• What is Section 504?


    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a civil rights act prohibiting discrimination based on disability.  It was enacted to eliminate barriers that exclude persons with disabilities.  In the Neptune City School District, all staff and administrators have the responsibility of ensuring that all students with disabilities are identified, evaluated and provided with needed accommodations and services, resulting in free appropriate public education (FAPE).


    Section 504 is not a special education statute, although it addresses the provision of education for qualified individuals with disabilities.  Public school districts are required to provide free, appropriate public education for all qualified students with disabilities.  This must include an education designed to provide educational benefits despite the child’s disability.


    Courts have interpreted “educational benefit” to mean progress through the curriculum. The necessary services and accommodations are part of the student’s public education and are therefore provided at no cost to the parents.

    Definition of A Disability

    Section 504 defines “disability” as a physical or mental condition which substantially limits or impairs a major life activity such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, focusing, concentrating, or learning (this is not an exhaustive list).  Section 504 does not specifically list or define all the possible qualifying disabilities like IDEA does.


    Physical or Mental Impairments

    Under Section 504, the term "physical or mental impairments" means (a) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin and endocrine.


    The definition of a disabled person specifies that only physical and mental disabilities are included.  Thus, environmental, cultural, and economic disadvantages are not themselves covered.  Examples of environmental, cultural or economic factors include divorce, transiency, death of a family member, military deployments, lack of motivation, homelessness, poverty, attendance problems, and ELL (learning English as a second language) status.


    Substantial Limitation

    A substantial limitation is a restriction as to the condition, manner, or duration under which an individual can perform a major life activity as compared to an average person in the general population.  It would be an error to measure substantial limitation in reference to the child’s potential and/or the student’s immediate classmates.  Instead, the reference should be to the performance of children at the same age or grade in the general population.


    Temporary and non-chronic impairments of short duration with little or no residual effects are not typically substantially limiting.  Conditions such as the common cold, seasonal influenza, a sprained joint, minor and non-chronic gastrointestinal disorder, and broken bones that are expected to heal completely are examples of conditions that are not impairments under Section 504.


    Major Life Activities

    According to the ADA Amendments Act 2008, major life activities under Section 504 include, but are not limited to:

    • Caring for oneself

    • Bending

    • Performing manual tasks

    • Speaking

    • Seeing

    • Breathing

    • Hearing

    • Learning

    • Eating

    • Reading

    • Sleeping

    • Concentrating 

    • Walking 

    • Thinking

    • Standing

    • Communicating 

    • Lifting

    • Working

    Mitigating Measures

    Districts must make Section 504 eligibility determinations based upon the student’s disability, as it would present itself without mitigating measures. A mitigating measure is something a student can use without any assistance from the school (i.e. – eyeglasses). Determining that a student is not Section 504-eligible because of the corrective effects of mitigating measures is prohibited, except for the use of corrective lenses or ordinary contact lenses.  Mitigating measures include:

    • Medication 

    • Medical supplies, equipment, or appliances

    • Low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses)

    • Prosthetics, including limbs and devices

    • Hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices 

    • Mobility devices 

    • Oxygen therapy equipment and supplies 

    • The use of assistive technology

    • Reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services 

    • Learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications 

    In other words, impairment may be a disability within the meaning of Section 504 even if there is no current substantial limitation on a major life activity because of the use of mitigating measures.


    When Is A Section 504 Plan Not Appropriate

    Below are some examples of instances in which a Section 504 plan would not be appropriate:

    • A student has a disability, but is functioning well and making academic progress without accommodations. This might include a student whose parents feel could be making A’s rather than C’s; or a student who only experiences difficulty in one subject area and the team determines the difficulty is not a function of the disability.

    • When a plan is created solely to support a request for extended time on standardized tests such as NJSLA.

    • An individual does not fall within the definition as someone regarded as having a disability if the physical or mental impairment is transitory (that is, having an actual or expected duration of six months or less) and minor.  For example, if a person has a broken leg but is expected to fully recover within six weeks, and the injury is considered minor, that person is not regarded as a person with a disability even if others treat the person as if he or she has a disability.

    • When a student is eligible for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) but the parents prefer Section 504 services. Students in the Neptune City School District who meet the eligibility criteria for special education under IDEA will be offered an IEP and not a Section 504 Accommodation Plan.