When substitute teachers come in to cover a general education class, it’s important to have a plan in place so the substitute knows the interventions, accommodations, and how to implement them for the students in the class.

Failing to properly educate substitutes about IEPs, 504s and BIPs has resulted in problems for many school districts.  For example, a Minnesota district faced an OCR complaint when a substitute teacher did not know about the interventions mandated in a 504 student’s BIP.  The substitute disciplined the student without first applying the behavior intervention plan.  St. Paul (MN) Pub. Sch. Dist., 115 LRP 1476 (OCR 11/05/14). OCR concluded that the district discriminated against the student based on her disability by failing to implement her 504 plan.

To ensure that substitute staff members are up-to-speed on IEPs, 504s and BIPs, schools should consider the following:

  • Develop written procedures that outline a consistent method to ensure that substitute teachers are aware of and trained to implement a student’s IEP, 504 or BIP, before they get into the classroom.
  • Prepare “sub summaries.” It’s unrealistic to think a substitute will read a 30-page IEP or 10-page 504 plan, especially if they are coming in on short notice.  Summaries of students’ IEPs or 504 plans are a great way to help substitute teachers be adequately prepared.
  • Each student’s IEP or 504 team can draft the Sub Summary. Depending on the student, the summary should highlight the student’s accommodations, health concerns, IEP goals, related services, and behavior plan.
  • Provide adequate training to substitute teachers to provide them with the necessary tools to work with both nondisabled students and students with disabilities. Substitutes should also know who to call for assistance if they are unable to control a situation or feel uncomfortable doing so.
  • Provide additional training to long-term substitutes, including on the IEP and 504 process. They may be the general education team member on those teams, depending on the length of their assignments.
  • Put long-term substitute teachers under the supervision of another accredited teacher at the school, ideally someone with significant tenure. The permanent teacher can work with the long-term sub on lesson plans, data collection, behavior management, and the like.

Make sure that administrators are properly trained in discipline procedures under the IDEA and 504, including when to conduct a manifestation determination review.  Thus if a substitute sends a student to the administrator for a discipline issue, without first undertaking the appropriate behavior interventions, the administrator will have the knowledge to take corrective action.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please feel free to contact Erin H. Walz at 480.461.5379, log on to or contact an attorney in your area.