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IEPs and 504 Service Agreements
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Homebound instruction is provided for temporary and urgent reasons; it is not a long-term solution. Students on homebound instruction generally are confined to home or a care unit. A doctor does not "order" homebound instruction but rather provides the diagnosis to enable the school district to make an informed decision on how to best provide for the student's education.

At times a school district may confuse the need for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Service Agreement with a need for homebound instruction. If the need for homebound instruction goes beyond the initial three months, the school district should determine whether the student should be evaluated or considered for either an IEP or a 504 Service Agreement.

One indication that a child is "thought-to-be" eligible may include a determination by the district, parent, or a professional that the child's educational needs cannot be met in a regular public school setting. If a child does not qualify for special education services under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), they may qualify for modifications under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Understanding the Differences Between IDEA and Section 504 is helpful in determining which option to pursue.

In most cases, an IEP or 504 Service Agreement enable students to continue their education in the school setting.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

An IEP is a written plan for the provision of services for the education of students who are disabled or gifted. The district has a responsibility under Child Find for children "thought-to-be" eligible for special education services and/or accommodations. This responsibility includes locating, identifying, and evaluating all students with suspected disabilities, including but not limited to evaluating students for whom a request for an evaluation has been made.

Two criteria exist for an IEP, both of which must be met:

  • The student must meet one of the 13 disability categories defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2004 (IDEA).
  • The student must need special education; that is, the child requires specifically designed instruction to receive educational benefits

According to 34 CFR § 300.8 (related to a Child with a disability), the 13 categories are:

  • mental retardation (pending language change to "intellectual disability")
  • hearing impairment
  • speech or language impairment,
  • visual impairment (including blindness)
  • emotional disturbance
  • orthopedic impairment
  • autism
  • traumatic brain injury
  • other health impairment
  • specific learning disability
  • deafness
  • deaf-blindness
  • multiple disabilities

Emotional disturbance is defined at 34 CFR § 300.8(c)(4) as:

  • An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
  • An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
  • Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
  • A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
  • A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

If a child is identified by a school district as "thought-to-be" disabled and in possible need of specially designed instruction under IDEA and Chapter 14, the district should move forward with a special education evaluation under IDEA and 22 PA Code Chapter 14.

Private Schools
Private school students who have been parentally placed do not have the same rights to special education services as public school students; however, intermediate units are required to meet with the administrators of their area private schools to discuss the services they will provide via equitable participation.

At minimum, the local school district must provide the following to students enrolled in private schools:

  • Upon request they must evaluate the student for special education, without cost, and determine whether the student is eligible for special education services.
  • If eligible, the resident school district must offer a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the public school. The parent can refuse the offer of FAPE and parentally place the child in a non-public school.

Helpful Links:

504 Service Agreement

A student that does not qualify for special education services under IDEA (an educational law) still may qualify for services under Section 504 (a civil rights law) if the disability is shown to substantially limit his or her educational performance.

A child with a disability is one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working. Accommodations often refer to building accessibility, classroom adjustments and curriculum modifications and may be updated or revised as the need changes.

34 CFR § 104.3 (j) defines a handicapped person with rights under the Rehabilitation Act as any person who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • has a record of such an impairment, or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment.

Examples of disabilities under Section 504 include:

  • Student breaks their arm in 5 places and cannot write; the district provides someone to take notes or write the homework
  • Student is deaf and plays sports. The district provides an interpreter for the classroom and any school sports activities they are involved in
  • Student has cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, migraines, allergies or asthma; the student is allowed to obtain treatment or medication, as needed
  • Student uses a wheelchair; student is permitted to leave classes early to avoid hall traffic
  • Student is under a doctor's care for depression or anxiety, frequent behavioral problems, ADHD; the student is given additional time for completing assignments and allowed to sit in the front of the classroom

Both federal and state conditions exist for a 504 plan:

Helpful Links:


For additional information, please contact:

Lois Novak |
Pennsylvania Department of Education - School Services Office
333 Market Street | Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Phone: 717.783.6610 | Fax: 717.214.4389
RA-homebound@pa.gov | www.education.state.pa.us