This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Difference between a 504 and an IEP

Difference between a 504 and an IEP
Most of the information you've received from the school about Section 504 and IDEA is simply not accurate. To be an effective advocate for your child, you need to know the difference between Section 504 and the IDEA. 

Section 504 and IDEA Comparison Chart
Written by NCLD Editorial Team

As a parent, you are your child's greatest advocate, supporter, and cheerleader. By becoming knowledgeable regarding educational laws as well as services and programs available within your community, you can ensure that your child receives a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

There are two primary laws that cover your child's rights to a public education:
Individuals with Disability Education Improvement Act (IDEA)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Understanding how Section 504 and IDEA work with each other and complement each other allows you as the parent to better assist your child's educational team in ensuring your child's right to a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) is provided allowing for maximum educational success.

504 and IDEA Comparison Chart
of the 
Section 504
Is a federal statute whose purpose is to ensure a free and appropriate education services for children with disabilities who fall within one of the specific disability categories as defined by the law.
Is a broad civil rights law which protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in any agency, school or institution receiving federal funds to provide persons with disabilities to the greatest extent possible, an opportunity to fully participate with their peers.
Who Is Protected
Covers eligible students ages 3-21 whose disability adversely affects the child's educational performance and/or ability to benefit from general education.
Covers all persons with a disability from discrimination in educational settings based solely on their disability.

Section 504 defines a person with a disability as:
·         Having a physical or mental impairment which limits one or more major life activity;
·         Have a record of such an impairment; or
·         Are regarded as having an impairment.
Provides individual supplemental educational services and supports in addition to what is provided to students in the general curriculum to ensure that the child has access to and benefits from the general curriculum. This is provided free of charge to the parent.
Requires schools to eliminate barriers that would prevent the student from participating fully in the programs and services offered in the general curriculum.
Requirements for Delivering Services
Requires a written Individualized Education Plan (IEP) documentation with specific content addressing the disability directly and specifying educational services to be delivered, mandating transition planning for students 16 and over, as well as a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) for any child with a disability that has a behavioral issue.

"Appropriate Education" is defined as a program reasonably calculated to provide "educational benefit" to the student. Related services are provided as required for the student to benefit from the educational process and are aligned with specially designed instruction (e.g., counseling, speech, transportation, occupational and physical therapy, etc.)
Does not require a written IEP but does require a documented plan. "Appropriate Education" means comparable to the one provided to general education students.

Section 504 requires that reasonable accommodations be made for the child with a disability. Requires the school to provide reasonable accommodations, supports and auxiliary aides to allow the child to participate in the general curriculum.
Provides additional funding to states for eligible students
Does not provide additional funds.

Additionally, IDEA funds may not be used to serve children found eligible under section 504 only.
Evaluation Procedures
A full Multi-Factored Evaluation (MFE) is required, using a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional and developmental information, including information provided by the parent that may assist the team in determining whether the child has a disability and how it affects the child's educational program.

Multiple assessment tools must be used to assess the child in all areas of the suspected disability.

Written consent is necessary by parent or guardian before an initial evaluation is conducted

Requires a reevaluation every three years by IEP team to determine if services are still needed to address student disability unless the parent and other members of the IEP team agree it is not necessary.

Reevaluation is not required before a change of placement.
Evaluation draws on information from a variety of sources in the area of concern. A group decision is made with persons knowledgeable about the student, evaluation data, and available educational placement options. Written consent is not necessary before completing an evaluation; however, notice must be provided to parent or guardian.

Requires yearly reevaluations or periodic review.
Independent Evaluation
Allows parents to request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at the school district's expense if parent/guardian disagrees with the evaluation obtained by the school district. The Independent Evaluator must meet the same criteria as the district requires for their employees and must be approved by all parties.
Does not allow independent evaluations at the district's expense or the ability to request an independent educational evaluation.
Procedural Safeguards
Requires written notice to parent/guardian prior to identification, evaluation and/or placement of child.

Changes of services or placement must have written notice before any change can take place. Requires due process rights to be followed at all times and manifestation determination hearing for discipline procedures.

For any child with behavioral concerns a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) must be completed and a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) written to assist student in learning appropriate behaviors and providing supports to enable student to be successful in their learning community.
Does not require written notice.

Requires notice before a "significant change" in placement — requires due process rights if referred for formal evaluation under IDEA, and the team determines not to evaluate.
Placement Decisions
Requires district and schools to use information from a variety of sources. Consider all documented information and use a team approach to make eligibility decisions. Team members are identified under IDEA and must be knowledgeable about the child, evaluation data, and the continuum of placements and services available.

Requires that student receives a free and appropriate education with his/her non-disabled peers in the least restricted environment.

