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Special Education/504 Plan Honors/AP classes


Hi Michelle,

My son will be starting high school next year. He has had a 504 plan for a few years due to emotional difficulties.  The plan has been very helpful with his success in middle school.  He has been taking Honors classes and he is considering continuing in Honors in high school.  The psychologist at the high school he will be attending received a copy of his 504 from the middle school and she informed us that 504 accommodations are for students in general ed, not Honors or AP classes.  In other words he would not receive the accommodations if he was to take Honors classes. This is a huge surprise to me.  I thought the 504 provided accommodations to students in all settings, including Honors.  Any information you can provide in this area would me much appreciated.  Thank you!

ABCs for Life Success
ABCs for Life Success  
Hello, LJ, Thanks for writing to me, and thanks for a really important question about a school denying a child's accommodations in Honors or AP classes.  This is something we hear frequently-schools telling parents that the teacher in Honors or AP classes cannot provide necessary accommodation, telling parents that the student will have to be in 'regular' level classes to recieve accommodation, or the school removes or denies eligibility for the 504 plan all together after the parent makes the request#  

I would first of all say that if you do not have an evaluation which shows exactly what services or accommodations are needed, why they are needed, and the nature of the 'physical or mental impairment' should be well defined, in writing, by a qualified examiner#  

This way, if your son gets to the high school and the high school starts to want to remove or deny accommodation or services, you will have an evaluation performed at a time when his teachers know him and can give input into the evaluation#

I am not an attorney; I am a special education expert#  So the next thing after the evaluation and before you provide it to the school district, I would advise you to spend a bit of money and get a consult with a really great special education attorney#  You are asking a legal question at the end of the day, especially if the school truly is going to deny accommodation in higher level curriculum classes#  The Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act all 'hold hands' together to define what is and is not discrimination#  I would say that depending on the nature of your son's disability, each situation should be considered individually#  I believe as a layperson, the AP and the Honor's classes are of course federally funded,so they should be required to follow a child's 504 plan and fully participate in assuring his free appropriate public education#  

At the same time, I am aware of court cases around the country, where the school distrits say that the child, to be eligible for the 504 Plan, should be compared to average peers#  I contacted the 504 office in my Eastern US region and was able to speak with two attorneys directly, so you may want to do that in this case as well# They told me that if an eligible student needs accommodation, they cannot be denied in any program that recieves federal funding#  And that the eligible student's accommodations would be defined by the multidisciplinary team, and documented as necessary for his FAPE#   I know this sounds general, but it makes sense that there should not be discrimination that a set of students would be denied accommodation#  But then again, the team may find the child ineligible, depending on what the individual facts are about the child and his needs#  

As you know, there is a process to determine whether your son will be recommended for or be enrolled in the AP or Honor's classes#  That process should be in place and if the recommendation for Honor's and AP classes or the process is complete, then go ahead and document your understanding of your son's enrollment for the upcoming year in those classes#  At the same time, the 504 plan that is currently in place will follow your son to the high school#  At that point, when the school year begins, I would assure that the high school has a copy of the evaluation showing what your child needs and in what classes he should remain#

If you have difficulty, contact the school district's 504 coordinator, the Office of Civil Rights #a link below shows the process you can use to seek information##

Here are my top 5 resources for you#  I did not include my own book on this list, but I do think both of my books may be good resources for you#  The links are at the end of my answer#  :#

This link is a great definition of who is eligible for the 504 plan, and how FAPE is defined:


2# This link shows how the ADA was revised in 2009, broadening the definition of a person with a disability and opening up more flexibility in who should become eligible for the 504 plan#  


3# This has background and general information about the Rehabilitation Act#  


4# In California, the definition of an eligible child is the same as the Rehabilitation Act#  

5# Here is an organization whose publication is clear that the rights of a person with a disability should be maintained in AP classes, which is a federally funded program#

Here is a list from that site of other issues and relevant articles#

So in summary, I do not think it is appropriate for the school district to tell parents that any group of student would either not qualify for the 504 plan, or especially that the 504 plan would not be followed, in any program which recieves federal funding, such as a school system#  

At the same time, you should assure that your son is eligible by fully understanding the definitions and eligibility criteria I have provided for you at these links#  Also, I feel you should explore obtaining a full and complete independent #probably privately provided by an independent examiner# evaluation for your son, so that first, you know you understand his needs and he understands his needs, but also to protect your son from a random removal of accommodation#  Also, this gives you a private expert whose only interest is your son#  Lastly, I feel that you would benefit from an organized and pointed consultation with an experienced disability attorney, who specializes in special education#  

Thank you again for writing to me#  I sincerely hope that I have provided the information you need to continue to advocate for your son#  #He will start to self advocate in high school and through to college, so you have provided a good model for him!#

Twitter @abc4success
Connect w Michelle R# Davis on LinkedIn

My Books:
School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book

Special Education

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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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