Section 504 and Students with a Medical or Health Conditions

Section 504 requires school districts to conduct an evaluation of any student who, because of a disability, “needs or is believed to need special education or related services” (34 CFR §104.35(a). A student's physical or mental impairment does not have to substantially limit the major life activity of learning for the student to be considered disabled under Section 504. Thus, students with physical impairments, such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, or epilepsy, may be Section 504 eligible if their impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities or major bodily functions, even if the impairment does not limit learning.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) does not allow the consideration of mitigating measures when determining whether a student has a disability; therefore students with medical conditions who were not previously considered under Section 504 to be disabled because they received health services through an individual health care plan (IHCP) may now be considered disabled for purposes of ensuring for protections and the provision of any services that may be necessary under Section 504. Because the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has determined that IHCPs are mitigating measures, the provision and implementation of an IHCP may not fully satisfy all of the requirements of Section 504. Districts that only implement IHCPs for students with qualifying disabilities are in danger of violating Section 504’s procedural safeguards, especially if students with IHCPs are categorically excluded from consideration for a Section 504 disability determination or services. The determination of whether students with IHCPs are disabled and, therefore protected from discrimination under Section 504, or for a Section 504 plan over and above the IHCP, should be made on an individual case-by-case basis.

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MYTH: A student whose health care needs are addressed by an IHCP is not eligible for protections or services under Section 504.

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