Enforcing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973Discrimination, based on race, ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, color, creed, and disability, is illegal in the United States, and all people affected by unlawful discrimination, including individuals with disabilities, have rights. Key federal statutes govern people with disabilities, their employment, their education, the discrimination they might face, and more; the federal disability laws include the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act (HCPA) of 1986, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The first significant federal law to protect individuals with disabilities is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires that federally-funded programs, activities, opportunities, and jobs are accessible to individuals with disabilities.  School districts typically receive certain federal funding, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act specifically covers education and exists to provide protection for the rights of students with disabilities.

The United States Department of Education has in place administrative procedures that enforce Section 504; however, federal courts enforce Section 504 as well.  Private individuals also may sue school districts to ensure that Section 504 is enforced. When enforcement of Section 504 goes through the courts, the courts generally consider how reasonable and how necessary an individual disabled student’s accommodations and services are and whether said accommodations and services are available.

Moreover, enforcement of Section 504 requires that public school districts have procedures on how to identify, evaluate, and place students with disabilities and, if need be, how to adjust disabled students’ accommodations, modifications, or services. It also requires that public school districts have procedures for parents or legal guardians of disabled students. These procedures include notifying parents, allowing parents to review their child’s case, arranging unbiased hearings with parents present, allowing students with disabilities and their parents to have legal representation during all procedures and processes, and allowing parents to familiarize themselves with the procedures and processes.

If you or your child is facing disability-based discrimination or if you believe you or your child is experiencing disability-based discrimination, remember: You and your child have rights and legal remedies.  For more information, contact Nashville Disability and Education Attorney Perry A. Craft.