The original intent of the law was to protect individuals with disabilities in the area of employment, as well as members of minorities. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), charged with the enforcement of Section 504, has become proactive in the area of education.  The focus is to ensure that the educational system provides the full range of reasonable accommodations necessary for students to participate in and benefit from public education programs and activities.

Section 504 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities as defined under the Section, including both students and staff. This applies to any entity who receives federal financial assistance.  The regulations require identification, evaluations, provision of reasonable accommodations, and procedural safeguards to students enrolled in Mullica Township Public Schools.

How is a disability defined under Section 504?  The definition of disability is a person who has a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  Examples include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.  It also defines a person of having a disability as anyone who has a record of such impairment or is regarded as having such impairment.

How is the determination for eligibility made?  An evaluation is conducted to gather information on how the disability is substantially impacting on a major life function. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but it must come from various sources including, but not limited to the school nurse, classroom teacher(s), guidance counselors, and outside persons with relevant information.  Evaluation procedures may include review of records, assessment information, interviews with persons knowledgeable about the child’s functioning, observations, individualized assessments.  Periodic reevaluation is required by Section 504. Reevaluation of the 504 Plan is recommended once per school year or upon significant change in school placement or program.

Who do I contact if I suspect my child is eligible for accommodations under Section 504?  The guidance counselor at either the primary or middle school level.