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Special Education » Section 504

Section 504

Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Section 504 provides: "No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . . ."


The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) is a one-sentence civil rights law that prohibits agencies that receive federal funding from discriminating against persons with disabilities on the basis of that disability. Several federal Department of Education regulations specifically tell schools how to implement Section 504 requirements.

The main emphasis in the schools is equal educational opportunity, which is mainly accomplished by providing appropriate classroom accommodations to eligible students with disabilities that are not severe enough to qualify for special education, but which are substantially limiting their learning or other major life activities. Eligible students are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in school extracurricular and non-academic activities.

What warrants a REFERRAL to Special Education:

Referrals are handled through the child’s home campus. There are a number of people there who can start the process. Classroom teachers, speech and language pathologists, administrators and counselors are all acquainted with the process of getting special help for a child who is having problems. At any time, a parent or legal guardian, may ask a school staff member to help determine what kind of help a child needs. It is best to make this request in writing and keep a copy. The referral may even start with the child’s physician. If a parent has any questions or concerns about this process, they should contact the Special Education Department at (210) 431-9881, ext. 2122.

A child may not always need special education even if he or she is having problems. Sometimes other teachers or specialists can give ideas which are enough to help the child learn in a way which works for him or her. If these ideas fit under “good teaching practices,” special education services are not necessary. If special education services are needed, an evaluation can be requested. S.E.E. has a process at both the elementary and secondary levels to determine a student’s needs: the Campus-based Student Support Team (CSST). The CSST process is a coordinated effort to help the school staff meet children's special needs and provide support to their classroom teachers as they guide each child's learning. The CSSTprocess is a system for defining a student's problems and special needs, and for suggesting strategies, which will help that student learn. The process has four levels of problem-solving and decision-making.

At Level I, the student's classroom teacher gathers information to define the child's problem by considering his or her academic, physical, social and behavioral development, communication skills, as well as his or her life experiences.

At Level II, the classroom teacher meets with his or her Grade Level Team to describe the student's area(s) of difficulty and try to better define the student's problem. The teacher explains what has been tried, and together with the Grade Level Team, recommend new strategies based on their understanding of the student's needs and the support needed by the teacher.

At Level III, if the child still continues to have problems, he or she will be referred to the Campus-based Student Support Team.  The Campus CSST Coordinator is the teacher's contact person on the student's campus. The teacher explains the student's problem(s) to the campus' CSST Coordinator and requests a CSST meeting.

Finally, at Level IV, the CSST has a follow-up meeting to decide if a referral to a specialist or program in or out of the district is necessary, and then makes recommendations based on that knowledge. The CSST has the responsibility to follow-up in order to track the progress of the referral and of the child and to provide continuous support for the teacher.


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 assures that all students with disabilities must receive opportunities that are comparable to those provided to students without disabilities. This includes academic and non-academic school programs. However, only those students who qualify under IDEA will receive special education services.

Both IDEA and 504 set up guidelines to determine what disabilities qualify under each law. Not everyone who qualifies as 504 will also qualify for IDEA. Students who qualify for 504, but not IDEA, can still have an educational plan and accommodations. There is a non-special education person, often the vice-principal, on each campus assigned to ensure these accommodations are honored.

Both IDEA and 504 Include:

FAPE (Free, Appropriate, Public Education)


LRE (Least Restrictive Environment: Students have the right to be with nondisabled peers in neighborhood school as much as possible.)


Evaluation and Reevaluation


Procedural Safeguards (Parents must be informed before the school initiates or changes a student's identification, evaluation or placement.)


An Educational Plan (The law requires an Individualized Education Program, IEP, for IDEA and an Individual Accommodation for 504 Plan (IAP)

Main Differences between IDEA and 504:

  • 504 guarantees students with disabilities the same services as their nondisabled peers, if they are otherwise eligible to have those services, while IDEA also allows for special education and related services that might help the student benefit from his educational program (i.e. Speech, Physical Therapy, etc.).
  • 504 covers all ages, while IDEA covers ages 3-21 with some early interventions for certain sensory impaired children ages 0-3 with disabilities.
  • All students who qualify for IDEA qualify for 504, while not all students who qualify for 504 can qualify for IDEA.
  • Parental notification must be in writing and a parent's written consent is needed before evaluation or placement for IDEA. For 504 parental consent is not required.
  • No federal money is given for the 504 eligible student while some funding money is given for IDEA.
  • 504 is not an educational program but an anti-discrimination act while IDEA is and education program

Who Qualifies for IDEA?

