You may have heard of two different federal laws pertaining to the services schools provide for students with special needs — the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 (the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). Here are some details about each of them to help you determine whether or not your child might be eligible for services under one of them.
The 504 Process
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (34 C.F.R. Part 104) is a federal civil rights statute that assures individuals will not be discriminated against based on their disability. All school districts that receive federal funding are responsible for the implementation of this law.
Section 504 protects a student with an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, whether the student receives special education services or not.
Examples of physical or mental impairments that may be covered under Section 504 include: epilepsy, AIDS, allergies, vision impairment, broken limbs, cancer, diabetes, asthma, temporary condition due to accidents or illness, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, depression, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Examples of major life activities that can be affected by the student’s disability include: learning, thinking, concentrating, reading, speaking, walking, breathing, sleeping, caring for oneself, as well as major bodily functions, including brain function, immune system function, or digestive functions. This is not an exhaustive list.
In Hopkins, our school counselors and social workers manage 504 plans within our school buildings. If you have questions about referring your child for a 504 plan or questions about your students current 504 plan, please contact the 504 coordinator at your school (either the school counselor or social worker).
Section 504 (The Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination by agencies that receive federal funding. Schools comply with this law by ensuring that they are not discriminating against any disabled students and, if they are, by creating and enacting a written accommodation plan (often called a "504") to help the student gain equal access to education.
Students are eligible for protection under Section 504 if they have or are regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits their access to a major life activity, such as:
Parents or teachers who feel that a disabled student may qualify for protection under Section 504 should make a referral for consideration to the school's 504 Coordinator. This person will then gather information and pass it along for review to a team of people in the building who will make a judgment as to the student's eligibility for services under Section 504.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
IDEA is an education act that provides federal funding for special education. The purpose is to provide financial aid to states in their efforts to ensure a free appropriate education for students with disabilities.
A student is eligible to receive special education and/or related services if the multidisciplinary team determines that the student has a disability under one of 13 qualifying conditions and requires special education services. IDEA requires the district to provide an individual education program (IEP). The IEP provides an "Appropriate Education," which means a program designed to provide "Educational Benefit." The 13 classification categories are:
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH)
Developmental Cognitive Disability: Mild to Moderate (DCD-MM) or Moderate-Severe (DCD-MS)
Hopkins is one of few school districts in Minnesota that provides a counselor at every building, kindergarten through grade 12. While the services provided by the counselors at each school differ by grade level and need, the aim of the counselors is fundamentally the same: to provide each student in Hopkins the support needed — whether that be academic, personal/social, or post-secondary planning — to succeed in school and in the world beyond Hopkins.
The importance of a stable quality education in the life of a homeless child is very valuable. Hopkins Public Schools ensures the provision of educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
Who is considered homeless?
A homeless individual is someone who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This includes anyone who, due to lack of housing:
Lives in emergency or transitional shelters.
Lives in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or campgrounds due to lack of adequate alternative accommodations.
Is awaiting foster care placement.
Lives in a public or private place not designed for human habitation.
Lives in cars, parks, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train station, etc.
Is doubled up with relatives or friends.
What rights do homeless children and youth have?
To go to school, no matter where the child lives or how long the child has lived there.
To continue in the school they attended before becoming homeless (school of origin) or enroll in the local school where they are temporarily housed.
To receive transportation to and from the school of origin, if feasible and in the best interest of the child.
To enroll in school immediately.
To enroll and attend classes while the school arranges for the transfer of school records, immunization records, or any other documents required for enrollment.
To participate fully in school activities.
To receive the same special programs and services such as preschool, free school meals, ELL, special education, Title I, gifted and talented services, and before- and after-school programs, if needed, as provided to all other children served in these programs.
In our early childhood through high school settings, each building has a Student Assessment team, also known as SAT. The purpose of the SAT team is to support students, educators, and families with pre-special education referral intervention strategies. If a student is struggling with academics, social, or behavioral concerns, a teacher or caregiver can bring a student to the SAT team. The SAT team may include a social worker, general education teacher and/or administrator, or a school psychologist.
SAT Team membership is based on individual building and team needs. The SAT team will meet with the teacher and/or caregiver to discuss pre-referral intervention strategies and discuss how strategies will be implemented and how data will be collected.
After a student moves through 6 weeks of pre-referral interventions, the SAT team will reconvene to determine if a referral for special education evaluation or other supports such as Mental Health is needed.