Section 504 & Students with Disabilities
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, commonly called "Section 504," is a federal law that protects students from discrimination based on disability. This law applies to all programs and activities that receive funding from the federal government-including Washington public schools.
This information sheet outlines the Section 504 process and students' right to be free from discrimination based on disability.
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Equal Opportunities & Benefits
Federal and state law protect students from disability discrimination in public schools. These laws make sure that students with disabilities have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to students without disabilities. To be protected by these laws, a student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Under Section 504, students with disabilities can access the accommodations, aids, and services they need to access and benefit from education. Section 504 requires that public schools provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to every student with a disability - regardless of the nature or severity of the disability.
Bullying & Harassment Based on Disability
Washington public schools have a responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, including students with a disability. Bullying and harassment based on disability or perceived disability could be a form of discrimination (often called "discriminatory harassment) prohibited under federal and state laws. This could include actions such as name calling, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically, harming someone's property, and excluding someone from a group on purpose. Schools must take steps to protect students and investigate possible discriminatory harassment, as soon as they know or reasonably should know about it, even if a parent or student does not file a formal complaint.
- Information for Families: Discriminatory and Sexual Harassment
- Dear Colleague Letter: Responding to Bullying of Students with Disabilities (2014) | Fact Sheet (U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights [OCR])
Section 504 Notice of Parent Rights
School districts must provide parents a copy of their rights and procedural safeguards before evaluating students for Section 504 eligibility.
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Resources & Support
- Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 (OCR)
- Know Your Rights: Section 504 and ADHD (OCR)
- Special Dietary Needs Accommodations in Child Nutrition Services: English | Spanish (OSPI Child Nutrition Services)
- Support for Students with Disabilities (Washington State Governor's Office of the Education Ombuds ([OEO])
Questions, Concerns, Complaints
The Section 504 coordinator in each district makes sure students with disabilities receive the accommodations they need and respond to allegations of discrimination based on disability.
A discussion with your school principal, or Section 504 coordinator at the school district, is often the best step to address your concerns or disagreements about Section 504 and work toward a solution. Share what happened and let the principal or coordinator know what they can do to help resolve the problem.
If you cannot resolve the concern or disagreement this way, you can file a complaint.