IEP meeting is required before any change in placement or services is made. Students are eligible for a full continuum of placement options including regular education with related services as needed.
Requires district and schools to use information from a variety of sources. Consider all documented information. Use a team approach to make eligibility decisions, with team members being knowledgeable about the child, evaluation data, and the continuum of placements and services available.

The student must receive a free and appropriate education with his/her non-disabled peers.

Meeting is not required for a change of placement. Students are served in general education with or without modification. Possible accommodations under a 504 plan could be:
·         Structured learning environment
·         Repeated or simplified instructions
·         Behavior management or intervention strategies
·         Modified testing procedures- small group; oral testing; extended time; test read to student.
·         Tape recorders, spell checkers, calculators, computers, word processor, etc.
·         Modified or adjusted homework, workbooks, second set of textbooks.
·         Textbooks on tape
·         etc. (many accommodations and modifications used on an IEP can be included in a 504 accommodation plan)
Due Process
Requires district to provide resolution sessions and due process hearings for parents/guardians who disagree with identification, evaluation, implementation of IEP or students Least Restricted Environment (LRE) placement.
Requires districts to provide a grievance procedure for parents, and students who disagree with identification, evaluation, implementation of IEP or students Least Restricted Environment (LRE) placement. A grievance procedure must be provided to parents and employees to follow and a 504 coordinator identified in the district to assist individuals as needed.

Due process hearing not required before Office of Civil Rights (OCR) involvement or court action unless student is also covered by IDEA.

Compensatory damages possible.
by Pat Howey

Are you confused about the differences between Section 504 and IDEA? You aren't alone. It's important for the parent to understand that their child has different rights under Section 504 and IDEA.

Here are a few important differences between these two laws.
  1. Section 504 does not require written plans. 
  2. Parents have few rights under Section 504.
  3. The school does not have to invite the parent to the meeting when the 504 plan is developed. The school must notify the parent that a 504 plan was developed.
  4. Section 504 has fewer procedural safeguards to protect the parent and child.
  5. What appears to be discrimination may really not be discrimination.
  6. Section 504 protections follows the child after s/he leaves the public school system. IDEA does not.

504 Plan: A Consolation Prize
Many schools offer Section 504 plans instead of IEPs because Section 504 requires less of them. Unlike the IDEA, Section 504 does not create a right to a free appropriate education from which the child receives educational benefit. Section 504 does not require schools to invite parents to the meeting where the 504 Plan is developed.
If you are like most parents, you do not need an attorney. The key to resolving special disputes is preparation, preparation and more preparation. As a parent, your goals are to prevent problems when possible and to minimize the seriousness of those problems you cannot prevent.

Control Your Emotions

Keep your emotions under control! Do not obsess about unfairness. If you allow yourself to obsess about unfairness or revenge, you will make mistakes.

Be careful about revealing your feelings to school personnel. If you share your feelings, the school will perceive you as emotional, vulnerable and possibly as unstable. If you discuss your personal problems, you are likely to appear to be more problem-ridden than you are.

Spend your time and energy thinking, planning, and preparing. When you prepare, it is more difficult to make mistakes. Put your emotions in your backpack. Use your emotions as a source of energy to keep you moving, step-by-step, to high ground.

Begin a Program of Self-Study

You need to learn about the law, your child’s disability, how your child learns, and how your child should be taught. Where do you begin? Join one or two special education organizations for one year. Immerse yourself in information about disabilities, educational remediation techniques, legal rights and responsibilities, and tactics and strategies.

Join a Support or Study Group

Get help from other parents. Look for a support group or study group in your community. Members of the group will provide information, recommend experts, offer support, and alleviate the sinking feeling that you are fighting this battle alone.

To find a group that is right for you, read Strategies to Find a Support or Study group.

Learn About Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities

You need to learn about your legal rights and responsibilities. Read and re-read the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Use a highlighter. Attach sticky notes on those pages that relate to your child’s situation.

There are dozens of good legal research sites on the Internet.
  • FindLaw is an encyclopedic law site with resources for legal professionals, students, businesses, and the public.
  • The Legal Information Institute (LII) from the Cornell Law School includes decisions by topic, journal articles, other resources.
  • Wrightslaw is a special education law and advocacy site.

Learn About Special Education

You need accurate information about your child’s disability, how the disability affects your child, and about appropriate educational and remediation techniques. The groups listed in the Directory of Disabilities Organizations and Information Groups are an invaluable source of information.

For the websites of national disabilities organizations and information groups, go to

The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY) provides information about disabilities; programs and services; IDEA, the nation's special education law; No Child Left Behind, the nation's general education law; and research-based information on effective practices for children with disabilities.

