Many people in Mobile probably recognize that education is not a one-size-fits-all prospect. Everyone learns in different ways, and each individual Alabaman is going to bring his or her own strengths and weaknesses to the table.
However, the realities of administering the public-school system in Alabama requires some streamlining. While this is normally understandable, the demand for efficiency cannot ever be an excuse to leave behind a child who has documented legal disabilities that mean he or she will need additional help with his or her education.
An Individualized Educational Plan, or IEP for short, is a legally binding document that applies to a student who has a documented disability. It serves as a specific roadmap which the school must follow so as to ensure that the student gets the tools he or she needs to receive an education even though suffering with a disability.
It is important to distinguish an IEP from another type of document often used in special education law called a Section 504 Plan. Unlike an IEP, a Section 504 Plan is not going to contain affirmative steps that a school must do in order to provide an adequately specialized education for a child with disabilities.
Instead, the document serves the more general purpose of assuring that the student has equal access to educational resources despite his or her disability. In other words, a Section 504 Plan offers some accommodations to a student who otherwise is receiving the same education as all other students, while an IEP offers special education in the strictest sense of the term.
As legally binding documents required under federal law, both an IEP and a Section 504 Plan confer important rights upon parents and students, and schools must respect these rights. A special education lawyer can help answer a parent's questions about IEPs.