Discrimination Under Section 504

Last Updated: 6/3/2020 1:21 AM

Discrimination under Section 504 occurs when a recipient of federal funds:

1. Denies a disabled person the opportunity to participate in or benefit from an aid, benefit or service which is afforded nondisabled students (e.g., district practice of refusing to allow any student on an IEP the opportunity to be on the honor roll; denial of credit to a student whose absenteeism is related to his/her disability; expelling a student for behavior related to his/her disability; refusing to dispense medication to a student who could not attend school otherwise).

2. Fails to afford the disabled person an opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit or service that is equal to that afforded others (e.g., applying a policy that conditions interscholastic sports eligibility on the student’s receiving passing grades in five subjects without regard to the student’s disability).

3. Fails to provide aids, benefits or services to the disabled person that are as effective as those provided to nondisabled persons (e.g., placing a student with a hearing impairment in the front row as opposed to providing her with an interpreter). [Note: “Equally effective” means equivalent as opposed to identical. Moreover, to be equally effective, an aid, benefit or service need not produce equal results; it must merely afford an equal opportunity to achieve equal results.]

4. Provide different or separate aids, benefits or services unless such action is necessary to be as effective as the aids, benefits or services provided to nondisabled students (e.g., segregating students in separate classes, schools or facilities, unless necessary).

5. Aids or perpetuates discrimination by providing significant assistance to an agency, organization or person that discriminates on the basis of disability (e.g., sponsoring a student organization that excludes persons with disabilities).

6. Denies a person with disabilities the opportunity to participate as a member of a planning or advisory board strictly because of his/her disability.

7. Otherwise limits the enjoyment of any right, privilege, advantage or opportunity enjoyed by others (e.g., prohibiting a person with a physical disability from using a service dog at school).

8. In determining the site or location of a facility, makes selections which effectively exclude persons with disabilities, denies them the benefits of, or otherwise subjects them to discrimination. [Note: In Hendricks v. Gilhool, EHLR 441:352 (1989), the Pennsylvania Department of Education was found to have violated this section and the EHA by allowing students with disabilities to be located in inferior facilities, such as trailers, wings in basements and unnecessarily restrictive classrooms due to a lack of classroom space.]