Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights act that protects the rights of individuals with handicaps. Public schools must provide accommodations and services for students with special needs. Students in preschool, elementary, secondary and adult programs may receive accommodations or services. The Act defines a person with a handicap as anyone who:
- Has a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working;
- Has a record of such an impairment or;
- Is regarded as having such impairment.
For a physical or mental impairment to substantially limit a major life activity, the impairment should limit that activity to an ample or considerable degree. It should be more than a minor limitation. Generally, the substantial limitation might be expected to last more than three months in length. The substantial limitation should be in comparison to most students in the general population of that particular age. Conditions that are episodic or in remission still might qualify, as long as they substantially limit a major life activity when active. An impairment will be viewed as substantially limiting when the student is:
Unable to perform a major life activity that most people in the general population can perform or;
Substantially restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which an individual can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the condition, manner or duration under which most people in the general population can perform that same major life activity.
Section 504 plans outline accommodations that are necessary to “level the playing” field for a student with a mental or physical impairment. The classroom teachers are responsible for implementing these accommodations in their classrooms. School districts must make reasonable accommodations to allow students an opportunity to successfully participate in school and school-related activities. It is not the intent of Section 504 to provide program(s) that are fundamentally different from existing opportunities.
In order to fulfill its obligation under Section 504, the North Hampton School recognizes a responsibility to avoid discrimination in policies and practices regarding its personnel and students. No discrimination against any person with a handicap will knowingly be permitted in any of the programs and practices in the school system. The school district has specific responsibilities under the Act which include the responsibility to identify, evaluate, and if the child is determined to be eligible under Section 504, to afford access to appropriate educational services.