The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA) were signed into law on June 4, 1997, and revised in 2004.
IDEA requires that a school district, responsible for a student with a disability, must provide all related services necessary for the student to benefit from the education being offered, including school “related services.”
Section 504 is a federal civil rights law that requires that school districts that receive any federal funding make programs and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Before anyone gets anxious, or upset, thinking, “Wait! I don’t want my kid to be thought of as disabled because he has Crohn’s! I want him to be treated just like everyone else!” or, “I don’t want my child to grow up thinking he’s some kind of victim!” or; “I don’t want to pin a label on him!” let’s define “disability”—that is, as the term applies to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments.
So, what is a disability? A physical or mental impairment (or a history of a physical or mental impairment) substantially limiting one or more major life activities. The federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the agency responsible for enforcing Section 504 compliance, expanded “major life activities” to include learning, seeing, walking, taking care of oneself, etc. It’s not hard to see how, unfortunately, severe Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be disabling, especially to children. Two major life activities almost always limited in IBD in some way, are eating, and taking care of oneself.
This provision requires public schools to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for each disabled student meeting federal and state guidelines for special education. In order to be considered for special education, a student’s disability must hinder educational progress.
When the term “IEP” is used, it can be describing either the document created by the school IEP team—which must include the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s)—or, the plan, itself.