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Section 504 Plans: Examining Inequitable Access and Misuse

When either privileged or under-resourced families navigate gray areas in the law, including federal laws related to students with disabilities such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, inequities are revealed. Research and emerging trends have raised increasing concerns about unfairness and abuses of disability policies, particularly with regard to intersectional disadvantages and advantages that may emerge in the implementation of Section 504, depending on a student’s social identities. In this policy brief, the authors present research that should inform policymaking around Section 504. They also consider the trends documenting ongoing and even increasing inequities in how the law is being used. Because many of these inequities are systemic, they provide recommendations that include policy actions at the federal, state, and local levels.