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What’s the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan?

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2022 | Education Law |

For the parents of children with a disability, ensuring their educational needs are taken care of can be a complicated process. There are a lot of issues to work through and the laws regulating the child’s education can be confusing. IEP’s and 504 plans are two of the primary terms thrown about, but what are they?

Subtle, but important differences

Both an IEP and a 504 plan deal with individuals who have a disability which affects their education. Both originate in federal law and regulate how the individual’s educational needs must be addressed in light of their disability. IEP’s come from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), while 504 plans refer to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

IEP’s are controlled by the U.S. Department of Education, which lays out the affirmative guidelines and processes that must take place when a child has a disability affecting their education. All children are entitled to a K-12 education and IEP’s are the means by which the Department ensures that education is provided to all children equally.

504 plans, however, are governed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Rehabilitation Act is an anti-discrimination law and is not limited to K-12 children – unlike an IEP, a 504 plan can extend into an individual’s college years.

An IEP tends to be more specific than a 504 plan, in both its requirements and implementation. A child must suffer from one of 13 listed disabilities to qualify for an IEP, while a 504 plan can apply to any disability. As such, there are times when an individual may receive support under a 504 plan but not an IEP. IEP’s are also very structured in how and when they are executed and updated. Conversely, there is no standard 504 plan.