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What Is The Difference Between a 504 and an IEP?

What Is The Difference Between a 504 and an IEP?

Parents have fewer legal rights and schools have fewer legal obligations when a child has a 504 plan.

What Is The Difference Between a 504 and an IEP?

Children with disabilities are entitled to receive assistance through the public school system in order to comply with federal law.  This assistance generally is given through a specific plan, known as either an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan.  While these plans are similar in many ways, they do have some major differences — particularly when it comes to a parent’s right to enforce them.

An IEP is a plan for a child’s special education at a school; it outlines the services and educational options that the child is to receive pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Both the IEP and the services are provided free of charge to parents.

A 504 plan is similar to an IEP, in that it is a plan for how a child will receive services or obtain changes to the learning environment to help the child learn.  These plans are authorized under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Like IEPs, services provided under a 504 plan are offered at no charge to the parents.

Knowing the difference between these two types of plans is critical to understanding your rights as a parent and your child’s rights to receive an appropriate education.  Read on to learn more about IEPs and 504 plans, and your child’s legal rights under each.

Qualifying for an IEP and/or a 504 Plan

Under federal law, it is more difficult to be approved for an IEP than for a 504 plan.  This is because the child must have one or more of thirteen specific disabilities listed in IDEA, and this disability must affect the child’s ability to learn.  In contrast, to qualify for a 504 plan, a child can have any disability, as long as it interferes with the child’s ability to learn in a general education classroom.  Because of these differences, a child may qualify for a 504 plan even if he or she does not qualify for an IEP.  A child with an IEP may also qualify for a 504 plan.

Differences Between the Plans & Your Legal Rights

Children who have an IEP (and their parents) have far greater legal rights than children who have 504 plans. This is because these plans are based on entirely different laws and are intended to address different issues.

The main difference between these two types of plans are as follows:

  • In contrast to IEPs, parents have fewer rights when their children have 504 plans.
  • 504 plans do not have to be written; IEPs must be written.
  • Children with 504 plans are not entitled to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), unlike children with IEPs.
  • Parents do not have the right to attend a 504 plan meeting; parents must be included in meetings to create an IEP.

These distinctions can be incredibly important when it comes to enforcing your rights or your children’s rights in the school system. 

Ultimately, the difference between these two types of educational plans is that parents and children have fewer legal rights and schools have fewer legal obligations under 504 plans than with IEPs.  

If your child has a disability that impacts his or her ability to learn, a skilled children’s rights attorney can work with you and the school district to ensure that your child has the best possible education and receives the full scope of services and learning environment changes that he or she is entitled to under the law.  At PLBSH, we have years of experience in handling children’s rights cases, including those involving IEPs and 504 plans.  Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or info@plbsh.com to learn more about how we can help you if your child requires an IEP or 504 plan.

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