Student Support - 504 Programs

Section 504 Information & Resources

What is Section 504?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a Federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance. In elementary and secondary education, it provides access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability.

What does a Section 504 plan do for a student?

Under Section 504, a free appropriate public education (FAPE) consists of accommodations, modifications and services designed to meet the student's individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met. 

Requesting Section 504 Evaluation

  • If you think your child needs a Section 504 plan, ask to speak to the Section 504 coordinator (or the principal) at your child’s school, to request a Section 504 evaluation
  • Provide information regarding your child’s suspected disability to the school site (i.e. diagnosis, educational or health-related reports).  Please note that a medical diagnosis may be considered among other sources of information, but it is not sufficient by itself as an evaluation for the purpose of providing FAPE.  Section 504 requires a review of multiple sources of information that can also include aptitude and achievement tests, teacher recommendations, and adaptive behaviors.
  • Be a part of the team that helps inform your child’s eligibility and identify the appropriate accommodations for your child. 

Is a Section 504 plan required before assessment for special education can be requested?

No.  Parents/guardians are within their rights to request special education assessment at any time with or without a Section 504 plan.

What is the difference between an IEP and a Section 504 Plan?

What it does:

  • An IEP is a blueprint or plan for a child’s special education experience at school.
  • A 504 plan is a blueprint or plan for how the school will provide support and remove barriers for a student with a disability.

What law applies:

Who is eligible:

To become eligible for an IEP, there are two requirements:

  1. A child has one or more of the 13 disabilities listed in IDEA. The law lists specific disability categories such as emotional disturbance , intellectual disability, autism, and speech or language impairment.
  2. The child must need specialized instruction and/or related services to access the school program.

To become eligible for a Section 504 plan, there are two requirements:

  1. A child has a qualifying disability. Section 504 defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that causes a substantial limitation on learning or a major life activity.
  2. The student requires Section 504 services in order for the student’s individual educational needs to be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities (aka for the student to receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).  

Section 504 has a broader definition of a disability than IDEA. That’s why a child who doesn’t qualify for an IEP might still be eligible for a Section 504 plan.

Need more information regarding Section 504?

Contact the SFUSD 504 District Coordinator: Michele Mcadams in the Student, Family, and Community Support Department

Wondering if an IEP or a 504 is better for your child? This chart from does a good job explaining the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan as well as this article: Parents’ guide to 504 plans and IEPs: What they are and how they're different

Happy 50th Anniversary to Section 504!!!

This page was last updated on July 3, 2024