There is a multitude of reasons why a student might require additional support in a school setting. School districts nationwide are required by law to ensure equal and fair access to free education for all, and special education services are designed to accommodate all students who need additional support – including students with cognitive and non-cognitive disabilities. 

Many people are familiar with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) which were created to serve students under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) but are generally less familiar with Section 504 plans which fall under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, including primary and secondary education. 

While IEPs are created to accommodate very specific learning needs for students, a Section 504 plan is much broader and encompasses any disability that interferes with a child’s learning. Read more about the specific differences between an IEP and a 504 plan here

The purpose of a Section 504 plan includes:

  • Providing teachers, administrators, and staff with a documented plan to remove learning barriers through accommodations such as extended time on tests, quiet space for taking tests, or preferential seating. 
  • Provides instruction on changes to the learning environment such as preferential seating, sound amplifying devices worn by teachers, or specific writing utensils.
  • The development of a concise plan by a group of people who are familiar with the child and their unique needs including parents/guardians, their teacher(s), and school administration.
  • Identification of the school staff responsible for the overall implementation of each accommodation and individual responsible for monitoring the 504 plan and ensuring its proper implementation.

A child with any recorded physical or mental disability that limits their life activities is eligible for a 504 plan. The broader definition of disability in Section 504 makes it a good alternative for children who need extra support in school but do not qualify for an IEP. The majority of 504 plans are developed for medical purposes such as allergies, diabetes, and sometimes ADHD. Having a plan in place requires schools to have the appropriate tools and protocols, like an epi-pen, available and makes teachers and staff aware of specific needs in the event of an emergency. 

504 plans ensure that all students can still access and fully participate in activities, including their education, and not be discriminated against due to their disability. You can take the steps towards a 504 plan evaluation by contacting your school’s counselor or 504 plan coordinator. You will need to make a formal written request for a plan with as many specifics as possible about your child’s needs.  

The number of formal programs and their limitations can be overwhelming when you are advocating for your child’s rights. Attorney Jennifer Chang believes in protecting students’ rights under California laws, and she will fight vigorously on your family’s behalf. Jennifer Chang has offices in California in Los Angeles, Buena Park, and San Jose. Please reach out to her today online or call (323) 931-5270 to discuss your case.