The Home School Court Report
No. 3

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Special Needs Students Lose Services

On January 14, 2008, the New York State Board of Regents discussed providing special education services to students with disabilities who are taught at home by their parents. The topic had been raised by the deputy commissioner of the Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities, a division of the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Based on its review of state and federal law, the NYSED decided to inform all public school districts that special education services to homeschooled students are not authorized. Prior to this decision, the NYSED had an informal policy that school districts were required to make appropriate services available to any identified student in accordance with the student’s approved Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This policy had been expressed in the NYSED’s “Home Instruction Questions and Answers” document and was developed many years ago by the deputy commissioner for nonpublic schools and a few homeschooling parents.

We believe the recent change in policy came about because of an opinion by the New York State Review Office (SRO), publicized in June 2007. In Application of a Child with a Disability, SRO Appeal No. 07-043, the SRO made a statement that services to homeschooled students are “not authorized” under state or federal law.

Public school students are entitled to special needs services as part of a free appropriate public education. Private school students are also eligible. Under federal law in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), it is up to each state to define who else is eligible to receive special education services. Some states define homeschooled students as private school students; others do not. Approximately 30 states permit homeschooled students to receive some special education services.

Over the past few months, Home School Legal Defense Association Staff Attorney Thomas Schmidt has been assisting state homeschool leaders to lobby the board of regents and the NYSED to reconsider this policy change. HSLDA is also evaluating legislative options.

— by Thomas J. Schmidt