Comparison Table: Section 504 and IDEA 2004


Section 504

IDEA 2004

General Purpose Civil rights law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). Federal funding statute whose purpose is to provide financial aid to states in their efforts to ensure adequate and appropriate educational services for children with disabilities. (34 CFR §300.1)
Individuals Covered Individual currently has or has a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or is regarded as having an impairment. The disability need only substantially limit one major life activity for the student to be considered disabled for educational purposes. Children ages 3–21 who meet the definition of one of the specific disabilities applicable to school-age children.
Definition of a Disability Much broader than the IDEA since it contains no categorical listing of disabling conditions. Section 504 defines disability as follows: physical or mental impairment means (A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive, digestive, genito/urinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or (B) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities (34 CFR §104.3(j)(2)(i)).

The impairment need not necessarily affect the student’s major life activity of learning to constitute a disability.
Includes the following categories of educational disabilities: intellectual disability, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments, and specific learning disabilities. The IDEA lists specific eligibility criteria that may entitle a child or student to receive special education services as outlined under the law and school board policy. Additionally, for a student to qualify under IDEA, the disabling condition must result in a need for special education and related services.
Age Eligibility Applies to qualified persons with a disability at all educational levels, including preschool, elementary, secondary, postsecondary, vocational, and adult education programs and in all activities that receive or benefit from federal financial assistance. Applies to all eligible individuals with a disability living in a school district’s attendance area, ages birth through 21 years of age.
Funding Does not provide funding for the provision of any services. Provides federal funding for the education of IDEA-eligible students with disabilities.
Compliance/ Enforcement The USDOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) monitors and enforces. Oversight and monitoring by the USDOE's Office of Special Education Programs. The FDOE and the USDOE Office of Special Education Programs monitor compliance.
The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) does not resolve Section 504 complaints. The FDOE investigates complaints, monitors compliance, conducts state-sponsored mediation, and tracks due process hearings.
Noncompliance may result in loss of all federal funds. Noncompliance may result in loss of IDEA funds and state aid and/or implementation of corrective action.
Consequences for Noncompliance If an agency receives federal funding for any program, it must comply with the requirements of Section 504 or all federal funds may be jeopardized. If the receiving agency does not comply with the provisions of IDEA, these funds may be forfeited and/or corrective actions taken.
Program Access No qualified individual with a disability shall, because a recipient’s facilities are inaccessible or unusable by disabled individuals, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity. Each public agency shall take steps to provide academic and nonacademic services and activities in such manner as is necessary to afford children with disabilities an equal opportunity for participation in those services and activities.
Notice Requires notice to the parent or guardian with respect to identification, evaluation, and/or placement. Written notice is not required, but is indicated by good professional practice. Requires notice before a “significant change” in placement. Requires prior written notice to the parent or guardian with respect to identification, evaluation placement, and/or free appropriate public education (FAPE). Delineates required components of written notice.
Consent Requires consent for evaluation if additional assessments are needed. Requires written, informed parental/guardian consent before conducting an initial evaluation or reevaluation of the child and before providing special education and related services to a child with a disability.
Responsibility to Provide a FAPE Requires the provision of a FAPE to eligible students covered under the law. Although a written plan is not specifically required, documentation of evaluation procedures and accommodation or service decisions is best practice, as OCR tends to prefer a written plan to demonstrate and ensure FAPE. Requires the provision of a FAPE to eligible students covered under the law, including specially designed instruction and related services.

