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Special Education

Children with disabilities or other conditions affecting their ability to progress in school fall under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, often referred to as “IDEA.” IDEA requires that all students receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education, or “FAPE.” In order to insure that they do, schools are required by both federal and Virginia law to evaluate children who may have a disability affecting their education and address any needs that are revealed as a result of the evaluation. Depending upon the nature of the disability, some children may then receive an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, or they may receive what is often called a “504 Plan,” which falls not under IDEA, but § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 Plan?

Both are designed to assist children with disabilities as they navigate through school, and both are to be provided at no cost to the parents. The types of disabilities and the specific effect on each child are different for those who receive an IEP versus a 504 Plan. The IEP falls under IDEA, which has very specific criteria for what disabilities are addressed and specific rules for the manner in which they are addressed, the types of assistance available, and the process for resolving any disputes which arise. A 504 Plan is designed to remove impediments to accessing education, and addresses accommodations for disabilities that directly impact the child’s ability to navigate the school environment itself. Most everyone who qualifies for an IEP would also qualify under § 504, but the reverse is not true.

My child is struggling in school. What can I do?

Not every child who struggles in school will qualify for an IEP or a 504 plan, but any parent or teacher who feels that a disability may be impacting that child’s ability to learn or to participate fully in the school setting can and should suggest an Individualized Educational Evaluation, or “IEE.” With parental consent, a team consisting of the parents, educators, and other involved parties can then meet to discuss what, if any, accommodations or interventions are needed.

I disagree with the decisions made about my child’s education. Do I have any recourse?

Parents who feel that their children’s needs are not being properly met by the school, and that the child is not able to receive a FAPE as a result, have remedies which are dependent upon the findings of the IEE and the type of plan under which the child falls.

Do I need an attorney to assist me with my child’s education?

Many people work with school officials very successfully to help their children through special education. However, the legal requirements of IEPs, 504 Plans, and their execution can be very complex and not always intuitive, and your child may have rights of which you are not aware. Whether you are in the beginning stages of an IEE or your child has been involved in special education for some time, you may find it helpful to have an attorney assist you, either by helping insure that all of you child’s needs are addressed in his plan, or by resolving any dispute that may arise later in the process.

Working with Poarch Law on Special Education

Poarch Law will meet with you to determine whether your child’s situation is one that we can address in a positive, impactful way, and to identify any potential issues that may negatively affect his or her education. Poarch Law consults on special education cases nationally usually on a flat fee basis. Contact us now to arrange a consultation online, over the phone, or in person.

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