The relationship between IDEA and Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is another law which assures certain protections to certain students with disabilities. §504 states that:

"No otherwise. . . .". 29 U.S.C. 794(a).

Recipients of this Federal financial assistance include public school districts, institutions of higher education, and other state and local education agencies. The regulations implementing Section 504 in the context of educational institutions appear at 34 C.F.R. Part 104 D. §504 applies to all programs or activities, including schools, that receive federal financial assistance. See 29 U.S.C. 794(b)(2)(B) (defining "program or activity" to include the operations of "local educational agencies").

Eligibility under §504 is different than under IDEA. While IDEA recognizes thirteen categories of disability, §504 defines individuals with disabilities to include any individual with a physical or mental condition which substantially limits at least one major life activity. 29 U.S.C. 705(20). It also includes persons with a history of such a disability and those who are perceived to have a disability. Most, if not all, children eligible under IDEA are also entitled to §504's protections. Regulations promulgated by the Department of Education offer additional guidance regarding the statute's prohibitions in the context of this case. See 34 C.F.R. 104 et seq.

Like IDEA, §504's regulations include "child find" provisions. Thus, public school districts have an affirmative duty to identify and evaluate every qualified handicapped child residing in the recipient's jurisdiction who is not receiving a public education and take appropriate steps to notify handicapped persons and their parents or guardians of the recipient's duties under §504. 34 C.F.R. 104.32.

The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, FAPE consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student's individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.