7.9 Section 504 Process Grievance Procedure – and FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education)

Section 504 Process Grievance Procedure – and FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a civil rights law that generally protects students with disabilities from discrimination and provides eligible students with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).  The receipt of FAPE for eligible students with disabilities can include reasonable accommodations and/or services to allow students to have their needs met as adequately as students without disabilities while participating in District programs and activities.  The Section 504 plan details what the school will do to ensure it is meeting a student’s needs at school. 

In order to be eligible for a Section 504 Plan, a student must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  A physical or mental impairment includes, but is not limited to, any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genito-urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.  Generally, having a “substantial” limitation means that a student with a disability is unable to perform a major life activity in the same way as a student without a disability. Major life activities include, but are not limited to, functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working, eating, sleeping, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating.

i. If I think my child might need a Section 504 Plan, what should I do?

  • Ask to speak to your child’s principal or the School Site 504 Coordinator, and request an evaluation for a Section 504 plan. 
  • Typically, parents/guardians, teachers, and school staff will convene as a Student Success Team (SST) to discuss all relevant information about the student. 
  • If the team suspects that the student has an impairment that is substantially limiting, then the team will recommend a Section 504 meeting to determine initial eligibility under Section 504. Section 504 services and accommodations are designed to meet the individual needs of each eligible student.  An example of an accommodation might be allowing a student with a writing disability to use a computer for written assignments. A service might be nursing services for a student with diabetes.

ii. Section 504 Grievance Procedure regarding identification, evaluation or educational placement 

The District encourages informal resolution with the school site Section 504 Coordinator.  However, if it is not possible to obtain a satisfactory outcome at the school, and you believe that the school or any of the school’s staff did not correctly follow the regulations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 when making the determination about identification, evaluation, and educational placement of your son or daughter, (for services), you may fill out and submit a Section 504 grievance form with the Office of Equity.

  • An Section 504 complaint must be filed within six months from the date of the incident, or six months from the date the complainant first obtained knowledge of the facts of the alleged discrimination.  The time for filing may be extended for up to 90 calendar days by the 504 Coordinator for good cause and upon written request by the complainant setting forth the reasons request for the extension.
  • Within 10 business days of the Office of Equity’s receipt of the grievance, the 504 Coordinator will begin an investigation of the grievance.
  • Within one business day of initiating the investigation, the Section 504 Coordinator will provide the complainant and/or the complainant’s representative with the opportunity to present the information contained in the grievance and provide any evidence, or information leading to evidence, to support the allegations in the complaint.  Evidence or information may be presented to the ADA Coordinator at any time during the investigation.
  • Unless extended by written agreement with the complainant, the Section 504 Coordinator will send a written report of the investigation and decision within 60 calendar days of the district’s receipt of the grievance. 
  • Any complainant who is dissatisfied with the Section 504 Coordinator’s findings may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  Complainants are not required to utilize the District’s grievance procedure prior to seeking remedies before civil courts or other public agencies. 
  • For disagreements with the school’s substantive outcomes regarding the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of your son/daughter or provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under Section 504, please contact the Office of Equity and inquire about requesting a due process hearing.

iii. Complaints regarding Discrimination on the Basis of Disability 

If a parent/child believes that the student has been subject to discriminatory treatment such as harassment of a student with a disability by others; denial of an opportunity to participate in a program or activity because of disability; other forms of different treatment because of disability discrimination, follow the  SFUSD Office of Equity’s Uniform Complaint Procedure Form. 

No district employee or agent shall intimidate, threaten, coerce, discriminate, or otherwise retaliate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any rights they has under the grievance process set forth above, or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the American with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, or Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (Title IX).  

The grievant may also pursue any other actions permitted by law for addressing disability discrimination.  The grievant may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”).  The contact information for OCR is:

The OCR office for California is located at:

San Francisco Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
50 United Nations Plaza 
San Francisco, CA 94102
Telephone: (415) 486-5555
Facsimile: (415) 486-5570
Email: OCR.SanFrancisco@ed.gov

The OCR National Headquarters is located at:

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Customer Service Team
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-1100 
Telephone:1-800-421-3481
FAX: 202-245-6840; TDD: 877-521-2172
Email: OCR@ed.gov