Section 504: Nondiscrimination

NOTE: This page pertains to the civil rights of students with disabilities. For questions concerning accommodations for employees with disabilities, please contact the Office of Human Resources.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights statute that protects persons with disabilities from discrimination. It states:

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability 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.” 

Under Section 504, school districts are required to make their programs and activities (including non-academic and extracurricular programs and activities) accessible to all individuals with disabilities and to provide students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE). A FAPE includes the provision of regular or special education, related aids and services, and other accommodations designed to meet the individual educational needs of the student.

Important Documents and Forms from the Portsmouth School Department:

How are Section 504 Plans and Individualized Education Plans (IEP) different?

(Adapted from EdSource.org)

An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is an educational road map for children with disabilities. Every student in special education receives an IEP. An IEP outlines goals and benchmarks for students based on their unique abilities, which is updated regularly and is required as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IEPs are created by teams composed of teachers, parents, school administrators, other school staff such as psychologists, and sometimes students themselves. 

A “Section 504 plan” refers to Section 504 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that schools and other organizations that receive federal funding cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. In school settings, this means that students with learning disabilities, for example, may get extra time to take tests or finish homework, sit near the front of the classroom, or use textbooks in formats they can understand, such as audiobooks. The accommodations that a student receives in their Section 504 plan are determined by a team of teachers, specialists, and parents.

A Section 504 plan is designed to ensure that a student with a disability who is not eligible for special education services under the IDEA has equitable access to learning through accommodations in the general education setting. An IEP focuses on specially designed services, and often includes direct services such as speech or occupational therapy. Both are free. Some students have both an IEP and a Section 504 plan, and some students have one or the other. Section 504 plans are typically available to students with a broader range of disabilities, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) disorders. IEPs are available to students with one of 14 specific criteria.

If you have questions regarding Section 504, please contact the principal of your student’s school.