The Home School Court Report
No. 5

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Not the Right I.D.E.A.

Home School Legal Defense Association has become aware that some Nebraska school districts are sending letters to homeschoolers (considered “private schools” in this state), inviting them to meetings to discuss "“eligibility for special services” from the school district. These letters are most likely prompted by the “Child Find” provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In order to maintain eligibility for federal education funding, local school districts are required to make a free appropriate public education available to all students in their district, and they must create a plan to locate, identify, and evaluate all students who reside in the school district and are suspected of having special education needs.

The difficulty arises when school districts mistakenly interpret their requirement to make contact as authority to require action on the part of private schools (including homeschools). In other states, some school districts have actually initiated due process hearings against homeschooling families, attempting to require that parents have their children evaluated to determine whether they have special needs. (Read Home School Legal Defense Association’s memo addressing this issue at our I.D.E.A. Issues Library page.)

Because school districts must show compliance with IDEA requirements, districts may use certified mail to document that they attempted contact with a family. HSLDA consistently advises our members that they are under no obligation to respond to these letters—private schools are not required by federal law to participate in “Child Find.”

In response to such letters from school officials, homeschoolers who do not wish to accept public services may simply send a letter to the school district stating that they have no children who would be eligible for or interested in public special education services. HSLDA members may also contact HSLDA and we will be more than happy to assist you with this process.

HSLDA recommends that families seek private special education services rather than using public school services. Recognizing that not every family can afford private services, the Home School Foundation offers grants to help those who need financial assistance. To learn about how you can apply for a grant, please go to the Home School Foundation’s Special Needs Children’s Funds webpage.

— by Michael P. Donnelly