Why Schools Don’t Implement Student 504 And IEP Plans


Last Updated on March 23, 2022 by Michelle Ball

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

Time and time again, I meet with parents who are baffled why their child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) or 504 Plan (disability accommodations plan) is not being implemented at school.  
Sometimes parents do not notice for years that although the student’s IEP or 504 has many items which are supposed to be done, not all of them ARE actually being done.  This can be a heartbreaking discovery, as lack of implementation may waste years of valuable time for a student, who can get further and further behind. 
WHY do schools fail to implement student 504s and IEPs?
504 and IEPs can be ignored

Teachers and schools have no legal excuse for failing to implement a 504 or IEP

Lack of Follow Through Due to Busyness

So many parents trust school personnel to act like the parent would in life- responsibly.  Yes, teachers and staff are generally responsible adults and carry out their duties; however, there are a large portion of them who do not always do ALL that is required of them.  
Teachers can be busy, as we all can, and sometimes they just are not as organized as they should be.  Sometimes student 504 and IEP needs get left behind due to simple teacher busyness and failures to manage all their demands adequately.  A quiet student who has a disability may not be noticed, or the student’s documented 504 or IEP needs may be ignored or forgotten in the crush of school life. 
Lack of Knowledge

Teachers may also lack knowledge of a student’s IEP or 504 and what it contains, as all teachers do not have to attend the student’s 504 or IEP meeting.  Perhaps no school staff followed up with the teacher after a student IEP or 504 meeting, or the 504 or IEP plan got buried in their in-basket or went to spam.  
Confusion on What to Do
Student IEPs or 504s can also be poorly written, or so vague as to be almost meaningless.  Maybe they are too dense to be easily digested by teachers, who remain confused so do not act.  
Schools themselves can also be disorganized and/or constantly putting out fires, thereby dropping the “small stuff.”
504 and IEP plans must be implemented in schools

Some teachers can blatantly refuse to implement a student 504 or IEP plan

Sometimes there is an attitude of “That is not my job,” or “I am too busy with my other kids to work on this.”
Lack of Personnel
Sometimes schools are understaffed so no one actually carries out the services or accommodations for a student.  This is NO excuse for lack of implementation.  If a student’s 504 or IEP says a service must be delivered to a student, it can be discriminatory if it is not.
Lack of Enforcement
If a student 504 or IEP is not being implemented and no one notices, the issue may never get corrected.  This means, if a parent is unaware of how many hours of support a student is actually receiving versus what they are supposed to receive, the student may never get those services. 
Or, if a parent does not question the student on whether their accommodations are actually being done [for example, asking the student “Are you actually getting extended time on tests or sitting in the front of the classroom?”] the services may be lacking for years.
Lack of Willingness
Once in a while there are staff who flat refuse to honor IEPs and 504 Plans.  I have heard stories of high school math or science teachers who state out loud that they will not implement a student 504 or IEP or they don’t believe a student with a silent disability (e.g. learning disabled) is actually disabled.  This leads to lack of implementation and discrimination against the student,.
In all of the above, only the squeaky wheel gets attention.
504 IEPs must be done at school

Students must be helped by the schools and their 504s and IEP plans carried out to ensure they progress adequately in school

Parents Must Police the Schools to Ensure 504 and IEP Plans are DONE

Special education is full of follow-through failures.  It happens constantly. 
Once a student’s 504 or IEP is finally complete, most parents relax and mistakenly put their minds on other things, trusting the school to follow through.  
Not so fast.  A parent’s job is NEVER EVER done when a student is in school, special education or otherwise. Rather, parents have to babysit the school and their implementation of any student IEP or 504.
Know the 504 or IEP Well
If a parent is not familiar with the 504 or IEP plan, and what services are owed and accommodations must be done, they will have a difficult time knowing when something is NOT being done for the student. 
So, the first step is simply knowing the student’s 504 or IEP plan well.
Communication is Key

Parents must remain on top of the situation to ensure their child does not get overlooked.  Email to teachers and staff weekly can help ensure that items in the 504 or IEP are being implemented and can also alert a parent to problems.  
If staff refuse to email back or communicate with a parent, this must be addressed immediately. The obligation for the teachers to respond can be written into an IEP or 504.
What Does the Student Say?

Speaking with the student to see if services are being done is also important.  For example, is the student being pulled out for services?  Is someone working with the student in class?  Is the student able to go to the resource room to take tests?  What should be being done at school depends on the IEP or 504 Plan.  
parent enforcement of 504 and IEPs is necessary

Parents must take on schools and their lack of 504 and IEP follow-through

Classroom Inspections Can Help

A classroom inspection to see how things really are at school can often be illuminating.  School visitor policies should be followed.
Denial is not an option if polices are followed.
Trust Has to Be Earned, Even in Schools

Ultimately, parent trust in the schools and their competence should be earned.  And, it has to be earned yearly, depending on the staff involved.  I have far too many times met with parents who trusted for years, only to find out a student never received a service and has deficient academic or behavior skills.  It is very difficult to get those years back in education-land.
Parents Must Act

Parents must make sure student 504 plans and IEPs are being implemented. 
Parents must continue to ensure the student gets the services they are entitled to, and which are agreed to in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan. 
Parents also must take an active, albeit respectful, role in a students education so the student can win the education race, and not be left in the dust.

504 and IEP attorney Michelle Ball assists parents with IEP and 504 problems. As a student lawyer in Sacramento, California, Michelle helps families throughout California, in towns such as Lodi, Galt, Marysville, Fairfield, Roseville, Auburn, Natomas, Los Angeles, Burbank and many other areas.

[originally published 5/20/15]