Key Differences Between Section 504 and IDEA
by Pat Howey
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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
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
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 of the Rehabilitation Act covers several areas: preschool, elementary
and secondary schools, employment practices, accessibility, health,
welfare, and social services.
Parental Rights Under Section 504
Parents have few rights under 504 but they do have minimal rights.
504 does not require the school to invite the parents to 504 meetings.
Section 504 does require schools to develop a system of procedural safeguards
that includes notice (presumably to parents), an opportunity for the
parent to review records, and an impartial hearing and review procedure.
can comply with these requirements by using the procedural safeguards
in IDEA but are not required to do so.
schools develop IDEA-like procedures to protect themselves. These schools
know that if they develop an IEP, regardless of how pitiful the IEP
is, the Office of Civil Rights will find that the school offered FAPE
(free appropriate public education) under Section 504.
Section 504 Does Not Require Written
Parents are often surprised to learn that Section 504 does not require
the school to develop a written 504 Plan.
Section 504 requires that the school develop a plan but does not require
a written document. One
way to handle this is to request an IEP that is developed in accordance
school, school district or state may have developed a policy of using
a procedural safeguards in a written 504 plan that are similar to those
in IDEA, but this is not required under Section 504.
written policies have been required since 1973 under the self-evaluation
section of Section 504. (The Americans with Disabilities Act also includes
a provision about self-evaluation.)
Free, Appropriate Public Education Under Section 504
504 require schools to provide the child with an appropriate public
Section 504, an "appropriate" education means an education
that is comparable to the education provided to students without disabilities.
This may include regular or special education services. Students can
receive related services under Section 504 even if they are not provided
with special education services.
of IDEA is different:
ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a
free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education
and related services designed to meet their unique needs and
prepare them for further education, employment and independent living
and to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities
and parents of such children are protected
IDEA 2004, page 33)
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Under IDEA
The Individualized Education Program (IEP) developed under IDEA may
be used for the Section 504 plan. The IDEA requires the IEP to be written
and include many specific details about services, accommodations, modifications,
the degree to which the child will not be educated with nondisabled
students and more. You need to read these requirements.
Section 504 Follows the Child, IDEA Does Not
When the child graduates from high school with a regular diploma or reaches the age of 22, the child's entitlement to rights under IDEA ends. IDEA rights do not follow the child into college or the workplace. Section 504 provides protections against discrimination after the child leaves public school.
Parents have no rights after their child leaves public school under Section 504 or IDEA.
articles by Pat Howey in Ask
the Advocate including:
the Playing Field: Power Struggles, Meetings, Follow Up Letters
Strategies: Filing a Complaint with the State
Howey has a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
where she graduated with honors.
She is an active member of the Council
of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and other organizations.
In 2004, the Learning Disabilities
Association of Indiana honored Pat with its Outstanding Service
Award for her commitment and compassion towards students with disabilities.
Pat Howey writes articles and answers questions in Ask
As a member of the Wrightslaw
Speakers Bureau, Pat Howey provides training for parents, educators,
and others who want to ensure that children receive quality special
education services. Learn
more about Pat.
programs are designed to meet the needs of parents, educators, health
care providers, advocates, and attorneys who represent children with
the World -- One Child at at Time."
Special Education Consulting
West Point, Indiana 47992-0117