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(16.18) What rights to her school’s nonacademic and extracurricular services does my child have under Section 504?

(16.18) What rights to her school’s nonacademic and extracurricular services does my child have under Section 504?

Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the administration of both academic and nonacademic services and activities of a covered entity. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 104.37.] Specifically, a school or an educational agency covered by Section 504 must provide nonacademic services and activities in a manner that is necessary to afford a student with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in those services and activities at every level of participation from applying for the service or activity to participation with reasonable modification and necessary aids and services. [Jurupa (CA) Unified Sch Dist., (OCR 2015).] For instance, OCR has found an afterschool program could not disenroll a child with a developmental disability because of his behaviors without conducting an individualized inquiry into how to address the student’s behaviors. [Elmore County (AL) Sch Dist., (OCR 2017).] The provision of modifications, aids and services under Section 504 are not required if they fundamentally alter the service or activity or impose undue financial or technical burden on the school or agency. [28 C.F.R. Sec. 35.130(b)(7).]

Nonacademic services and activities include counseling services, physical recreational athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the school, referrals to agencies which provide assistance to persons with disabilities, and employment of students, including both employment by the school and assistance in making available outside employment. [34 C.F.R. 104.37(a)(2).]

If the school provides personal, academic, or vocational counseling, guidance, or placement services, it must also ensure that students with disabilities are not counseled toward more restrictive career objectives than are students without disabilities with similar interests and abilities.
[34 C.F.R. Sec. 104.37(b).]

When offering physical education courses or operating or sponsoring interscholastic, club, or intramural athletics, the school shall make an equal opportunity available to students with disabilities to participate in those programs. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 104.37(c)(1).]

The school is permitted to offer separate and different physical education and athletic activities, but only if students with disabilities are not denied an equal opportunity to compete for teams and participate in activities that are offered to all students. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 104.37(c)(2).]

According to OCR, Section 504 does not give every student with a disability the right to be on an athletic team. In addition, the school is not required to create a separate or different activity for students with disabilities. However, the school must make a reasonable, timely, and good-faith effort to determine whether students with disabilities can participate in existing activities with modifications, aids and supports. This determination can occur outside the Section 504 team process. [See Dear Colleagues Letter of January 25, 2013 (OCR 2013).]