You might be familiar with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which describes the special education and related services that a student with a disability requires to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). For instance, a student with an IEP may need to receive their services in an alternative setting, such as a “resource room” or at a different school. However, if a student needs assistance, but their disability does not warrant an IEP, a 504 Plan may be an appropriate option. Under a 504 Plan, the school provides students with accommodations or modification to ensure that they can access an education.
The 504 Plan was derived from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and it aims to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to an education and the requisite support services.
A student qualifies for a 504 Plan if: 1) they have a physical or mental impairment, 2) has a history of an impairment; or 3) is perceived to have an impairment. The student’s disability must substantially limit a major life activity. For instance, if a child’s disability significantly impairs their ability to communicate, they may qualify for a 504 Plan. Once the 504 Plan is in place, the school is obligated to abide by it.
A 504 Plan can take many forms, as they are specifically designed for each student. For example, one student’s 504 Plan may afford them the ability to sit at the front of the classroom, it may provide the flexibility to leave the class for short breaks (when necessary), afford additional time to take tests, and documents printed in large font.
While they may appear similar, there are several important differences between 504 Plans and IEPs, including the laws that govern them.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides the blueprint for the development of an IEP, while the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 does the same for 504 Plans. Furthermore, the process to develop an IEP is often more extensive than that required to create a 504 Plan.
Under an IEP, a student with a disability that impacts their learning, receives special education instruction and related services, (including additional procedural protections and rights), while a student who has a 504 Plan has been diagnosed with a disability and requires accommodations to address their impairment. If a student does not meet the criteria for an IEP, they may be able to satisfy the standard for a 504 Plan.
If you suspect that your child might be eligible for a 504 Plan, you should submit your request, in writing, to the school.
If you have requested that the school evaluate your child for a 504 Plan, officials will gather an assortment of information to determine if they qualify for the plan, such as relevant medical diagnoses, the student’s grades, their test scores, and teacher comments.
If your student is approved for a 504 Plan, a meeting will be arranged between you, your child’s teachers, and the 504 Coordinator, to develop the appropriate accommodations or modifications necessary to address your child’s specific needs.
The school will implement the plan after it is finalized. As a result, if the school fails to provide the accommodations as designed, you have the right to express your concerns. If the school fails to respond appropriately, you should contact an attorney who will advocate on your behalf to ensure that your child receives the accommodations they require.
If you are unsatisfied with your child’s 504 Plan, or if you believe that the school has failed to appropriately implement the accommodations, there are several options available to you, including:
If your child’s school is failing to satisfy its 504 obligations, our New Jersey special education lawyers at John Rue & Associates, LLC can help you. Located in Montclair, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the state. We provide parents who may need an education lawyer with an initial consultation (30 minutes by phone), for $100, and a more detailed consultation (90 minutes to three hours by Zoom) for a flat fee of $795. Call us at 862-283-3155 or contact us online today.
John D. Rue is responsible for the content of this website. This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship
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