Education for Children with Disabilities
P&A Fact Sheet
There are two laws you should know about. Most parents know that federal law requires schools to give children with disabilities special help. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) is a well-known law requiring this type of special education. Another law also affects the education of children with a disability. It is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This fact sheet will give you information about these two laws.
Both laws require:
- Schools to identify every child with a disability who needs more than the regular school program to learn
- Testing and evaluation of a child’s educational needs
- Children with disabilities and non-disabled students to attend school together
- Schools to provide every child with a free appropriate public education (FAPE)
There are also differences in the laws. Section 504 makes it illegal for any group receiving federal money to be unfair to a person with a disability. It applies to any school that receives federal money. This includes all public schools in South Carolina. Under IDEA, schools receive money that they must use for children with disabilities. SC State Department of Education (SDE) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) within the U.S. Department of Education BOTH have
oversight over IDEA.
If parents have concerns about Special Education services in a local school district, they may contact the “Ombudsperson” at the SC Department of Education. The
Ombudsperson can make direct contact with the school district and serve as an impartial third party to resolve concerns. Contact: Ombudsperson, 1919 Blanding
Street, Columbia SC 29201 803 734-2833. Also, parents may file a formal complaint about schools not following IDEA. The complaint can be sent to:
Office of Special Education Services
IDEA Complaint Investigation
1919 Blanding Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Or the complaint may be filed on line at the Department’s website.
The SC Department of Education does not handle complaints about schools not following 504. Instead a complaint can be sent to the U.S. Department of Education,
Office of Civil Rights (OCR):
District of Columbia Office
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
1100 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Rm. 316
P.O. Box 14620
Washington, D..C 20044-4620
For more information about 504 complaints: See P&A Fact Sheet: “Filing an Education Complaint under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.” More information is
available on the website of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights:
Some Ways IDEA and 504 Laws are Similar and Different
- Who is covered?
- Students who need special education and related services to learn.
- A child must have one of the following conditions: Intellectual Disability, hearing problem, speech or language problem, visual problem, serious emotional problem, physical disability, autism, traumatic brain injury, a learning disability, or other health problem, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
- The problem must affect the student’s ability to learn.
- Section 504
- Students who do not need special education, but still need changes in the regular school program to learn.
- A child must have a physical or mental problem which limits a major life activity such as:
- Caring for one’s self, doing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning or working.
HIV positive & the AIDS virus are considered physical disabilities under 504.
- The problem does not have to affect a child’s ability to learn.
- What ages?
- IDEA: 3 – 21 years (3rd birthday – 22nd birthday)
- Section 504 Anyone who attends any school, preschool through college, that receives federal money. Parents with a physical or mental disability must also have
their needs met, such as an interpreter at a teacher conference for a deaf parent.
- How do you know if a child needs special education?
- IDEA: A child must:
- Be evaluated and found to need special education,
- Have a written individual education program (IEP), and
- Be placed in a special education program in the least restrictive class as possible.
- Section 504 A child must:
- Be evaluated and found to have a disability and
- Need changes to the regular school program to benefit from it.
- IDEA: A child must:
- What type of education must be provided?
- IDEA: A variety of classroom situations must be available for every child. The child should be placed in the program that will best fit his or her educational needs. A child should be educated as much as possible in the regular school programs, including extracurricular activities and field trips.
- Section 504: A child’s special needs must be met through accommodations in the regular school program, including extracurricular activities and field trip. Examples of necessary accommodations are curb cuts for a wheelchair, classroom aides, special equipment and smaller class size.
- What is a parent’s role?
- IDEA: A parent should take part in any decisions made about the child, including: agreeing to the first evaluation of the child for special education, discussing plans for special education, helping prepare the IEP, sharing information about their child, and being told of any changes in the child’s school program
- Section 504: A parent should take part in any decisions made about the child, including sharing information about their child, helping to prepare the 504 plan, and being told of any changes in the child’s school program.
- What if a parent does not agree?
- IDEA: When parents and the school do not agree about what is best for the child, parents have a right to: ssk the S.C. State Department of Education, through a Complaint, to help reach an agreement OR request mediation, ask for a due process hearing, to present the issues, appeal a due process hearing decision to the S.C. State Department of Education, and appeal the state’s decision by filing a civil lawsuit
- Section 504: When parents and the school do not agree about what is best for the child, parents have a right to: ask the Office of Civil Rights to look into the problem and offer a solution, ask for an administrative hearing.
This publication provides legal information, but is not intended to be legal advice. The information was based on the law at the time it was written. As the law may change,
please contact P&A for updates.
This publication is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services (the Administration for Community Living and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration) and by the US Department of Education (Rehabilitation Services Administration). It does not necessarily represent the official views of the
P&A does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, color, creed, national origin, ethnicity, ancestry, citizenship, age, religion, sex or sexual orientation, veteran status or
any other class protected by law in the provision of its programs or services. Pete Cantrell is P&A’s designated coordinator for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of
1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. November 2018–EDUCATION