Requires a written IEP with specific content and specified participants at the IEP meeting.
“Appropriate education” means an education that meets the educational needs of a disabled student as adequately as those needs are met for nondisabled students. Related services alone may be the accommodations under Section 504. “Appropriate education” means a program, including specially designed instruction, designed to meet the student’s individual needs and meets the standards of the Local Education Agency (LEA). Related services are provided if required for the student to benefit from specially designed instruction.
Least restrictive environment The general educational environment. To the maximum extent appropriate, students receive services in the general education setting. The placement of students with disabilities in special classes, separate schools, or other removal from the general educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in general education classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be satisfactorily achieved.
Members of decision-making team Group of individuals knowledgeable about the student, evaluation results, and placement options. Parents are not required, but it is considered best and common practice to include them. Specific membership of the individual educational plan (IEP) team is specified in IDEA. Teams frequently consist of parent, evaluator, general education teacher, representative of LEA, special education teacher, others as invited.
Evaluation Evaluation draws on information from a variety of sources in the area of concern; decisions made by a group knowledgeable about the student, evaluation data, and placement options. Requires notice, with written parental consent being best practice. A full and individual evaluation is required, assessing all areas related to the suspected disability. Trained and knowledgeable personnel are to administer an evaluation. Requires informed consent before conducting an initial evaluation.
Eligibility Procedures When evaluation data are interpreted and accommodation decisions made, the law requires the following:
  • Draw upon information from a variety of sources.
  • Assure that all information is documented and considered.
  • Ensure that a group of persons including those who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and service options makes the relevant decisions.
When evaluation data are interpreted and placement decisions made, the law requires the following:
  • Draw upon information from a variety of sources.
  • Assure that all information is documented and considered.
  • Ensure that a group of persons including those who are knowledgeable about the child, the meaning of the evaluation data, and placement options makes the eligibility decision.
Placement Student is educated with his or her nondisabled peers in the least restrictive environment. Obtain parental consent prior to provision of special education and related services. Placement decision based on IEP. Ensure that the student is educated with his/her nondisabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate in the LRE. Convene an IEP review meeting before any change in placement.
Reevaluation Requires “periodic” reevaluations. While a triennial schedule for reevaluation will suffice, it is typical for districts to review Section 504 plans annually. Reevaluation is required before a significant change in placement. Reevaluation does not require a comprehensive evaluation. The reevaluation may be a review of current data on student progress. The Section 504 team determines if additional information is required. Requires triennial reevaluation; review of existing data is used to determine what, if any, additional information is required. A formal reevaluation is not required before a significant change in placement, but a review of current data is recommended. Informed parental consent is required for administration of a formal assessment through the reevaluation process, unless school district can show parent did not respond to attempts made.
Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) No provision for independent evaluations at district expense. District should consider any evaluations presented. Provides for IEE at district expense if parent disagrees with evaluation obtained by school district.
Drug and Alcohol Use Schools may take disciplinary action pertaining to use or possession of illegal drugs or alcohol against any student to the same extent such disciplinary action is taken against students who are not disabled. No due process procedures are required for students currently engaged in the illegal use of drugs or alcohol. IDEA rules of discipline apply.
Protection Against Retaliation Incorporates prohibition against retaliation, intimidation, coercion, threats, and discrimination found in regulations under Title VI of Civil Rights Act. Civil rights protections under Section 504 and the ADA apply.
Self-Evaluation by Recipient Requires recipients to conduct a self-evaluation to identify discriminatory policies and practices. None.
Internal Grievance Procedure Requires districts with 15 or more employees to designate a Section 504 compliance officer and a grievance procedure to investigate complaints alleging noncompliance with Section 504. State complaint procedures required. Prior to due process, district must offer early resolution.
Discipline District should review all pertinent data regarding the child prior to any disciplinary removal for more than 10 days. If the behavior is caused by the student’s disability, the student may not be removed for more than 10 consecutive school days unless the behavior is drug/alcohol related. If determined behavior was not a manifestation of a disability, the student may be disciplined the same way a student without a disability is disciplined. Any disciplinary removal of more than 10 consecutive days is a significant change of placement triggering the procedural safeguards of IDEA, including the right to remain in the current educational placement pending appeal. Cumulative removals of more than 10 school days within the school year may be considered a change of placement and thus trigger the procedural safeguards under IDEA. FAPE cannot be terminated as a disciplinary measure.
Due Process Requires districts to provide impartial hearings for parents or guardians who disagree with the identification, evaluation, or placement of a student. Requires that the parent have an opportunity to participate and be represented by counsel. Other details are left to the discretion of the local school district. Policy statements should clarify specific details. Requires districts to provide due process hearings for parents or guardians who disagree with the identification, evaluation, or placement of a student. Delineates specific requirements.
Exhaustion of Due Process Remedies Administrative hearing not required prior to OCR involvement or court action; compensatory damages possible. Requires the parent or guardian to pursue administrative hearing before seeking redress in the courts.

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