January 13, 2010

Social Services Targets Family with Special Needs Child

During the fall semester of this school year, Home School Legal Defense Association assisted a member family being investigated by social services because of their decision to provide home instruction to a child with special needs. When the mother of the child decided to withdraw him from Elk Lake School District where he was receiving special education services, the local superintendent insisted that the child continue to receive services only through the public school. When the mother indicated that she intended to have the needed services provided privately, the superintendent reported the family to social services for educational neglect.

HSLDA’s Senior Counsel Dewitt Black wrote a letter to the social worker conducting the investigation, pointing out that the family was in full compliance with state law in choosing to decline special education services from the school district. Specifically, paragraph (d) of Section 13-1327 of Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated states that any special education services provided to a student in a home education program are to be provided only at the request of the supervisor of the program. Furthermore, the homeschool law states that whatever services are to be provided must be “agreed to by both the supervisor and the school district or intermediate unit … .” Thus, state law prevents a school district from imposing unwanted services on a homeschooling family.

State law also makes it clear that a student who has been identified as needing special education services may receive instruction in a home education program “when the program addresses the specific needs of the exceptional student and is approved by a teacher with a valid certificate from the Commonwealth to teach special education or a licensed clinical or certified school psychologist, and written notification of such approval is submitted with the notarized affidavit required under section 1323.1(b).” In this case, the mother had obtained the approval of the home education program for her son from a certified special education teacher and submitted this documentation along with the notarized affidavit filed with the local superintendent.

After receiving the letter from HSLDA, the social worker made no further contact with the family and closed the investigation.