Health Care Needs of Students Attending Public Schools
There are three primary options for students with health care needs who need accommodations within the public school. Students may qualify for a health plan, a Section 504 plan, or an Individual Education Program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This fact sheet will give you basic information about each plan and offer advocacy tips.
A health plan is created by the parent and the school and outlines specific accommodations that the student will receive based on the student’s health
needs. Keep in mind that each health plan should be tailored to suit your student’s individual health needs. This plan:
- Is usually developed by the school nurse, other school staff, and the parent.
- Applies best to situations where the disability may be temporary (i.e. a broken bone) or situations where the disability does not significantly impact the student’s education.
- Can be used to allow a student to carry and administer his or her own medication.
- Does not give the parent a right to request a due process hearing if the
school does not follow the plan.
- May not be adequate to address more chronic or severe health needs.
Section 504 Plan
The second option is a Section 504 plan. This plan is based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 makes it illegal for any group receiving federal money to discriminate against a person with a disability. This includes all public schools in South Carolina. This plan:
- Is appropriate if the disability substantially limits the student’s seeing, breathing, hearing, walking, talking, learning, ability to perform manual tasks, or caring for personal needs.
- Has ways to ensure enforcement and compliance by the school district (namely by filing a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights or asking for an administrative due process hearing).
- Can include accommodations needed to allow the student to attend regular education school.
- May be highly beneficial for a child with chronic or more severe health needs.
- School districts may resist giving your student a 504 plan (in which case you can request an administrative due process hearing).
- Regular classroom accommodations under a Section 504 plan may not be adequate to address the needs of a student who with severe disabilities. Special education services may be necessary.
Advocacy Tip-The first step that you can take to obtain a Section 504 plan is to write a letter to the school and the school district. Include information from
your child’s doctor about the disability and request a meeting to create a Section 504 plan.
IEP (Individual Education Program)
The final option for parents of a student with health care needs is to seek educational services under IDEA and obtain an IEP. This plan:
- Provides the most services for the student and the most safeguards to ensure the district follows the plan.
- May be necessary if your student’s health care needs cause the student to need specialized instruction (special education).
- This plan is often the most difficult to get the district to agree to develop.
- This plan may take longer to obtain because it requires that the district take more steps (such as conducting comprehensive evaluations of your child).
- This plan is applicable only to students with one of the following disabilities: mental retardation, hearing impairment, speech or language impairment, visual impairment serious emotional disturbance, physical disability, autism, traumatic brain injury, specific learning disabilities or other health problems; AND the problem must adversely affect the student’s education.
Advocacy Tip: The first step to obtaining an IEP is to send a letter to the school and school district requesting that your child be evaluated because you suspect that he/she has a disability. (See P&A’s “Education Evaluation” fact sheet.)
Sources for the information in this fact sheet:
29 U.S.C. § 794 and 34 C.F.R. § 104.1 (et al)
20 U.S.C § 1401 (et al)
S.C. Code Ann. § 59-63-80 (1976)
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 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities). It does not necessarily represent the views of the funding authorities.
P&A does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, gender, or national origin 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. October 2005. ED-14