What Are the Foundational Rights of All Children Within a Public Classroom?
Section 504 is a civil rights law that was first important in public school settings for those students needing physical access. Increased physical access (e.g., ramps, elevators, larger bathroom stalls) was undertaken in the 1970s, although work continues today (e.g., installing automatic doors). A more recent impact of Section 504 has been on obtaining access to the content of instructional programs. This focus of Section 504 became nationally recognized with the need for services for individuals with ADHD.
Schools, colleges and universities, and other educational institutions receiving federal funds must ensure equal educational opportunities for all students. This includes activities that are related to instruction and to educational and social opportunities, such as field trips, recess, or evaluation procedures. Thus, not allowing a student with ADHD (or with emotional and behavioral disorders) to go on a field trip because he runs in the hall is an instance of punishing the child for his disability. That is, the school cannot exclude children from educational or social opportunities as a way to punish them for behavior that is a manifestation of their disability any more than the judicial system can unreasonably punish someone who is legally insane, mentally deficient, or a juvenile. This is called manifest determination, that is, determining whether a behavior was a manifestation of a student’s disability. Manifest determination has been revised (H.R. 1350) to determine whether the conduct was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability or whether the conduct was the direct result of the local educational agency’s failure to implement the IEP.
Manifest determination is based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-112). Section 504 provides the following:
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of his disability, be excluded from the participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal assistance. (29 U.S.C 794[a] CFR PART 104)
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