Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973/Public law 93-112 is a comprehensive law that addresses the rights of handicapped students in each school, eliminating barriers to educational programs.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits disability discrimination in programs and activities that receive Federal funds. The law requires all public and charter Schools to provide Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to qualified individuals. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) oversees the compliance for Section 504. The law ensures that students with a disability have educational opportunities and benefits equal to those provided to non-disabled students. Section 504 regulations require school districts to provide appropriate education to students with disabilities under Section 504.
Eligibility for Section 504 begins at the school level. Each school has a individual designated to coordinate Section 504.
For more information or questions regarding eligibility and services please contact the 504 Chair at your local school or view the resources below to determine who that person is.
Section 504 / Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program
The Georgia Special Needs Scholarship (GSNS) Program (also known as Senate Bill 10 on the District’s School Choice website) is a school choice program available for special needs students attending Georgia public schools who are served under an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 Plan.
As a parent of a 504-eligible student in the Fulton County School District, this notification serves to inform you about your options to exercise public and private school choice. Under a state law passed by the Georgia State Legislature in 2007 (SB10) and a revision passed in 2021 (SB47), parents of students who receive special education and students who receive services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 may choose, if eligibility criteria are met, to transfer their child to another public school within their district of residence, another public school outside their district of residence, one of the state schools for deaf or blind operated by the state board of education, or a private school authorized to participate in the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship (GSNS).
Private School Choice Option
If you are interested in transferring your child to a private school in Georgia, you may be able to take advantage of a Georgia Special Needs Scholarship. These scholarships provide funding that can be used to offset tuition costs at participating private schools in the state of Georgia. Eligibility will be determined by using the scholarship calculator on the GSNS website.
For 504-eligible students to qualify for the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program, the student must meet all requirements. For more information on the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship and the parent application process, please visit the Georgia Department of Education's website.
Public School Choice / Intra-School Transfer Options
A parent can request a transfer to another public school within their school system as long as there is available space at that school and the school has a program with the services agreed to in the student's existing Section 504 Plan. In addition, the specific program within the school must also have available space. If a parent chooses this option, then the parent shall be responsible for transportation. To apply for this option, a parent must complete and submit the online SB-47 In-System Transfer Request.
All requests must be submitted electronically using the button below. The transfer application must be received by the Fulton County School District no later than May 1, 2023. All transfer decisions will be communicated by June 30, 2023.
The application window is now open.
Terri L. Chow-Baker
Title I /Federal Programs Professional Assistant III
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a 504?
Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving Federal financial assistance.
To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to:
(1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
(2) have a record of such an impairment; or
(3) be regarded as having such an impairment.
Section 504 requires that school districts provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to qualified students in their jurisdictions who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
What is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity?
The determination of whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity must be made on the basis of an individual inquiry.
The Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(i) defines a physical or mental impairment as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
The regulatory provision does not set forth an exhaustive list of specific diseases and conditions that may constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of such a list.
Major life activities, as defined in the Section 504 regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.3(j)(2)(ii), include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. This list is not exhaustive. Other functions can be major life activities for purposes of Section 504.
In the Amendments Act , Congress provided additional examples of general activities that are major life activities, including eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Congress also provided a non-exhaustive list of examples of “major bodily functions” that are major life activities, such as the functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. The Section 504 regulatory provision, though not as comprehensive as the Amendments Act, is still valid – the Section 504 regulatory provision’s list of examples of major life activities is not exclusive, and an activity or function not specifically listed in the Section 504 regulatory provision can nonetheless be a major life activity.
Once a student is identified as eligible for services under Section 504, is that student always entitled to such services?
Yes, as long as the student remains eligible. The protections of Section 504 extend only to individuals who meet the regulatory definition of a person with a disability. If a recipient school district re-evaluates a student in accordance with the Section 504 regulatory provision at 34 C.F.R. 104.35 and determines that the student's mental or physical impairment no longer substantially limits his/her ability to learn or any other major life activity, the student is no longer eligible for services under Section 504.
Must a school district develop a Section 504 plan for a student who either "has a record of disability" or is "regarded as disabled?
No. In public elementary and secondary schools, unless a student actually has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, the mere fact that a student has a "record of" or is "regarded as" disabled is insufficient, in itself, to trigger those Section 504 protections that require the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
This is consistent with the Amendments Act (see FAQ 1), in which Congress clarified that an individual who meets the definition of disability solely by virtue of being “regarded as” disabled is not entitled to reasonable accommodations or the reasonable modification of policies, practices or procedures. The phrases "has a record of disability" and "is regarded as disabled" are meant to reach the situation in which a student either does not currently have or never had a disability, but is treated by others as such.
Congress clarified that an individual is not “regarded as” an individual with a disability if the impairment is transitory and minor. A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.
What is the receiving school district's responsibility under Section 504 toward a student with a Section 504 plan who transfers from another district?
If a student with a disability transfers to our district from another school district with a Section 504 plan, we will review the plan and supporting documentation. If a group of persons at the receiving school district, including persons knowledgeable about the meaning of the evaluation data and knowledgeable about the placement options determines that the plan is appropriate, the district is required to implement the plan. If the district determines that the plan is inappropriate, the district is to evaluate the student consistent with the Section 504 procedures at 34 C.F.R. 104.35 and determine which educational program is appropriate for the student.
Can a medical diagnosis suffice as an evaluation for the purpose of providing FAPE?
No. A physician's medical diagnosis may be considered among other sources in evaluating a student with an impairment or believed to have an impairment which substantially limits a major life activity. Other sources to be considered, along with the medical diagnosis, include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, physical condition, social and cultural background, and adaptive behavior. The Section 504 regulations require school districts to draw upon a variety of sources in interpreting evaluation data and making placement decisions.
Are there any impairments which automatically mean that a student has a disability under Section 504?
No. An impairment in and of itself is not a disability. The impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities in order to be considered a disability under Section 504.
Does a medical diagnosis of an illness automatically mean a student can receive services under Section 504?
No. A medical diagnosis of an illness does not automatically mean a student can receive services under Section 504. The illness must cause a substantial limitation on the student's ability to learn or another major life activity. For example, a student who has a physical or mental impairment would not be considered a student in need of services under Section 504 if the impairment does not in any way limit the student's ability to learn or other major life activity, or only results in some minor limitation in that regard.
May school districts consider "mitigating measures" used by a student in determining whether the student has a disability under Section 504?
No. As of January 1, 2009, school districts, in determining whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits that student in a major life activity, must not consider the ameliorating effects of any mitigating measures that student is using.
Congress did not define the term “mitigating measures” but rather provided a non-exhaustive list of “mitigating measures.” The mitigating measures are as follows: medication; medical supplies, equipment or appliances; low-vision devices (which do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses); prosthetics (including limbs and devices); hearing aids and cochlear implants or other implantable hearing devices; mobility devices; oxygen therapy equipment and supplies; use of assistive technology; reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services; and learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.
Congress created one exception to the mitigating measures analysis. The ameliorative effects of the mitigating measures of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining if an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. “Ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” are lenses that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or eliminate refractive error, whereas “low-vision devices” (listed above) are devices that magnify, enhance, or otherwise augment a visual image.
Does the nature of services to which a student is entitled under Section 504 differ by educational level?
Yes. Public elementary and secondary recipients are required to provide a free appropriate public education to qualified students with disabilities.
At the postsecondary level, the recipient is required to provide students with appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in a school's program.
Recipients are not required to make adjustments or provide aids or services that would result in a fundamental alteration of a recipient's program or impose an undue burden.