A student who has been diagnosed with:

  • Auditory Impairment
  • Autism
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Learning Disability
  • Intellectual Disability 
  • Orthopedic Impairment
  • Other Health Impairment
  • Speech or Language Impairment
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Visual Impairment

Who Qualifies for 504?

A student who has a major life impairment such as:

  • breathing
  • caring for oneself
  • hearing
  • learning
  • performing manual tasks
  • seeing
  • speaking
  • walking
  • working


Q & A Concerning Section 504

What is the Section 504 process?

The 504 process includes: child-find, identification, evaluation, committee decision-making, individualized service plan, and periodic reviews.

Schools are required to:

  • Implement the Student Support Team process to determine student need;
  • Provide provisions for eligible students (evaluating, considering them for eligibility in the Section 504 committee process, developing individualized accommodation plans, implementing the plans, and providing periodic reviews);
  • Non-discrimination in non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities; and
  • Comply with Section 504 procedural requirements (notices, access to relevant records, opportunity for impartial due process hearings, and a review process).

Can a student be disabled but not qualify under Section 504?

Yes, since some disabled students may not be substantially limited in learning or another major life activity by their disability. If a student with disabilities is able to function adequately in the school setting, they may not be substantially limited, and thus, not eligible under Section 504.

Who is disabled under Section 504?

Any student with (1) a physical or mental impairment (2) that substantially limits learning or another major life activity (breathing, seeing, hearing, walking, working, performing manual tasks, etc.).

What is IDEA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 20 U.S.C. §1400), is the federal special education statute. It applies only to about 14% of the student population, since it focuses on students with more severe disabilities and needs. IDEA has stricter and more specific requirements than Section 504, which offers more general non-discrimination protections.

Why is there a need for two statutes addressing educational rights of students with disabilities?

IDEA is the funding statute that helps provide resources for the education of the more seriously disabled students. It focuses its resources fairly specifically to a subset of disabled persons. Section 504, however, is a broader, unfunded, non-discrimination civil rights law emphasizing equal opportunity in any program receiving federal funding.

Why does Section 504 address non-educational issues such as nonacademic services and extracurricular activities?

Because of the non-discrimination nature of this law, this focuses on equality of opportunity. Congress wanted to ensure that students have an equal opportunity to participate in all school programs, not just the educational ones.

In compliance with Section 504 or Title II as required (34 C.F.R. SBOE 104.8(a) or 28 C.F.R. SBOE 35.107 (a), if you have any difficulty accessing any of our facilities please contact Dr. Herman King, Section 504 Coordinator at 431-9881 ext 2130 for questions and information.

Maintenance of Records


The School of Excellence in Education is in compliance with Federal Regulation Section CFS 300.573 regarding the destruction of Special Education records.

Texas law requires that public districts maintain the special education records of students with disabilities for seven years after special education services cease. Special education records for students whose services ceased between 6/1/00 and 5/31/01, will be destroyed August 31, 2008.

Parents and students should retain copies of their special education records needed to qualify for benefits through state or federal agencies. If you wish to review or acquire a copy, contact Harold Falcon, Special Education Director at (210) 431-9881 ext. 3722. You must present appropriate identification before receiving copy.

Schools will continue to maintain a transcript for each student.

For more information, contact: Special Education Department

(210) 431-9881, ext. 2122 Fax # (210) 253-2197.




The School of Excellence in Education se conformará con las regulaciones Federales Sección 34 CFS 300.573 considerando la destrucción de expedientes de la educación especial.

La ley de Tejas requiere que los districtos públicos mantengan los expedientes de la educación especial de estudiantes con las incapacidades para siete años después de que los servicios de la educación especial cesan. Expedientes de la educación especial para los estudiantes que servicios cesados entre junio 1, 2000 y el 31 de mayo 2001 serán destruidos en agosto 2008.

Los padres y los estudiantes deben conservar copias de su expediente de educación especial necesario para calificar para las ventajas a través del estado o agencias federales. Si usted desea repasar o adquirir una copia, avise la oficina de Educación Especial en (210) 431-9881 ext. 2109. Usted debe presentar la identificación apropiada antes de recibir la copia.

Las escuelas continuarán manteniendo una transcripción para cada estudiante.

Para más información, contacto: Directo