School Says, “No Advanced Classes for Kids with IEPs”

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My child has a learning disability. Her teachers want her to enroll in advanced classes. She is eligible based on her test scores and school performance.

The School will not let her enroll her because she has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). What are her legal rights?

Your child has an IEP because she is a child with a disability that adversely affects her education.

Because of her disability, she needs special education and related services.” 20 U.S.C. § 1401 (3). Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed., p. 49.

Children with IEPs receive protection from discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504).

You say your child qualifies for advanced classes and the school will not enroll her because she has an IEP. That sounds like discrimination.

Under Section 504, a person with a disability is someone who has, or whom others regard as having:

  • A physical or mental impairment;
  • That substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Major life activities include:

  • Caring for one’s self;
  • Walking;
  • Seeing;
  • Hearing;
  • Speaking;
  • Breathing;
  • Working;
  • Performing manual tasks; and,
  • Learning.

Public agencies that receive federal funds have to follow Section 504. Almost all public schools receive federal funds.

A school cannot exclude a qualified student with a disability from participating in any school program solely because of a disability.

Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Schools, parents, and students can ask for technical assistance from the OCR.

You may want to contact the OCR and ask them for help and information.

OCR enforces Section 504 by looking at how schools identify and evaluate students with disabilities. It also makes sure that schools tell students about their rights under Section 504.

When someone files a discrimination complaint under Section 504, the OCR investigates.

You can file a complaint with the OCR and claim that the school is banning your child from advanced classes based on her disability.

The OCR will look at whether the school treats your child differently than it treats nondisabled students who are in a similar situation.

If the OCR agrees with you, it can order the school to stop the discrimination.

If you want to read more about the Section 504 complaint process, click this link:

Read more about Section 504 by clicking this link:

Information about Section 504 regulations is available on OCR’s website, at

Read the full text of the Regulations for Section 504 by clicking this link:

More information and resources about Twice-exceptional students:

  1. My daughter is going to 9th grade this Fall. She has a very minor IEP that required extra time on tests. She is also an honor student in math. She always receives straight A. The school system has already automatically enrolled her in 6 classes accepting SS and English. We contacted her counselor to add two remaining courses in her 9th grade academic year. For some reason, the counselor is very resistant to doing so with an excuse because my daughter has an IEP. What should we do?

    Thank you,

    • I suggest asking the principal in writing the reason for the no response, with a copy to the sp ed director. If there is no rule on this, and they still say no, you may want to talk with the state education agency.

  2. I am an American Sign Language teacher at the high school. Students are developing the foundation of ASL at the beginning, ongoing until the end of the school year. However, someone dumped IEP students in my class during the middle year without developing the foundation of ASL at the beginning of the school. Is it appropriate? I have no problem with IEP/504, but I firmly against anyone to take my class during the middle year or the second semester without developing the foundation of ASL. If it is appropriate, then can you give me the law phrase or sentences that allowed IEP students to take class regardless of the date or regardless if it is challenging to learn the subject. Thanks.

    • This sounds like an administrative decision that was not thought out & those affected not consulted. There is nothing in federal law that addresses this, but there could be something in state law or rules. Schools should have procedures for appealing decisions like this, up the chain of command.

  3. I am a high school Spanish teacher. Spanish is an advanced class. I have a lot of low performing special needs and 504 students who were just placed in a class. Now, the students and I are both struggling as we’re equally as frustrated. I have no assistance and I try my best. Advice?

    • They (adminsitration) dumped these kids into your class as it is a scheduling issue and tracking placement. They are not going anywhere, they are staying. How do you make it work? Understand how they learn and how you can teach the masses without pulling your hair out. Some may have learning disorders that causes extreme difficulty in learning a foreign language. Attention spans may be very short. However, I have seen foreign language teachers “rock It” in the classroom with visuals, games, art, modified tests, etc and more experiential learning for these students. If you stick to the standard book curriculum of rote learning, many students will fail. Rote learning for the creative minds in your class will not work. Modify for all and get through the year in peace.

  4. I am in junior high school and in iep. I do really good in school, I get honor rolls and honors. I am interested in medical field and want to be a vet when I grow up. I am really appreciative of having these teachers in iep helping me but I feel like I don’t need it. I feel like i don’t have any disabilities except for my grammar. My speech teacher pulls me out of art class and wastes my time doing nothing and it annoys me. On finals, she would pull me out of class and i told I was falling behind and i needed to finish and she got mad. I wanted to do AP classes and she said that I am not going to get in. She also said that I needed to pick out a different job for my future in case I don’t make it in. I feel like I am being insulted by her; thinking that I am not going to be successful.

    • I suggest that you learn about student advocacy by googling self-advocacy for students with disabilities. This can assist you & your family in working with the school. Your state parent training and information center can assist you in learning more on this and other information that can assist you.

