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An Overview of the Differences between 504 and IDEA

The major differences between IDEA and Section 504 are in the flexibility of the procedures. For a child to be identified as eligible for services under Section 504, there are less specific procedural criteria that govern the requirements of the school personnel. Schools may offer a student less assistance and monitoring with Section 504 because there are fewer regulations by the federal government to instruct them, especially in terms of compliance.

In contrast, a child identified for services under IDEA must meet specific criteria. The degree of regulation is more specific in terms of time frames, parental participation, and formal paperwork requirements. IDEA also addresses the special education of students with disabilities from preschool to graduation only (from ages 3 to 21). Section 504 covers the lifespan and safeguards the rights of persons with disabilities in many areas of their lives, including employment, public access to buildings, transportation, and education.

The criteria for identification, eligibility, appropriate education, and due process procedures under IDEA and Section 504 vary. It is important for you and your child's teachers to understand how these laws differ, and how those differences could affect your child's education.

Identification and Eligibility

In order for children with disabilities to receive services, they must be identified and then determined to be eligible for these services. Under IDEA guidelines, school districts are required to identify and evaluate all children suspected of having a disability whose families reside within the district. Section 504 does not have this requirement.


  • Covers all school-aged children who fall within one or more specific categories of qualifying conditions (i.e., autism, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, emotional disturbance, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and other health impairments).

  • Requires that a child's disability adversely affects her educational performance.

Section 504

  • Covers individuals who meet the definition of qualified "handicapped" person -- for example, a child who has or has had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity or is regarded as handicapped by others. (Major life activities include: walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.)

  • Does not require that a child need special education to qualify. Note: Students who are ineligible for services or are no longer entitled to services under IDEA (e.g., kids with LD who no longer meet IDEA eligibility criteria) may be entitled to accommodations under Section 504.

Child Find Notice

Under a mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), Gray Collegiate Academy is to conduct activities to locate, identify, and evaluate any child with known or suspected disabilities who attends the school. Categories of disabilities may include: developmental delay, mental disability, emotional disability, speech or language impairment, deafness and hard of hearing, visual impairment, deaf-blindness, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, traumatic brain injury, autism, and multiple disabilities.


A referral (request for possible evaluation) may be made by parent/guardians, school staff member, or other concerned persons. Referrals are made when a person reasonably believes a child may be a child with a disability even if the child is advancing from grade to grade. Before referring the student, the person making the referral must inform the child's parent that the referral will be made.


Gray Collegiate Academy employs interventions for struggling students.  Before an evaluation is conducted the student should be enrolled in one of the intervention programs.  However, the school may not deny a request or delay a request for an evaluation.


Referrals must be in writing and include the reason why the person believes the child is a child with a disability. Referral forms may be requested by contacting Alexandria Mims


For Medical Home bound inquiries, you may contact Alexandria Mims

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