Why would I want to request 504 services instead of Special Education services?*
There are two good reasons:
1. Many children with disabilities do not qualify for special education because they do not fall into one of the 13 defining handicapping conditions under special education law or do not need any special services to be able to learn. Nonetheless, they may be entitled to services or accommodations under 504. For example, a student who cannot walk and needs to use a wheelchair does not need any specialized learning instruction or services under special education, but is entitled to have ramps placed so that she can access her classrooms. Another example is a child with a specific reading disability (for example, dyslexia) who, because he may be very bright, is able to read on grade level, but still reads very slowly. Even if his district did not classify him as "learning disabled" under special education, he would be entitled to testing accommodations, such as extra time to take tests, under Section 504.
2. Some students may qualify for both Special Education services and Section 504, but their parents prefer going through Section 504 because they have more control over the process, particularly if their child has a behavioral problem. Once a parent consents for their child to receive special education services, they become part of a system that can be difficult to leave, and frequently leads to more and more segregated special education settings. By seeking services and accommodations through 504, a parent can secure support for their child in a general education setting, with less concern about that decision leading to a long road through special education.‡
*Students who receive Special Ed services are also protected by Section 504. In other words, they cannot be discriminated against due to their disability and they are entitled to accommodations and services. Because Special Ed students typically get those services and accommodations through the Special Ed system, theydo not need to separately apply for them through Section 504.
‡In both special education and 504 parents have due process rights; the difference is that parents often feel that they are less in control in the special education process.hat happens if the district does not approve my child's accommodation plan?
If services are denied and you want to challenge the district's decision, you have two options:
1. Initial Conciliation. You have the right to ask that the Chancellor appoint a third party to review the decision to reject services for your child. To request conciliation, send a letter to: Chancellor, New York City Board of Education, 110 Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. The Chancellor has 5 days from the date of receiving your letter to assign a designee. The designee must give you a decision within 10 days of receiving your request. (Note: Although the conciliation process is offered in the Board of Education's regulations, advocates have found that the process is largely ineffectual in practice. If you are concerned about time restraints, we suggest that you skip conciliation and move to the next step, impartial hearing.)
2. Impartial Hearing. Within 10 days of receiving an unfavorable decision from the chancellor or at any time that your child's rights are being violated under Section 504, you can ask for a Section 504 Impartial Hearing by writing to: Impartial Hearing Office, New York City Board of Education, 131 Livingston Street - Room 201, Brooklyn, NY 11201. The hearing is a formal process in which you will have a chance to contest the district's decision in front of a neutral hearing officer, whose decision must be followed by the district. Your rights in the hearing process include the right to be represented by an attorney and to present evidence and testimony.
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