Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. Section 504 applies to recipients of federal funds, including public schools. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) extends the protections of Section 504 without regard to federal funding. The ADA also applies to public schools.
The Section 504 regulations prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities and requires school districts to provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities. A 504 planning team decides what supports a student with disabilities needs to "level the playing field" so the student can access educational opportunities.
Some students with disabilities qualify for special education services and supports under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Section 504 is not the same as Special Education under the IDEA.