Any student engaging in the illegal use of drugs or alcohol may be disciplined in the same manner as similarly situated students without disabilities for possession or use of illegal drugs or alcohol. In this situation, the special disciplinary procedures do not apply.
- A student who is determined to be a student with a disability solely under Section 504 and bring a firearm to school shall be expelled for a minimum of one calendar year. Upon expulsion, educational services will cease.
DUE PROCESS SAFEGUARDS WHICH APPLY TO 504 HANDICAPPED STUDENTS
With respect to actions regarding the identifications, evaluation or educational placement of a student who is or may be handicapped under Section 504 but not handicapped under the individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all of the due process safeguards contained in the Special Education Administration Handbook may be provided. However, the following procedural safeguards shall be afforded:
- Notice (written or oral) of any decision regarding the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the student;
- An opportunity for the parents or guardian of the student to examine relevant educational records;
- An impartial hearing with the opportunity for participation by the student’s parents or guardian and representation by counsel; and
- An opportunity to appeal the decision ordered by the impartial hearing officer to the county Superintendent of Schools. If further review is desired, an aggrieved individual may file a complaint with the Federal Office of Civil Rights pursuant to 34 CFR Section 100.7(b).