Get Legal and Advocacy Information From Your State

Contact the Special Education Division of your State Department of Education. Ask for a copy of your state special education laws, regulations, and guidelines. Request all material about special education, IEPs, and Section 504 programs.

To find your State’s website, check the Directory of State Departments of Education.

Your state has an independently operated and funded Protection and Advocacy Office. Their mission is to provide legal and advocacy services to people with disabilities. Some chapters offer special education training programs. Request all publications about special education, IEPs, and parent rights and responsibilities from your state P & A office.

For a list of Protection and Advocacy agencies by state, go to the website for the National Disability Rights Network.

Contact your state Parent Information and Training Center. These centers help families obtain appropriate special education services for their children with disabilities, provide training and information to parents and professionals, help resolve family-school problems, and connect children with disabilities with community resources.

For a list of state Parent Information and Training Centers with contact information, check the Directory of Parent Training Centers:

Request Your Child’s Records

Request a complete copy of your child’s cumulative and confidential files from your child’s school and from the administrative office where the special education department is located. Request a copy of your child’s records from all agencies and individuals that may have information about your child.

Get a Comprehensive Evaluation

Get a comprehensive evaluation of your child from an independent expert in the private sector. The purpose of this evaluation is to identify your child’s problems and develop a plan to address these problems. Before you can make wise decisions about your child’s special education program, you need accurate diagnostic information about the child’s disability, strengths, weaknesses, and needs

At this point, many parents say . . .

“But the school is supposed to test my child . . .”

“I want an independent evaluation and I want them to pay for it!”

If the school arranges and pays for an independent evaluation, you should expect this evaluation to support the school’s position. You need accurate diagnostic information about your child’s problems from an evaluator who is independent of the school district. With this information, you will be able to develop solutions to problems.

You are likely to have to pay for this evaluation. View the evaluation as an investment in your child’s future. A comprehensive evaluation will give you a roadmap for the future.

Tip: Many universities have child development clinics and education and psychology departments that will evaluate your child at low or no cost.

Know your rights!!  

"My child is in 8th grade. She has a 504 plan. On recent progress reports, she received two F's. When I met with school personnel to request that she receive more help, the principal said, 'She has to fail on her report card before we can test her.'"
"My daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Before she was diagnosed, she was in gifted and talented classes. Her doctors say she should qualify for an IEP under the 'Other health impairment' category, but the school disagrees." 
"The school says she must have a discrepancy between ability and achievement to have an IEP but they will not evaluate her to determine if she has a discrepancy between ability and achievement."
To make sure you get your child gets what they need to get them a FAPE Free and Appropriate Public Education, you must read the laws and regulations about eligibility for special education services.

 Kids who have a disability but are getting passing grades can be eligible under IDEA.

If you have a copy of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, you will find that the law does not mention grades.

The law does
 not say a child must fail before the school can evaluate to determine if the child if the child is eligible for special education services under the IDEA. According to IDEA, the child's parent or school staff may request an evaluation (in writing!).

BUT, if the principal thinks the law says the school cannot evaluate until after your child receives failing grades on a report card, you need to know to advocate for your child's rights. The principal's perception of the law is important information and will help you decide how to approach the principal and resolve the problem.

Many school personnel view themselves as "child experts" and do not believe parents know what their children need. When you have recommendations from your evaluator, you can ask the school to provide these services.

If you anticipate that the school will resist, ask the evaluator to attend a meeting with school personnel. The evaluator can to explain the nature of your daughter's disability, answer questions, and educate the educators. This will help you get "out of the loop" as the expert on your child.

Strategies: Dealing with Gatekeepers

The principal may be acting as a gatekeeper. She may assume that if she tells you that the school cannot evaluate until your child fails, you will give up and go away. If you have read about who can request an evaluation under IDEA, you know she is wrong.

If you force the issue and demand that the school evaluate your child, the school evaluation is likely to find that she is not eligible for any help - and that her problems are your fault!

Remember what gatekeepers are supposed to do - the principal is doing her job!

You're doing your job too!  You are the best advocate for your child!

Requesting an Evaluation from the School

Now you're ready to get the school to do an evaluation in preparation for getting that IEP/504.  Most importantly put your request in writing and copy several people (true for everything you do).  The school generally has 30 days to start the evaluation process.  Generally you want this testing to happen after the first of the year (when teachers aren't familiar with your child yet), but before Christmas break or several months before the end of the school year (you don't want them to say there's not enough time to complete the testing and put it off until the following school year). 

An excellent post on requesting a school evaluation.   
Information about IEPs from Wrightslaw.

For some ideas about IEP goals and school in general see this post.

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