For Immediate Release: Access to Special Needs Services Benefits Homeschooled Students
Canton, Ma., 3/6/15—Recently introduced legislation would prevent school districts in North Dakota from denying special needs services to homeschooled students. “House Bill 1070 would ensure that homeschooled students with special needs have access to the services they need to grow and thrive,” said Rachel Coleman, Executive Director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. “Barring homeschooled students from special needs services offered through local public schools is detrimental to these children’s development and prevents them from accessing the same opportunities as their peers.”
North Dakota has one of the most supportive laws in the country for homeschooled children with special needs. Homeschooled children who score poorly on their semi-annual standardized tests are tested for special needs to ensure that learning disabilities are identified and appropriate intervention is provided. Parents homeschooling children with special needs develop annual services plans, either privately or through the school district, and submit regular progress reports.
HB 1070 would offer homeschooled students with special needs access to physical, occupational, and speech therapy programs offered by public schools. While federal law requires that some of these programs be open to private school students, there is no corresponding law granting access to homeschooled students. In some rural areas, special needs services may only be available through public schools, limiting homeschooled children’s access.
According to 2011 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 15% of homeschool parents report homeschooling because of their child’s physical or mental health problems. Homeschooling a child with special needs is no small undertaking. These parents need support and resources, something public schools have the ability to offer. “Granting homeschooled students access to the vital services offered by their local public schools builds cooperation between schools and families, providing both parents and children with needed support,” said Coleman. “By passing House Bill 1070, North Dakota has an opportunity to become become a model for the rest of the country.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.