Advocating for Your Child’s Right to a Proper Education
As a part of federal civil rights laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ensures that all individuals, no matter their disability, should live free of discrimination. These laws and protections extend into California’s education system, guaranteeing children with disabilities equal access to an education. As a part of these protections, a public school is required to evaluate a child for disabilities at a parent’s request. 504 plans, in accordance with California law, are designed to remove any barriers limiting a disabled child’s ability to receive an education and provide the necessary support the child needs. While Section 504 does not provide federal funding for special education, it does provide protections for students with disabilities and can restrict funding for school districts that violate these protections.
Unlike individual education programs (IEP) and other special education programs, 504 plans have fewer legal protections for students, and parents may have a difficult time working with a school district to get their child the accommodations he or she requires to thrive. However, by working with a dedicated Los Angeles special education attorney, you may be able to ensure that your child’s rights are protected and that they can attend school free of discrimination. The team at Woodsmall Law Group is a strong advocate for disabled children and their parents. We use our extensive legal experience to hold school districts to their requirements.
If you need assistance ensuring your child has access to the accommodations outlined in his or her 504 plan, contact our law firm at (626) 440-0028 to discuss your case in a free consultation.
How a 504 Plan Can Help Your Child
A 504 plan is meant to act as a blueprint for how a child will receive an education in a federally funded school based on his or her disability. Through this plan, a school may provide changes in a child’s learning environment and specific accommodations to ensure he or she has access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Accommodations are designed to change how a child receives an education but will not affect what the child learns. Examples of these changes include allowing a child to take a test in a separate, quieter environment, allowing the child to listen to an audiobook instead of a textbook, or allowing the child to receive extra time for homework.
While some of the accommodations provided through a 504 plan could be achieved by talking to your child’s teacher, having a formal 504 plan in place ensures that your child will receive consistent accommodations for his or her disability. Establishing a plan will also ensure that the school district is aware of the accommodations it needs to provide your child over the course of his or her education, and that your child’s legal rights are protected.
A 504 plan holds some similarities to an IEP, but there are several key differences. The accommodations provided by a 504 plan tend to be more generalized, whereas an IEP provides individual supports and services as part of a special education program for a singular child. IEPs also apply to specific disabilities, such as autism, deafness, cerebral palsy, and others. Receiving a 504 plan is often simpler but lacks the major legal protections of an IEP. However, if your child needs assistance receiving an education but he or she is not eligible for an IEP, a 504 plan may be the next best option.
When Is a 504 Plan an Option?
In order to qualify for a 504 plan, your child must have a disability and that disability must impact his or her ability to receive an education. Under Section 504, a disability is defined as a condition that impacts one or more basic life activities and can include physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities. Because of this broad definition, a child who does not qualify for an IEP may qualify for a 504 plan.
If you believe your child has a disability, you should speak to the school district about scheduling an evaluation. Evaluations are not required for 504 plans, but they can help determine the best accommodations for your child. The school may also consult your child’s test scores, assessments from teachers and guidance counselors, and medical records. You may also submit a formal, written request for a 504 plan. Once the school district’s 504 plan coordinator receives your request, a formal meeting will be scheduled to review your request and determine what accommodations can help your child.
Legal Protections for 504 Plans
First, a 504 plan is protected under federal civil rights laws as outlined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. While there are fewer protections than those provided under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for IEPs, these federal protections protect your child’s access to FAPE.
Under Section 504, parents and students have the following rights:
- Students have the right to accommodations and modifications that allow them to receive an education.
- Students have the right to specialized services as outlined in the 504 plan.
- Parents have the right to be notified if their child has a disability.
- Parents have the right to access their child’s school records, including evaluations.
- Parents have the right to challenge a school district’s decision regarding their child’s education, including due process.
As part of these protections, if a child is eligible for a 504 plan, then the plan and any accommodations outlined within it must be provided at no added cost to a parent. Similar to an IEP, a 504 plan is funded by the school and completely free for parents and students.
Unlike with IEPs, parents seeking 504 plans for their children cannot request independent educational evaluations (IEEs) if they disagree with the results of the school district’s evaluation. Parents also do not have to be notified of 504 plan meetings or be invited to help develop the 504 plan. However, school districts will typically include parents in these discussions.
Why You Should Speak to a Compassionate and Experienced Attorney
Despite the limited legal protections for 504 plans, parents and children still deserve proper representation under the law. School districts should never make excuses about accommodations or discriminate against a child based on a disability. Doing so is a violation of federal civil rights laws and can open the school district to significant litigation.
If you are facing difficulties getting your child accommodations under a 504 plan in a Los Angeles, San Gabriel Valley, or La Cañada school, reach out to the special education attorneys at Woodsmall Law Group. Our legal professionals are strong advocates for children with disabilities and have extensive experience defending the rights of students and parents throughout Los Angeles. We can explain your child’s rights in a free consultation and advocate on your behalf in negotiations with the school district, a due process hearing, or a lawsuit, if necessary. Call Woodsmall Law Group at (626) 440-0028 to discuss all of your options.