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March 20, 2007

Victory for New York Homeschooling Family!

On February 28, 2007, the federal court in New York vindicated Home School Legal Defense Association’s long-held position that public schools may not force homeschooling parents to submit their children to special education testing.

Case: D Family v. Livonia Central School District
Filed: October 8, 2004

Mr. and Mrs. D homeschooled their special needs son and had him privately evaluated at their own expense, choosing to waive any right for a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) for their son. In September 2004, however, the school district insisted that it must evaluate the child, whether Mr. and Mrs. D consented to it or not, and it initiated a due process hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).

HSLDA argued to the local hearing officer that the parents should not have to submit to an unwanted, unnecessary evaluation for services which everyone agreed that they would never accept, but in May 2005, the hearing officer ruled for the school district. An appeal to the State Review Office followed, with the same result a year later.

On June 12, 2006, HSLDA filed an appeal in federal court. Eight months later, the court issued its decision, fully agreeing that the parents could not be forced into an evaluation.

The judge’s decision stated, “I find that the IDEA does not permit a school district to compel the evaluation of a student where the student’s parent has objected to such an evaluation and has refused to accept publicly-funded special-education services.’ The court reiterated the Eighth Circuit’s decision in Fitzgerald, the federal appellate court decision HSLDA won in 2006, which stated that such a compelled evaluation “would have no purpose” and be “pointless.”

“It is ludicrous under a plain understanding of the IDEA as it applies to homeschooled or privately-schooled students that any school district should have the ability to force parents to consent to an evaluation that is not even necessary under the IDEA. This case drives the final nail in the coffin of the argument that public schools have the right to force this kind of evaluation over parents’ objections,” said HSLDA Deputy General Counsel James R. Mason, III. “With these two federal cases and the new federal regulations, every school is on notice that these forced evaluations are illegal.”