  5. My daughter is in high school. She is taking CP classes except for one AP class. They said she can take the AP class, but they are unable to provide the same type of support that she would get in the AP class as the CP class. Just checking to see if that is something they are allowed to do, as they’re not telling her she can’t take the class. They’re just telling her that they can’t provide special ed support in the advanced placement classes. What’s the law on that?

  6. My daughter has mild dyslexia and an IEP and works tremendously hard in all of her classes. Further, she is in her first year of high school and taking all CP classes. I notice my daughter having an issue in CP Social Studies and decided to contact the school about modifying her tests and or breaking up the content into two tests. The response that I received was shocking to me, but luckily the Intervention Supervisor is on the path to making things right. My biggest problem is that a teacher and aide are refusing to do this because it’s a CP class and if she wants modifications on her tests then she needs to enroll in a general education class instead. How is that right? What about her goal to go to college? Any thoughts…by the way I have this information in a email.

    • It is not uncommon for educators to have this opinion, but it violates IDEA, rules. I recommend writing to the special ed office, and ask for help. Hopefully staff there realizes that this violates IDEA rules, and handle this. If this does not happen, you can use the dispute resolution process that the law gives parents.

  7. My daughter is in 7th grade an they will not let her take a language because she is in IEP my daughter is very upset an I as her mother feels this is not right! What can I do?

      • One week into 6th grade + my son’s school keeps telling me that kids “like him” don’t usually take a foreign language + pressuring me to ok dropping it from his schedule. English, Math, Science, History are all co-taught by a special educator. Para support in specials, lunch, recess. The school claims they “don’t do” co-teaching for Spanish/foreign language, even though he requires it to access English! Para assigned to him in Spanish class tells him she can’t be helpful when he asks for support, b/c she doesn’t know Spanish. Result is his anxiety spikes and he ends up leaving to take a break in social worker’s office, missing more instruction, feeling behind, then more anxious. What part of law can I point to in making the case that he should be better supported in Spanish?

  8. My son has been recommended for an honors math program in high school. He is currently in 8th grade and we are in the midst of his IEP for the following freshman year. Accommodations are being made for Biology, spanish(1st attempt at language due to his severe dyslexia) and English but the are resisting help in an Honors Math class. He has had help in math (teachers asst) throughout 6-8th grades but High School insists that they do not offer help in honors classes. Any thoughts or avenues to take during IEP meeting?

    • Hopefully the special ed director knows that this response is wrong. Get them involved if you have not done so already. If this does not help, you may need to contact the state education agency to make a complaint or request mediation. Your state parent training & information center can provide you information, & resources that show what the school must do.

  9. My question is simply the opposite and I need answers. My child is in middle school and is special needs. My issue is that he starts to have behavior problems either during or directly before/after certain regular education classes. I have done IEP’s with the school, however they are not listening to me when I tell them music class affects his behavior, or that he cannot change his clothes for gym. I always get the same response: its required. Can a school require my child to participate in certain activities or classes that wind up being the cause of his negative behavior, Do I have any rights as to what classes he takes? I feel that they set him up for failure and then when he does “fail”, they call me to take him home, rather than listening to me. Please help!!

    • This is a situation where using the dispute resolution processes may be helpful. First be sure your concerns & requests have been shared with all appropriate general ed & special ed staff.

  10. Hi my son is struggling in school , he is an IEP program, but he has no interest at all in his work and needs help in all subject areas. He just finish 5th grade and heading to sixth grade and I know he is scared and not ready. Any advice

  11. My son was told all year to prove himself and he would be recommended for at least science honors classes. He finished the year with a 95 average, scored a 99 on the final exam. They claim there isn’t room in the class. But my daughter graduated last year and noticed only one student had accommodations and he was identified after entering honors track. What can I do? He has lost motivation because he feels they lied and doesn’t trust them now.

  12. I’m an incoming high school junior with ASD and ADHD, and I have been able to take advanced classes without feeling left behind. My school isn’t directly barring me from taking AP classes, but they do ignore part of my IEP in these classes. Normally, if a certain type of assignment just becomes pointless, I can get an assignment with the same material in another format. Without this option, my harmless learning difference is suddenly a massive handicap. In fact, while recently taking AP World History, I constantly felt like I was failing with so much useless work, although I passed with an 87. My parents and I have been attempting to change this in ARD meeting after ARD meeting with no results. What’s the next step we should take? Who should we talk to?

  13. Hello, I just has an IEP meeting. My daughter, 8th grade, social/emotional needs based, has been in inclusion classes this passed year. She has always been on the honor roll, getting all a’s + b’s. She is going into high school next year. I was told that she cant be in honors classes and still be in inclusion classes, so they are dropping the inclusion accommodation. My daughter wants the honors classes. I feel this will leave her vulnerable to the root cause of her social/emotional disability. The anxiety, depression and si stem from kids being bullies. School reports no finding. They just don’t want to admit what is going on. My question is can they take away the inclusion accommodation because she wants the honors classes.

    • I will add, they put her on an iep b/c she became so anxious during school that she couldn’t talk/communicate with teachers or peers., some days so bad she needed to leave school. they were working to support her in being able to talk more which they say has improved to some degree but not to the appropriate level. academically she meets expectations.

