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. This law 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.
The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) administers Section 504. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has no enforcement authority for this law. In addition to complaints of discrimination based on disability, you may file complaints with OCR regarding discrimination based on race, sex, age, or national origin in education institutions. You must file a complaint within 180 days of the date the discrimination occurred. Although it is not necessary to file a complaint with the school district before filing it with OCR, you may file complaints with both the school district and OCR.
To help you understand Section 504 rights and responsibilities, see our list of Related Resources.
OCR Region Office for Minnesota:
U.S. Department of Education
500 W. Madison Street, Suite 1427
Chicago, IL 60661
Civil Rights Compliance Reviews
MDE is authorized to conduct on-site reviews of school districts to assure the application of certain laws regarding discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and disability in vocational education programs. Based on the on-site reviews, MDE submits its findings in a biennial Civil Rights Compliance Report to OCR. The following laws are the subject of MDE on-site reviews:
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin by recipients of federal financial assistance (34 C.F.R. Part 100);
Title IX of the Education of 1972 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance (34 C.F.R. Part 106);
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal financial assistance (34 C.F.R. Part 104); and
Title II of the Americans Act of 1990 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities (28 C.F.R. Part 35).
MDE’s Civil Rights Compliance Review program is designed to ensure that all groups and populations have an equal opportunity to access their education. During a Civil Rights Compliance Review, MDE staff will review data and records, interview staff and students, and examine facilities for accessibility. These reviews are required by the Vocational Education Programs Guidelines for Eliminating Discrimination and Denial of Services on the Basis of Race, Color, National Origin, Sex, and Disability and overseen by OCR.
Districts are selected each year based on a targeting plan that is approved by OCR. The targeting plan ranks schools numerically based on a number of factors, including time since last review and disproportionate enrollment in career and technical education courses. Superintendents will be notified by letter when their district is chosen for a Civil Rights Compliance Review.