Do Schools Have To Follow Student 504 Plans? Yes!


Last Updated on February 12, 2024 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Parents have frequent issues getting student 504 Plans (disability accommodations plans) enforced and accommodations implemented for disabled students. What can a parent do?

disabled student 504 plan
504 Plans can help a disabled child to participate in their education at an equal level to their peers

Are 504 Plans Merely Symbolic?

Based on the lack of implementation of 504 Plans rampant in schools, it is almost as if student 504 Plans are symbolic, or just random pieces of paper in disabled student’s files.  

But 504s are not random. They are legally binding documents which obligate schools to do the things required by the 504 Plan.

Failing to follow a 504 Plan is illegal and can evidence discrimination against a disabled student. Schools can get in big trouble for ignoring student 504s.

Common 504 Issues

Some issues I see with 504 Plans are:

1)  Poorly written (e.g. not adequate number or specific enough accommodations), or
2)  Lack of enforcement, or
3)  No 504 Plan.

504 plans must be enforced
Any accommodation written but not enforced might as well not exist as it is valueless for the student.

Presuming there IS a 504 in place with some form of accommodations included, parents should not be faced with lack of compliance with the 504 by school personnel.  It should be written and done, right?  

Examples of Lack of 504 Implementation

Unfortunately, 504 implementation issues are common.  For example, the 504 states that the student is to be seated in the front of the classroom, and the teacher refuses.  

Or, the student is to be given classroom notes, but these never arrive.  

Maybe the teachers treat the student like they are not disabled and refuse to do anything written in the 504 at all. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.

504 Plans Are Legally Binding

A 504 is a legally binding document which sets forth items the school or district must provide and implement, period.  If they do not, their conduct could be found to be discriminatory.

Solving 504 Implementation Issues

504 plan girl student
504 Plans can change a student’s educational life and their future

If 504 issues exist, parents can attempt to straighten things out directly with the school.  If this fails, a complaint can be filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.  

504 Plans Can Change a Student’s Life

Implementation of a well written 504 Plan can change a disabled student’s life at school, and can mean the difference between graduating and failing, good grades and bad.

504 Plans are powerful. But, 504s have to actually be carried out and done, in order to help the student in need.

504 Plans must be implemented at school, regardless of balking teachers, or laziness.  

Don’t let your school fail your child by ignoring this important legally binding document.

[originally published July 12, 2012]

Student lawyer Michelle Ball assists with 504 and special education/IEP (Individualized Educational Program) plans, meetings, and enforcement. As an education attorney in Sacramento, she assists across the state in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, Riverside, Orange County, Redding, Roseville, Sonora and many other California cities.