Question: How does a 504 plan differ from an IEP?
Answer: A 504 plan, which falls under civil-rights law, is an attempt to remove barriers and allow students with disabilities to participate freely; like the Americans With Disabilities Act, it seeks to level the playing field so that those students can safely pursue the same opportunities as everyone else. An IEP, which falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, is much more concerned with actually providing educational services. Students eligible for an IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, represent a small subset of all students with disabilities. They generally require more than a level playing field -- they require significant remediation and assistance, and are more likely to work on their own level at their own pace even in an inclusive classroom. Only certain classifications of disability are eligible for an IEP, and students who do not meet those classifications but still require some assistance to be able to participate fully in school would be candidates for a 504 plan.
Next question: How do I get a 504 plan for my child?