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Section 504: a tool for obtaining services for children with special health needs.

Section 504: A Tool for Obtaining Services for Children with Special Health Needs

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides that "no otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." This necessarily means that 504 has broad applicability since it applies to most schools and hospitals as well as thousands of other programs receiving federal funds. (It also applies to employers, the recipients of federal funds, whose obligations include making "reasonable accommodation" for employees or applicants with handicaps.)

All public and many private schools receive federal funds and as a condition for receipt of these funds, school districts sign assurances that they will comply with Section 504. Section 504, a law to ensure equal access and opportunities for people with disabilities, upholds the rights of students to receive the related services they need to attend school safely and successfully even if they do not qualify for special education under Public Law 94-142. Families should be aware that the definition of "handicapped" under Section 504 is broader than that used under PL 94-142. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has the authority to tell schools to take corrective actions if the school receives federal funds.

Advocates and families are making use of 504 to obtain health and related services for children in schools who have special health needs. For example, some children with asthma or diabetes might not qualify for services under PL 94-142, but could under 504. The following situation is one in which a complaint filed with the OCR led to a ruling in favor of the student.

"Jason is an elementary school student with severe asthma. His parents asked his school to give him his prescribed medication when he had an asthma attack. The school's policy, however, required Jason's parents to waive all legal liability for their son's care before the medication would be given. Even with the waiver the school stated that it had the right to refuse to give Jason the medication when he needed it.

"The Education Law Center, Inc. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, filed a complaint with the office of Civil Rights (OCR) arguing (1) that Jason and his parents should not have to give up any other right they have for Jason to receive needed medication in school, and (2) that the school must be responsible to administer the medication as needed, and without a waiver of liability signed by the parents."

Examples of complaints that have been successfully argued include the following violations:

* The school buses in a district were not accessible to a student with a visual impairment

* The exclusion of a student with juvenile diabetes because of medical problems from the library and from field trips

* Failure to provide glucose testing for hypoglycemia and insulin injections during school for a student with diabetes.
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Title Annotation:Exceptional Parent Networking; Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Author:Anderson, Betsy
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:I had a dream.
Next Article:Inclusion vs. exclusion - society is at a turning point.

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