Federal law governs how special education services are provided to students enrolled in their local public schools. Specifically, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) explicitly sets out how public schools must identify, assess, and provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for children identified as having special learning needs.
Homeschool eligibility for special education services are not explicitly discussed in IDEA. However, a May 2000 memo from the Federal Office of Special Education Programs addressed the rights of homeschoolers under IDEA. Specifically, question #44 addresses OSEP’s interpretation of homeschooler’s eligibility for special education services under IDEA.
2000 OSEP Memo
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 – at a minimum – must conduct Child Find evaluations for homeschool children to determine if they have a disability. The issue of whether homeschool children are entitled to actual special education services, however, is not clearly defined at the federal level.