Section 504 Plans Versus Individualized Education Plans: What Is Right For You?
Recently, we discussed Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and how schools are required to provide children with disabilities with such a plan through their school’s special education program. To qualify for the program, a child must first be evaluated by a team of professionals to determine whether the child is eligible for the program. Once a child qualifies for special education, the parents and professionals prepare the IEP. Disabilities such as blindness, hearing loss, intellectual impairment and orthopedic impairment, among others, are specifically indicated as qualifying a student for special education.
In some cases, students with disabilities are not entitled to special education programs and IEPs but they are able to participate in a Section 504 Plan because federal regulation mandates that schools meet the educational needs of all disabled students.
If Your Child Doesn’t Qualify For An IEP, Is A Section 504 Plan An Option?
Whereas IEPs are mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a Section 504 Plan is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehab Act). Essentially, Section 504 states that where a person has a disability, but the person is not otherwise qualified for special education, they will still be entitled to inclusion and benefits of public programs that receive federal funding.
There are no bright line categories strictly determining whether or not a child will qualify for a Section 504 Plan. Impairments that may qualify a child include ADD, ADHD, allergies, obesity, pregnancy, and other impairments that may hinder their ability to learn in a typical classroom setting. Similar to the special education and IEP programs under IDEA, a child will need to be evaluated before qualifying for a Section 504 Plan. An IEP is not required under Section 504, but a similar process is and plan is recommended.
Local School Agencies May Not Violate Federal Law
Although a Section 504 Plan is a great alternative to an IEP, there are fewer procedural safeguards set in place by the Rehab Act. Fortunately, in 2009, the broad coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) resulted in more statutory protection for students qualifying for Section 504 Plans.
In addition to the federal mandates, the state of Virginia also has laws mirroring Section 504 of the Rehab Act. In addition to stating compliance with Section 504, it also requires that local education agencies adopt grievance procedures that incorporate due process standards and provide for prompt and equitable resolution of the issue. Similar to dispute resolution with IEP issues, a parent or guardian may utilize resolution methods suggested by the education agency or they may pursue civil litigation for violations of the ADA.
Let Leesburg Special Education Law Attorneys Help You
Although we like to think that all schools have our child’s best interest at heart, occasionally unfortunate situations do happen that require legal action or remediation. As the school year begins again, you may find that you need help from an experienced education attorney who really understands the complicated nuances encountered in the education of students with disabilities. Virginia’s special education law attorneys at Whitbeck, Cisneros, McElroy PC are dedicated to advocating on behalf of you and your child so that your child is able to receive the education they deserve.