Section (§) 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (amended in 2008) were written and passed by the U.S. Congress to prohibit discrimination against and to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. In order to fulfill its obligations under §504 and the ADA, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors and the Milwaukee Public Schools district recognize a responsibility to avoid discrimination in policies and practices regarding its personnel and students. No discrimination against any person with a disability will knowingly be permitted in any of the programs and practices in the Milwaukee Public Schools.
Section 504 ADA regulations are enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and require the Milwaukee Public Schools to
- provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability who is within its jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability;
- annually notify students, parents, school district employees, and the community of the school district's responsibilities under §504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act;
- locate and identify all children with disabilities in the district's geographic area.
A "free" public education means the provision of educational services without cost to the student with a disability or to their parent/legal guardian, except for those fees that are imposed on other students who do not have disabilities.
An "appropriate" public education under §504 and Title II means the provision of regular or special education as well as related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual educational needs of the qualified student with a disability.
Under §504/ADA, a “qualified person with a disability” is an individual who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as learning, walking, speaking, hearing, etc. Qualifying impairments may include physical disorders (e.g., seizure disorder, asthma, diabetes) and psychological disorders (e.g., anxiety disorders, clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder). Section 504 also prohibits disability-based discrimination against students who have had, or are regarded as having an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Students who are eligible for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are also protected from disability-based discrimination under §504.
The educational needs of §504 students must be addressed by all staff members within MPS. Appropriately meeting these educational needs requires staff members to provide the accommodations prescribed in the individualized §504 plan.
The Milwaukee Public Schools district is obligated to notify the community of its responsibilities under §504. Each school must comply with district guidelines and legal due-process procedures regarding identification, evaluation, and the provision of appropriate accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. Section 504 coordinators and administrators must annually notify school staff members regarding the school district’s policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability and its obligation to identify and provide appropriate educational services for students with disabilities.
If there is a question or need for additional information regarding these laws, please contact the facilitator for 504 plans.