I don't know about you, but sometimes I just get so fed up. Advocacy work can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill, and it's often two steps forward and one step back when fighting for something your child needs. It's hard to work within a system that is rigid when you have a child that is out-of-the-box.
If you've ever felt like this, you may have found yourself wondering, "Would it just be easier if I homeschool?" or "Certainly a private school would be better than this, right?"
Today's post is about the various considerations you need to be aware of if you're thinking about pulling your child out of the public school system.
First, let me say that I am generally pro-public school. I am a product of public school and I am a former public school teacher. Because of the opportunity to be with (neighborhood) peers, I think public school is a better option than homeschooling for most students. I also believe there are many resources out there (including our IEP Guru resources!) to help parents get what their kid needs from the public school system. That said, there are times when withdrawing a child from the school system is unequivocally the right option.
If you're thinking that you're headed in that direction, please know the following:
1. You need to check your Procedural Safeguards and read the protocol for withdrawing your child from the district. You may need to file an "Intent to Homeschool" form and/or follow a certain timeline, and there may be additional paperwork that you'll be required to complete. You must read the protocol, and you must make sure you read any forms before signing so you're aware of what you're giving up...
2. If you choose to pull your child out of public school, in order to homeschool or place him or her in an online or private school, it may require forfeiting your child's rights to services. Some states do not provide any related services for students with special needs after they withdraw, while others may provide some so long as an IEP is maintained or special paperwork is filed. Check out this information to see where your state stands.
3. You may be able to get reimbursement for private school or private therapy, but this is not guaranteed. Some states, like Tennessee, will provide a stipend or voucher (it's called an Individual Education Account, or IEA here in TN) for educational services for students with disabilities (and their families) who agree to forfeit their right to public school services. It is rare, however, to receive proactive compensation like this. In most cases, a family will have to request reimbursement retroactively, typically after enrolling their child in a private school or other schooling option. In order to receive reimbursement, a judge will have to determine that the child was not able to receive a free, appropriate, public education from the district. Your procedural safeguards outline this process as well-- read up!
4. You'll want to connect with others in the same situation. Make sure you reach out to other parents who have been through this process. There may be additional considerations you'll want to think through that only someone who has been through this situation can provide. You'll also want to hear how other families provide appropriate services and opportunities for social development outside of the school district. While the support you get from your school may feel minimal, you may find you miss it when you're on your own. Speaking with others who have been through it may provide you with good insight.
Need some additional resources? I'll be the first to admit I'm not an expert in this area as my goal is to keep kids in school by getting them what they need! If you want to learn more about homeschooling or alternative schooling for students with special needs, I'd suggest starting here:
Public Resources Available to Homeschoolers
Online Schools and Blended Learning: How do they work?
That's it for this week! Check back next Friday for our next installment in our ABCs of SPED series!