Students should have equal access to education. There are federal laws in place to make sure disabled or differently abled children are able to access public education. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal antidiscrimination law that forbids programs or activities that receive federal money from discriminating against those with disabilities. It protects those of all ages, not only kids. Although there are protections built into the law, it can be difficult to access them adequately without legal representation. You may feel frustrated about your experiences trying to get your child education services to which he or she is entitled. Seasoned Washington D.C. lawyer Matthew Famiglietti may be able to represent you.504 Plan
Public school districts and charter schools receive federal funds. Therefore, they must comply with Section 504 and make sure students with disabilities can equally access their programs. When a Washington D.C. student or a student in any state meets the section’s definition of someone with a disability, he or she will receive a 504 accommodation plan from school.Is My Child Eligible for a 504 Plan?
Section 504 covers children with disabilities. The following are considered disabled under Section 504:
- Those with a mental or physical impairment that substantially restricts one or more major life activities.
- Anyone who possesses a record of this impairment
- Anyone who is perceived as having an impairment.
Your child may have a disability for purposes of a 504 plan in a broad range of situations. For instance, if your child has cancer, she may be eligible for a 504 plan. Similarly, if your child has visual impairments or a heart defect that limits her activities, she may need this type of plan. An attorney can figure out whether a 504 plan or an IEP is more appropriate in your situation. Generally, a 504 plan is appropriate if your child isn’t benefiting from instruction because of a mental or physical impairment.When is a 504 Plan Rather Than an IEP Appropriate?
It is easy to get confused between Section 504 plans and IEPs under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These are distinct and used for different purposes. 504 plans can be developed by:
- You or your child’s caregiver.
- Your child’s teachers or special education teachers.
- A school psychologist.
- A district representative who has authority over special education services.
In some cases, parents and teachers disagree about whether a 504 plan is necessary or whether an IEP under IDEA is a more appropriate process. It can help to have an attorney advocating for your child’s best interests regarding which procedures to use and the details of the 504 plan. It is possible for parents to make written appeals to the school district or the United States Office for Civil Rights.
Unlike IEPs under IDEA, 504 plans need not be written documents. There are no standard 504 plans everyone receives, but generally, your child will remain in a general education setting with appropriate accommodations related to his or her disabilities. If your child needs special instruction due to a disability, IDEA will govern the procedures to be used. However, if your child does not need specialized instruction but needs to be assured he or she will receive public access to education and services, a 504 plan will be developed.Examples of Accommodations in 504 Plans
Examples of accommodations in 504 Plans include:
- Giving a student a longer time to take tests or complete assignments.
- Reduced classwork.
- Agreed upon visits to the nurse’s office to check in.
- Allowing a student to use visual aids because she has a visual impairment.
- Supporting behavior management for a child with conduct or panic disorder.
- Adjusted class schedules for a student.
- Excused lateness or missed assignments.
Developing a 504 plan allows a student to be taught in a regular classroom along with the accommodations, services or educational aids he or she might need. If your child can't achieve satisfactory academic success, as determined by a school, alternative settings in schools or residential or private programs could be considered.
While schools usually generate written 504 plans when developing them for students, this is not a requirement. However, schools must put in writing their policies about these plans. After the plan is developed, a child’s teachers are supposed to implement the accommodations. Plan reviews should also take place on an annual basis.Consult an Experienced Special Education Lawyer
Your child should receive an appropriate education. In some cases, a differently abled child does not need specialized instruction but does need accommodations. You should discuss your situation with our experienced Washington D.C. special education lawyer Matthew T. Famiglietti. Mr. Famiglietti represents students and their families in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Fill out our online form or call the Law Office of Matthew T. Famiglietti at (202) 669-5880.