There are two types of learning from home: homebound instruction and virtual instruction.
Children who are medically fragile and cannot leave home, or who are hospitalized for medical or psychological reasons, may be entitled to have their Individualized Education Program (IEP) services provided in their home or in the hospital. This is called “homebound instruction.”
Whether your child gets homebound instruction is up to the IEP team. If your child is medically fragile, ask for an IEP meeting to talk about your child’s placement. You should ask your child’s doctors to write detailed and specific letters about why your child cannot safely go to school. Share these letters with the IEP team. The IEP team does not have to agree with your child’s doctors’ recommendations. If the IEP team disagrees with the doctor’s recommendations, you have appeal rights.
If the IEP teams decides homebound instruction is appropriate for your child, your child is entitled to at least two hours of instruction in each subject each week. This usually means two hours of tutoring a day. If your child is getting homebound instruction and you don’t think two hours a day is enough, you can ask the IEP team for more hours based on the services your child needs.
If someone else in your home is medically fragile and for their safety you don’t want your child to go to school, your child is not eligible for homebound instruction. In this case, virtual learning may be a good option for your family.
If you don’t want your child to go to school because of COVID-19, and they are not medically fragile or hospitalized, you should ask your child’s IEP team if your child can get all their instruction and services “virtually.” Virtual instruction is not the same as homebound instruction and did not exist before COVID-19. Homebound instruction means your child gets their instruction and services through in-person services in the home or hospital setting. Virtual instruction means your child gets all their instruction and services through Zoom (or whatever video conferencing platform their school uses). If you want virtual instruction, the IEP team will have to consider the IDEA requirement that your child receive his/her education in the least restrictive environment. This means the team will have to balance providing your child virtual instruction with their right to learning in the least restrictive environment.
Your rights under the IDEA do not change if you chose virtual instruction. Your child is still entitled to all the services in their IEP. These services can change if you agree to the changes. However, you should not agree to any change in services without an IEP meeting. If at the IEP meeting there is anything you disagree with about your child’s IEP you should make sure it is clearly stated in the IEP meeting notes. You should also follow up the meeting by writing to your child’s IEP team to tell them what you disagree with.
If your child gets behavior supports in their IEP, you should ask the IEP team to add parent instruction in behavior supports as a service in the IEP. This means your child’s behavior support team will teach you how to implement your child’s behavior supports at home.
If your child is doing virtual learning, they should have a space that will help them to learn well. A private space is best, but if that is not possible, they should have a space that does not have a lot of distractions.
We have heard of schools in other states reporting behavior or conditions they see in the home when providing virtual instruction to child protection agencies such as DCF. Be aware that virtual instruction is like having another person in your home. While it may be difficult, it is best to provide a calm and organized environment for your child’s virtual learning. If the school believes your child is not attending virtual learning, it may cause the school to begin a truancy action.
If you choose virtual instruction and then decide it isn’t working well for your child, you should ask for an IEP team meeting. At the meeting you should talk about what other supports your child might need to help them be successful in virtual learning. You might also talk about whether hybrid learning is a better option for your child. Make sure your child’s IEP says what services your child should get whatever learning environment they are in.