504 Plan California: A Brief Guide

Legal matters often seem overly complex. Attorney at law Brian Sciacca can explain the 504 Plan California and more. Contact us for information and advice.

Getting Your Child Compensatory Education


Although it may be heartbreaking to learn that your beloved child might have a learning disability, it is not the end of the road. The United States has made special provisions for children who may require special education that allows them to attend school with their peers.

So, if you believe or suspect your child needs special education or is struggling at school, you need to be aware of your options to ensure that your child’s education doesn’t fall behind regardless of their intellectual ability. In such an instance, one of your options would be to request a 504 plan in terms of the United States Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

What Is a 504 Plan in California?


Schools are required by law to develop 504 plans in order to accommodate students with disabilities. This type of plan must accommodate any condition that substantially restricts daily functions.

The law applies to schools that receive federal funds. Such schools are required to provide special education services and make necessary changes to accommodate eligible children with disabilities.

These could include changes to the learning environment or changes in the mode of instruction. As a result of these accommodations, kids are able to learn differently while receiving the same education as other children.

The process of designing a 504 plan is delicate, and no two plans are alike due to the fact that every child is different. Even if their special needs are the same, each child requires a unique plan to fully benefit from the program.

504 Plans and Individualized Education Programs(IEP) Distinguished


Although both concepts are related and exist side by side in most school districts, a 504 plan differs from an IEP. IEPs are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

IEPs are usually applied to children who require special education services due to their disability and need special attention. In contrast, with 504 plans, the child does not need to attend a special education institution. Instead, they are used for children who can cope in a general classroom if specific changes or concessions are made for their benefit.

Eligibility for a 504 Plan


From the definition provided in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, children or students eligible for a 504 plan include:

  • Those whose disabilities prevent them from carrying out basic activities like walking, seeing, or reading

  • Those with a medical report that states that they’re mentally or physically impaired

  • Those with a permanent disability (for example, a child with a broken bone can’t be considered for a 504 plan since the broken bone would most likely heal).

In a nutshell, your child likely qualifies for a 504 plan if they have a disability that affects how they conduct their daily activities and education. These disabilities can either be physical, cognitive, or emotional.

If your child’s disability does not fall under the category of autism, cerebral palsy, deafness, or others covered by an IEP plan, then a 504 plan might be an appropriate option. However, a 504 plan for a child is usually created only after an evaluation of your child by the school.

How to Get a 504 Plan in California

If you’re a parent with concerns about your child’s learning in a general education classroom, you can begin the journey to getting help by taking the following steps:

  1. Identify your child’s needs and gather the necessary documents, including medical reports, school assessments, private evaluations, or report cards.
  2. Find out who the 504 coordinator for your child’s school is. Schools in each public school district are required to have one. You can check the school’s website for this information.
  3. Write a letter formally requesting a 504 plan for your child, stating your reasons and any possible solutions. For example, you may request that your ADHD child be allowed more breaks between classes, so they can concentrate and learn like other students.
  4. Follow up on the request letter. The 504 plan coordinators are supposed to reply immediately, but you can contact them after a few days if they don’t.
  5. Take the evaluation process. The school would likely want to assess you, your child, your child’s teacher, and any other school staff likely to be in close contact with your child.
  6. If your child qualifies after the evaluation, you go ahead to the next step, creating a unique 504 plan for your child.

If the school fails to act on your request, you might need to evaluate your options with the help of a special education lawyer.

How to File a Complaint About a 504 Plan or Process in California

If your child’s school gets the federal funds but fails to provide services for a 504 plan, You could file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Education as follows:


If you wish to make a complaint online, you can visit their website and fill out the electronic complaint form.

You may also need to go through an assessment to determine if the OCR can assist you.


You could also send a mail to the California office address. You’re allowed to use a discrimination complaint form or write a letter. The letter may include:

  • Your name, telephone number, and working address

  • Information and evidence of the child not receiving the appropriate services according to their special needs

  • The location and name of the school in breach of the written accommodations for your child and details of what transpired.


You could also send in your complaint by email to [email protected]. Your email could follow the same format as the letters above.

Get Help From a Special Education Attorney


If you have further questions about your 504 plan or you’re facing any challenge with the request process, you might benefit from a consultation with a skilled special education attorney. Your attorney can help you resolve any disputes that may have arisen and protect you from discrimination.

Attorney at Law Brian R. Sciacca understands the struggles of parents with special needs children. He can be your compensatory education guide and assist you as you seek a 504 0r IEP plan for your child. You can contact him at (949) 516-0633 to schedule a free consultation.