Educational Rights and Resources

The Laws:

There are two laws that are important for children who have cancer and are undergoing treatment.  The first of those laws is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), renewed by congress in 2004.  The original law was passed in 1975, reauthorized in 1997, and updated in 2004 to more closely match the "No Child Left Behind Act". The law requires every school district to identify, evaluate, and serve children with special education needs. The law covers children ages 3 to 22 years. A child must meet the federally defined criteria for one of thirteen categories to be qualified for special education or related services. Children with cancer are usually qualified under the "Other Health Impairment" category if they need extra support to make progress in school. Children suffering from late effects of cancer treatment are sometimes qualified under different categories, depending on the child's problem.

The other law to be aware of is The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504.  This law is meant to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and allow for needed accommodations to promote access to services. Any agency (school) that receives federal money must accommodate the needs of people with disabilities so they can access the service or program. A 504 Plan can provide supports like extra time, smaller groups for instruction, additional textbooks for home, and many others.

IDEA addresses services for educational benefit and allows for changes in curriculum to insure a child’s learning progresses.  Children who are eligible for services under IDEA will have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) at school.  The IEP is a legal contract that spells out the educational and related services that are to be provided to the child.  Section 504 addresses the need for access to services.  For example, a child with physical limitations but no learning problems may have a 504 Plan that outlines accommodations for his movement into and around the classroom or school.  Children who are eligible for services under IDEA also have the protections of Section 504.  While civil rights laws protect the 504 Plan, students with a 504 plan do not have the same protection of educational rights provided by IDEA.


Ohio Department of Education, Office of Students with Disabilities,

Siegel, L.M. (2009). The complete IEP guide: How to advocate for your special ed child(6th ed).  Berkeley, CA: NOLO.

The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities
(800) 231-5872,

Wilmshurst, L. & Brue. A.W. (2005). A parent's guide to special education. New York: American Management Association.

Wright, P. & Wright, P. (2006). From emotions to advocacy: The special education survival guide (2nd ed). Hartfield, VA: Harbor House Law Press, Inc.

Wrightslaw web page:

For a downloadable version (PDF) of this page, click here.

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