504 Plan

What is it?
504 Plans are legally binding documents that are designed for students with disabilities as recognized through the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 504 Plans ensure that school districts are in compliance with civil rights laws, rather than remediating students in need of special education.  These plans require schools to eliminate barriers that would prevent the student from participating fully in the programs and services offered in the general curriculum. 

IEP vs 504

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are written for students who receive special education services.  IEPs document the student's present level of a functioning set annual goals for improvement, and designate the specially designed instruction and modifications that a student requires to remediate their deficits.  The document itself is much lengthier than a 504, and parents have specific rights when their child receives special education services that are different from those afforded by a 504. IEPs are rewritten annually, and students are re-evaluated every three years to determine eligibility for special education services.  IEPs are legally binding documents enforced through the Office of Special Education (OSEP).  Special Education Resource Teachers are responsible for the implementation of IEPs.

504 Plans are written for students with disabilities who receive all of their instruction within the general education setting.  These students are able to adequately complete their educational programs alongside their peers when given accommodations, rather than modifications, to allow them to access the general education setting.  504 Plans are reviewed annually and are legally binding documents enforced through the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). 

Medical professionals may recommend an IEP or 504 Plan. The school district will take recommendations into consideration, but special education evaluation may still be necessary to determine if the student has a disability under one of the 13 identifications. 

Does my child need a 504 Plan?
In order to qualify for a 504 Plan, a child must have a verified medical disability that impacts their education, but must not qualify for special education services.  Disabilities that would qualify a student for a 504 are sometimes the same as those qualifying a student for special education, but not always.  The difference for some students with the same disability qualifying for a 504 rather than special education is often their level of academic achievement or the level of impact their disability has on their educational progress.

Most often, verification of a 504 disability is supplied through the child's medical provider.  Some examples of disabilities warranting 504 consideration are ADHD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or illnesses that result in chronic fatigue.  After the school receives a request for 504 consideration and associated documentation of the disability, a 504 team will meet to discuss whether the child requires an accommodation plan at school to ensure appropriate access to the general education curriculum.  Another thing to keep in mind is that, in addition to having documentation of a disability, members of the 504 team should be aware of what accommodations that individual child requires to be successful in the general education setting in order to develop a meaningful 504 Plan.  
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