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Heidi:  My Children were homeschooled up until 8, 10th and 11th grade because I thought it would help them get more one on one attention. Now that they have entered a public charter school with small classes and a flexible schedule, I asked for my children to be tested. Although the tests show evidence of learning disabilities, I am told that my children do not qualify for special education services because they could not be for certain that my children had adequate reading instruction. So, it seems like the school district is going to slap a bandaid on the problem and not help my children. They have high IQ scores but struggle in reading, spelling and writing. Is there anything that can be done about this? Or am I at their mercy?

  1. Can student excessive unexcused absences contribute to ineligibilty findings due to lack of instruction?

    • Patricia – you want to know if you can deny services to a child who needs services but has too many absences? Please don’t do that.

      The country is going through a multi-issue crisis since COVID. We have unprecedented absences of students and teachers.

      Most schools don’t know how to deal with their students’ learning losses.
      If you deny services to this child, you will punish a child who is a victim of circumstances they had no control over. As adults, we can’t play that game. We need to find ways to help our kids. This won’t be easy but the solution won’t include punishment by the school.

      • How would you suggest a team justify that a child has a disability when they have multiple absences (25) and tardies (77- and the child misses the reading instruction as a result)? If the child has not been exposed to the material, how is it a disability? The attendance issues are not related to a disability but rather a parenting issue (DFACS involved). Child is in first grade, so did not experience an interruption to their schooling due to COVID. Student attended a full year of preschool and full year of kindergarten.

  2. Does your area has an office that requires homeschooling parents to submit educational plans and quarterly reports each year? In my state, these plans and reports are examined carefully. If you’ve been going through whatever hoops your state has established for homeschooled students, then you can use that fact to protect yourself from their criticism.

    Often schools will offer a 504 as a consolation prize when they deny an IEP. There are certain disadvantages to a 504 plan, BUT if you can get a strong 504 plan in place, it can be quite helpful. I would start by drafting as complete a list as you can of the specific accommodations and services you think would be helpful for each child. Take a look at your state’s Testing Accommodations manual — in my state, New York, this manual is a treasure trove of ideas for accommodations.

    Consider requesting an independent evaluation (at public expense); try to enlist the child’s primary care doctor as your ally.

  3. Heidi –

    It’s true that the school can find your children ineligible for special education if they believe their deficits are caused by a lack of adequate instruction. You do have options to dispute this, though. You can ask the school to complete additional evaluations, if you think they missed any key areas in theirs.

    You can also have your children independently evaluated. You have a right to ask that the school pay for the independent evaluation, if you disagree with theirs. Or you can arrange to pay for the independent evaluation yourself. If you choose either of these options, I would suggest that you consult someone who is versed in curriculum as part of the evaluation, someone who is able to make a judgment on the quality of instruction your children have previously received.

  4. Before or after you seek additional evaluations, you also have dispute resolution options available to you. You can ask to meet again with the school, and provide them with additional information that may make them reconsider their decision. This is usually called local resolution. You can also request either mediation or a due process hearing (additional options may also be available in your state).

    The school should have given you information about what you can do if you disagree with their decision. If they did not, do ask for it now. It will talk about your options and how to request them. I also encourage you to connect with your local parent center (http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/). They can help you understand your rights and the options available to you.

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