  14. My daughter has a TBI and has an IEP. She was told she can not take AP classes and receive accomodations from her IEP in and AP Class. Is this true

      • District is saying my daughter must take extra Math classes for her SLD on her IEP during exploratory informational technology period,which both I and my daughter feel its important for her to take (the info tech class). I feel it’s discrimination and that that should tutor her after school. What part of the law can I point them to?

        • The state education agency may have some rules, or guidance on this. The best position on this is probably that she is being denied access to part of the school curriculum. You could try to address this situation through a state complaint or mediation, if necessary.

  15. My daughter has been in accelerated classes in Texas since the 2nd grade. She has had 504 accommodations for the 6 years because of her dysgraphia. She is now a freshman in high school and the school says she can’t take the advanced placement courses and get any 504 accommodations. The accommodations we are wanting are extended time and notes being provided. We are not wanting to modify the curriculum. We have been denied these accommodations and my child is failing a couple of classes because of this. We are in the process of filing all the grievances but if nothing happens with these grievances, what is my next step? I’d love to hire an attorney and hold this district accountable for my daughter and all the other students from here on out but not sure of the correct procedure. Thank you.

  16. My daughter has a learning disability she is in IEP. My question is will she still be able to graduate with her regular class even thro she had special classes

  17. I had the opposite problem: my daughter was in AP and Honors classes but struggling because of her ADHD, reading fluency, and emotional disturbance. She had had a 504 Plan in elementary school, which the middle school refused to implement. When I made repeated efforts over more than 2 years to get them to re-evaluate my daughter, the Special Education Coordinator refused, saying she would not have her evaluated until she dropped her AP and Honors classes. I finally hired a lawyer and filed a due process complaint. The story does not end well… This is just to say that there is discrimination against students who are bright but also have disabilities. This is especially devastating on these kids IMHO because they KNOW how they should be performing and strive to perform like their intellectual peers, but cannot without help.

    • That sounds awful. I hope your daughter was able to go to a different school district and be better accommodated.

  18. Our problem is sort of the exact opposite. My son attends a gifted program with all gifted students. He’s twice exceptional. He has a 504 plan that barely gets implemented. We’re trying to get an IEP instead but the school seems to ignore his disabilities and they just say he needs to try harder. Today is our eligibility meeting.

  19. My son is Gifted under New Mexico standards and has an IEP. He has dysgraphia. The District says that there are IEP issues and Non-IEP Issues such as taking a language that meets his post secondary goals, I say all school issues are IEP issues and should be addressed in the IEP, such as dysgraphia, access to the general education program, graduation requirements. The District wants to disaggregate what is an IEP issue and what the school feels is not in order not to provide services. I have constantly been told that Gifted students are no different than general education students. I believe since my son has an IEP, all school related issues are IEP issues. Who is correct?

  20. We had a variation of this problem. My child wants to attend college (4 year) and wanted to take more challenging courses. She has high-functioning autism and LD. We were told we could only put her in Applied or Special Ed classes. She would have to give up Spec Ed Services if she took harder classes. She passed all of her state testing the first time she took them and has been begging for more challenging classes for 2 years. We filed a complaint with OCR and they investigated. The district proposed a resolution because they knew they were in big trouble, OCR accepted and my child ended up with nothing. My child was bullied by teachers and principals and almost had a nervous breakdown. The OCR and state DOE vigorously protected our school district. In hindsight, I would never file a complaint. The cost was too great for my child!

  21. ASDmom, If the email truly says what you are saying at the end of your blog you have evidence to support an issue. Keep that email and contact an attorney that can help. I get angry when I hear that the school makes statements like that especially with laws like No Child BEhind, etc.

  22. I have a twice exceptional child also who attends a special charter school for kids with higher functioning autism. They claim to level the kids based upon skill set but she is in top grade in Elementary school building so it’s not that easy for her to float to their Jr. High in another building due to schedules and social dynamics. The solution – she’s been bored most of the school year. They finally put advanced math in place (online) – it only took 1/2 a year for this to happen despite testing several grade levels ahead at the start of the year. We’ve expressed concern all year and became more direct in our advocacy at the start of 2013. We received an e-mail that said our child had learned all that was required for her grade this year so they didn’t have to do anything different and be grateful if they did – lovely 🙁

  23. I have a twice exceptional son. I was told twice that he could not receive support in an upper level class because the school did not have the resources. The school also gave me a hard time when I asked for extended time on certain tests. The school decided to offer him a crash course over the summer in technology to compensate for the lack of personal resources available in the upper level classes. The functional performance data was all subjective (with regard to organization, time management and other exeutive functional skills). I was told that he didn’t need support in the upper level classes because these were areas of strength. I’m not sure why the school felt that his ADHD just magically disappeared in upper level classes when he was receiving IEP support in his general Ed classes. When is their a case for 2E kids?

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