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Sandy Hook Panel Special Ed Proposal Meets Resistance From Home Schoolers

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By Christina Samuels. Cross-posted from the On Special Education blog.

A draft proposal in Connecticut that home-schooled students with disabilities receive individualized education programs and be monitored by their local school districts is meeting with resistance, the Hartford Courant reports

The recommendation is one of several under consideration from an expert panel in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012 that left 20 children and six adults dead. The draft proposal was released Feb. 12; the final recommendations are expected to be submitted to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Friday.

In the draft proposal, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission noted that the gunman, Adam Lanza, had an individualized education program when he was enrolled in public school. He was withdrawn from public school by his mother and received homebound instruction in 8th grade, and in subsequent years returned to school only sporadically and with extensive supports. During that time he became increasingly socially isolated. The proposal recommends:

Each board of education must ensure that children with disabilities be identified and evaluated in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. Where parents elect to home school children with an identified disability, the home-schooled child shall have an individual education program (IEP) approved by the special education director of the Area Education Agency, as well as access to special education services. Periodic reports regarding the progress of such home-schooled children should be filed with the local superintendent (at least annually) and be prepared by an individualized education program team selected by the parent.

The chairman of the panel told the Courant that the reporting requirement, if approved, would only apply to children who had once attended public school. But the recommendation infringes on the rights of parents to educate their children as they see fit, home-schooling advocates say.

Deborah G. Stevenson, the executive director of National Home Education Legal Defense in Southbury, Conn., has written a lengthy rebuttal to the proposed recommendation, noting that Lanza was not home schooled and that federal law already provides a mechanism for children to be evaluated for special services with parental consent (this provision of the IDEA is called "child find.")

"Lanza already was under the direction of the public school and its IEP—as a homebound student. Why didn't that prevent his actions? What was in the IEP? Did the public school fail him? Did the State Department of Education fail him?" Stevenson wrote.

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