In all environments, particularly academic ones, there is not always a general plan suitable for all different kinds of people and learners. This is why more specific and specialized plans such as 504s and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are necessary to provide a comfortable, effective learning environment for all students so that they can thrive. IEP and 504 plans are beneficial to a range of students and should be made easier for applicable students to access.
Diamond King, an IEP counselor at Berkeley High School, reflected on the school’s own process for distributing accommodations such as a 504 or an IEP.
“I think it’s a great process. I think access may be difficult because the information is not really readily available,” King said. “I would love to see it more readily available and out there and open for parents and things like that: a clear kind of process of how to go about it if they feel like their kids may need some services.”
This clear process is crucial, especially considering that, as stated by the U.S Department of Education in Sec. 300.321 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, “The public agency must ensure that the IEP Team for each child with a disability includes — The parents of the child.”
If the system fails to provide parents, families, and other persons with necessary procedures and general information, this prevents students from getting the help they need, otherwise further damaging their already difficult educational experience.
Students with disabilities may have a harder time in school, and a lack of assistance can further this disparity. According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, they “have a lower four-year graduation rate than other student groups; a suspension rate that is almost double the statewide average; and a relatively high rate of chronic absenteeism, with almost one in five students with disabilities missing 10 percent or more of the school year.”
This highlights the importance of informing students on accommodations and how they can prevent these setbacks to increase each individual’s likelihood of success.
As King pointed out, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) is dedicated to increasingly providing students with the resources they need.
“We have more bandwidth as the team grows, we’re able to assess the kids and get them in the right place for the right services that they need,” King said. “The teams are getting bigger, like they’ve hired people to be directly over the 504 program. We’ve also got more psychologists on campus and we’re looking to have more counselors within the district to help with IEP counseling specifically. And so with that, we’re able to save a lot more students.”
While one student may be prone to learning more effectively through speech, another may understand better through visual learning. Each student is different, and by disregarding this, people are prevented from meeting their personal goals and from receiving a thorough education. In furthering accessibility for 504s and IEPs, one more step is taken toward creating a positive environment where all students are given equal opportunities to learn.