Special education law for children with disabilities


Federal civil rights law to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities.


Exceptional student education (ESE) services are for students ages 3 - 21 who have one or more eligible disabilities.

Students with an IEP need specialized instruction to make progress in school. The disability must impact the educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general education curriculum.

A student with a 504 plan has an identified disability. The disability must substantially limit one or more of basic life activities. 

Students with a 504 plan can receive accommodations, but not specialized instruction.

Educational Instruction

Specially designed instruction

  • Accommodations

  • Specialized Instruction

  • K-12 grades

General education curriculum 

  • Accommodations

  • No specialized instruction

  • K-12 grades and post-secondary

Team members

An IEP is created by an IEP team which may include: 

  • parent(s) or guardian

  • student (as appropriate), and in all meetings that address transition services needs

  • at least one general education teacher

  • at least one special education teacher or service provider

  • a school district representative knowledgeable about curriculum and specially designed instruction

  • An individual who can interpret the evaluation results

  • Other individuals who have knowledge or special expertise regarding the student, including related services personnel

A 504 team is made up of people who are familiar with the child and understand the evaluation data and special services options. This might include:

  • The child’s parent or caregiver

  • General and special education teachers

  • The school principal

The rules about who’s on the 504 team are less specific than they are for an IEP.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.