The information on this page is provided for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice or counsel.

Federal law governs how special education services must be provided to American students. Unfortunately, the law does not specifically identify homeschool eligiibility.

A May 2000 memo from Kenneth R. Warlick, Director of the Federal Office of Special Education Programs, addresses the rights of homeschoolers. This memo clarifies the distinction between children whose parents choose a private school education versus children who attend public school and the rights of both groups.

Specifically, question #44 addresses OSEP's interpretation of homeschooler's eligibility for special education services under IDEA.

Whether home schools are "private schools," including home day care, is determined by the State. If the State recognizes home schools or home day care as private schools, children with disabilities in those home schools or home day care must be treated in the same way as other parentally-placed private school children with disabilities. If the State does not recognize home schools or home day care as private schools, children with disabilities who are home-schooled or in home day care are still covered by the child find obligations of SEAs and LEAs, and these agencies must ensure that home-schooled children and those in home day care who have disabilities are located, identified, and evaluated, and that FAPE is available if their parents choose to enroll them in public schools.

In other words, schools must conduct evaluations of homeschool children to determine if they would benefit from special education services. However, states, such as Maryland, who do not legally define students as non-public school or private school students are not required to offer special education services to those homeschoolers.

Numerous court cases across the country have upheld that when a state fails to define a homeschool student as a private school student, then the state does not have to provide services as defined by IDEA.

Maryland's Interpretation of IDEA

In 2006, the Maryland Attorney General's office released a letter addressed to Senator Brochin, that addressed the issue of whether public school systems are required to provide special education services to homeschool children. In summary, the letter informed school administrators that

. . . neither IDEA nor the State education law requires that a local school system provide speech therapy services to a home-schooled student. However, neither do they bar the school system from providing such services.

The AG's letter referenced a memo written in 2000, also from the Maryland Attorney General's office. Addressed to the Maryland State Department of Education, that document said:

. . . local school systems must include home schooled students in their child find activities and be willing to provide special education services upon enrollment of the child in public school.

The 2006 letter affirmed the 2000 Maryland AG's memo, through a lengthy case analysis, and concluded that it

". . . correctly analyzes the federal and State laws governing the provision of special education services under IDEA to home-schooled students in Maryland and [that] those laws, so construed, are constitutional".

While all Maryland public schools are required by federal law to evaluate homeschool children for special education services, they are not required to offer any services to the family, should the child be found to be in need of them. Parents do, however, have the option of enrolling their child in a public school in order to receive special education services.

Despite the advice of the Maryland Attorney General's office, some local school boards have chosen to offer limited special education services, primarily speech-language services, to homeschoolers. Such services will be unique to individual schools and may vary within the same district. Decisions are largely left to principals.

The information on this page is provided for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as legal advice or counsel.



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