In all public schools, including charter schools, special education services are designed to offer individualized supports and services for students with exceptional needs. Special education services can include academic, social, emotional and behavioral training, as well as mental health, counseling and support for the students and their families.
The requirements and procedures for providing special education are driven by federal and state law, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("Section 504"), as well as certain sections of California Education Code.
Because understanding the "nuts and bolts" of these legal requirements is essential to providing quality and compliant special education services in your charter school, and to the ultimate success of your school, this Guide provides a basic overview of the mandates under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Note: CCSA has developed a recoded presentation on this topic. You may find that this on-demand video (at the bottom of the page) is helpful in gaining deeper understanding of this complex subject.
About Section 504
Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and ensures that children with disabilities have equal access to education. Section 504 protects qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving federal financial assistance, including charter schools.
To be protected under Section 504, a student must:
- Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and
- Have a record of such impairment, or be regarded as having such impairment.
Similar to the IDEA, Section 504 requires schools to provide a FAPE to each qualified student with a disability, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, FAPE consists of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student's individual needs to the same extent that the needs of nondisabled students are met. A student must be placed in the same setting as students without disabilities, to the maximum extent appropriate to meet the needs of the student. This includes academic and nonacademic services, including meals, recess, and physical education.
Unlike IDEA, Section 504 does not require that these services be provided under an IEP or other formal document. However, many schools choose to provide accommodations and modifications under a written documented called a "504 Plan."
Under Section 504, an appropriate education will include:
- Accommodations, modifications, and services designed to meet the individual education needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met
- Education with nondisabled students, to the maximum extent appropriate
Learn more about Section 504 in this downloadable handout.
CCSA has developed a recoded presentation on this topic. You may find that this on-demand video is helpful in gaining deeper understanding of this complex subject.