Ask the Experts

Does My Child’s Private School Have to Give Her Accommodations?

Even if your child’s private school isn’t legally required to offer accommodations, IEPs, or 504 plans, she can still get the help she needs in more informal ways. Here’s what parents need to know.

Q: “Our child has had a 504 Plan for several years in public school. Now we are moving and have decided to enroll her in a private school. The school tells us that they don’t offer 504 Plans. Is this legal?”

It probably is. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, referred to as Section 504, is part of a federal law that prohibits discrimination by businesses or organizations that receive federal funds. It’s worth checking to see if your child’s private school receives federal funding, directly or indirectly, for school lunches, grants for technology, or in some other way. If it does, Section 504 would apply to all students in the school, not just to those who participate in a particular program. The Americans with Disabilities Act contains a specific exemption for religious organizations, but religious schools that receive federal funding are subject to Section 504.

If your child’s school is funded privately, and, therefore, not subject to Section 504, what can you do to make sure that she gets what she needs? First, speak to her school. Tell the teachers and administrators what has worked for her in the past and how she learns best. Many private schools will provide necessary accommodations informally. If your daughter needs services like academic support, in addition to accommodations, she may qualify for an IESP, an Individualized Education Services Program (the name varies in some states), available to students in private schools under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Contact the school district in which the private school is located to begin the process. While an IESP provides services, a private school is not required to offer accommodations, or even a time or a place for support services, if they choose not to.

[Free Resource: What’s the Difference Between an IEP and a 504 Plan?]