The Purpose of Section 504
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. With respect to public schools, Section 504 requires administrators, teachers, school psychologists, and other school personnel to identify students with disabilities and afford these students educational opportunities equal to those received by students without disabilities. This means that students with disabilities should be allowed to participate in the same academic and nonacademic activities as their nondisabled peers (Smith & Patton, 1998).
Section 504 extends these protections only in programs or services that receive federal financial assistance. The Department of Justice defines a program receiving federal financial assistance as a program that receives “any grants, loans, contracts or any other arrangement by which the [school] provides or otherwise makes available assistance in the form of (a) funds, (b) services of federal personnel, or (c) real and personal property or any interest in or use of such property” (Section 504 Regulations, 28 C.F.R. § 41.3(e)).
In addition to elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools that receive direct federal financial assistance, schools or programs that receive indirect federal financial aid (e.g., colleges where students receive federal education grants) are also covered under the statute. Section 504 does not apply to schools that receive no direct or indirect federal financial assistance.
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