For Some Families There’s No Place Like Home: The IDEA and Home Schooling

All fifty states have laws allowing parents to home school their children. Under the IDEA special education includes specially designed instruction in the home when that home based instruction is necessary to educate the child with a disability. Some families, however, prefer to educate their children at home because they prefer home schooling rather than public school. Similarly, some families prefer private school placement for their children rather public school. These families choose to place their child in a private school or to home school the child, not for disability related reasons, but as a parental preference. (For a discussion of special education services to parentally-placed private school children please see my post Services Plans for Parentally-placed Private School Children with Disabilities.) The IDEA does require some special education services for parentally placed private school children with disabilities. But it is up to the laws of each state  whether children with disabilities who are home schooled are entitled to special education services through the public schools.

In the Analysis of Comments and Changes to the IDEA 2006 Part B Regulations, the Department of Education stated that:

     “Whether home-schooled children with disabilities are considered parentally- placed private school children with disabilities is a matter left to State law. Children with disabilities in home schools or home day cares must be treated in the same way as other parentally-placed private school children with disabilities for purposes of Part B of the Act only if the State recognizes home schools or home day cares as private elementary schools or secondary schools.”

This comment follows the reasoning of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Hooks v. Clark County School District (9th Cir. 2000). In that case the court followed a 1992 Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) policy letter also stating that it is up to the individual states to determine whether home-education constitutes a private school placement and qualifies the student for services under the IDEA.

So, if your state law treats home schooled children the same as children who are unilaterally placed by their parents in private schools, then children with disabilities who are home schooled in your state are entitled to the same services as the private school child. But, if home schooled children are not considered private school children under your state law, then the home schooled child may not be entitled to any special education services from the school district.  Please note that even if your state law treats home schooled children the same as parentally-placed private school children, the school district is not required to offer as extensive services as a child in the public schools and the services the child receives will be through services plan, not an IEP.

For information regarding whether your state treats home schooled children the same as private school children you should contact your state education agency.

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