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Students’ IEPs Define Their Special Education Services. Once an evaluator recommends that special education services would be appropriate, a team of stakeholders come together to prepare an IEP—an individualized written statement defining the services the LEA will provide for the student. Federal and state laws outline the IEP process, including setting timelines for completing and reviewing the plan (at least annually, but more frequently if a student’s needs change); specifying what the plan should include (described in Figure 1); and designating required IEP team participants. An IEP team typically includes the student’s parents, a school administrator, a special education teacher or service provider, the student’s general education teacher, the evaluator who determined the student’s eligibility for services, and—when appropriate—the student. The IEP becomes a legal document requiring the LEA to provide the services described for the SWD. (Throughout the remainder of this report, we use the term SWD to refer to disabled students who have formally qualified to receive special education services.)
Section 504 : Section 504 is a component of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities, public and private, that receive federal financial assistance. Any person is protected who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such impairment. Major life activities include walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.