What Are Your Rights Under an IEP or 504 Plan?

In our last IEP and 504 plan article, we discussed the difference between the two education plans. One of the main differences is that they are covered under two different laws. IEPs are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) while 504 plans are covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Because of this, procedures and rights differ under each plan.   

Generally, an IEP has more safeguards in place for parents and guardians when it comes to involvement in the IEP process. 504 plans commonly have fewer safeguards in place than IEPs. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, students have the right to free appropriate public education (FAPE).  The civil rights law aims to remove barriers to learning that students with disabilities may face.

Rights Under an IEP

  • Participate in IEP meetings
    • It is your right to participate in the creation and modifications of your student’s IEP.
  • Ask for an IEP meeting at any time
    • If you have questions, concerns, or would like to modify the IEP, you have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time.
  • Join meetings by phone if necessary
    • If you are unable to attend an IEP meeting in person, you may join it by phone.
  • Use independent evaluations
    • You may have your student evaluated by outside professionals. This may mean that you will have to pay for the evaluation. And although the school must consider the results of the evaluations, they do not have to accept them.
  • To give or deny consent.
    • The school must get written consent from you before providing services or evaluating your child. You may agree to all, some, or none of the services offered.
  • To disagree with the school’s decision.
    • If you disagree with decisions made by the school concerning your student’s IEP, you may request mediation. During this meeting, you and the school will reach an agreement with the help of a third party. You may also ask for a due process hearing in which a hearing officer makes the decision.
  • Have private school tuition paid IF your child needs services that the school is unable to provide for them.
    • If the public school failed to provide services your child needs, you can ask for a due process hearing to transfer your child to a private school who can provide the service and may have the tuition paid for.

Rights Under a 504 Plan

  • Schools are not required to invite you to participate in creating the plan or to go to the 504 meetings.
    • However, you have the right to see all of your student’s records.
  • A full evaluation is not required for a 504 Plan as they are for an IEP. Students must show that they have a disability that qualifies under Section 504. A 504 evaluation can include:
    • A review of the student’s work
    • A review of the student’s medical records and evaluation reports
    • Direct observation
    • Interview with the student, parent, and school personnel
    • Other assessments
  • Families have to be notified when their student is being evaluated or identified with a disability
  • You have the right to express a dispute during the 504 process.
    • If you disagree with a school’s decision about your student’s education, you have the right to challenge it. You can ask for a hearing where an impartial officer decides your case. You can also file a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights.
  • Schools must tell families about significant educational decisions that impact their students.
    • You have the right to know about things like identification, evaluation, and classroom placement.

Overall, the more involved process of an IEP and the required documentation for measurable growth required by IDEA creates the need for more safeguards in place for families of students with disabilities. However, families still the right to dispute decisions made by the school under both IEP and 504 plans. To learn more about IEP and 504 plans visit https://www.understood.org