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Legal Issues in Homeschooling Special Needs Students

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/20/2012

Some parents decide to homeschool children who have already been recognized by the state as a special education student. Depending on where one lives, the laws for homeschooling children with special needs can vary. Learn more about how to follow state homeschool and special education laws.

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    Transitioning

    Some parents make the decision to embark on homeschooling students with special needs after a formal evaluation and diagnosis by the school district of residence has taken place. Whether families in the United States opt for the special education homeschool route prior to a student entering kindergarten or after the student has already attended a public school, certain procedures must be followed in regard to state homeschooling laws and special education laws. The legal issues that can arise from homeschooling children with special needs are dependent upon an individual state's policies on filing a student portfolio and whether or not parents wish for their children to continue receiving services such as speech or occupational therapy from the school district.

    While no federal IDEA funds are allocated to homeschoolers with special needs (except in states where home schools are classified as private schools), this portion of funding is rather small. The vast majority of IDEA funding for special education services is provided by the state. Each of the fifty states and the District of Columbia have their own regulations for homeschoolers in the special education system.

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    Variances in State Laws

    While most states are fairly lenient in regard to the home education of special needs children, four in particular--Pennsylvania, Iowa, Vermont, and North Dakota--require that parents complete additional procedures before being granted legal permission to home school. In Pennsylvania, a home education program for a special needs student must be approved by a licensed school psychologist or special education teacher. Iowa's home schooling laws state that an Area Education Agency director must approve a special education curriculum. Vermont requires documentation of a child's special needs on a homeschool enrollment notice, while North Dakota's special education laws dictate that homeschooled children must have an official diagnosis from a licensed psychologist and that parents must file an education plan with their local school district. In all other states, children with special needs can be legally homeschooled in the same manner as regular education students.

    While some homeschooling parents do not wish to receive special education services from a public school district, others choose to open an IEP with the district so that students can access state-funded therapies and programs. In some states, there is no official policy in place for home schoolers, while other states that consider home schools as private schools will provide special education services. A few states, including Hawaii, New York, and New Hampshire, leave the decision to offer state funding to home schoolers with special needs at the discretion of the school district.

    For more detailed information on special education laws, homeschooling laws, and homeschooling students with special needs, visit the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) website.

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