If your employees think the only difference between "home instruction" and "homebound services" is the placement code in your IEP software, your district might be at greater risk for IDEA or Section 504 litigation.
Home instruction and homebound services are very different types of placements. Although terminology may vary from state to state (or even district to district), the general rule is that "home instruction" is a placement on the LRE continuum, while "homebound services" are available to all students with temporary illnesses or injuries, regardless of their disability status.
Consider the following examples involving a hypothetical student with autism. If the district is unable to manage the student's aggressive and violent behaviors in the school setting and his IEP team decides to provide services in the home while it looks for a more appropriate placement, the student would be on home instruction. If that same student performed well in the school setting but had to miss three weeks of school due to a severe case of pneumonia, the district might provide homebound services (provided the student meets the requirements set forth in state law).
Because home instruction and homebound services have vastly different requirements for eligibility and programming, districts must ensure their employees know and understand the difference between the two. Districts would be well advised to:
· Adopt and use consistent terminology. Phrases such as "home instruction," "homebound," "home-hospital teaching," and "home tutoring" tend to be used interchangeably. The best way to avoid confusion among staffers is to settle on specific terms for each of the two types of placements and encourage staffers to stick with that terminology.
· Review state laws. A student's eligibility for homebound services will turn on state law, which may require medical certification of the nature of the student's condition or documentation of the number of days the student is expected to be absent. Some states also impose limits on home instruction by requiring the IEP team to revisit the placement decision after a set number of days. Districts should research the eligibility and placement requirements that apply to each type of programming and review those requirements with relevant staffers.
· Train employees to handle parent requests. Parents may not understand the distinctions between home instruction and homebound services, so employees should not put too much stock in the wording of the request. Asking a few simple questions, such as the reason for the request and the expected duration of the student's absence, should clarify which type of programming the parent is seeking. Such questions will let the district know if it needs to convene an IEP team meeting (for an IDEA-eligible student) or evaluate a student's potential need for special education and related services.
Learn more about the DirectSTEP® eLearning course Home Instruction and Homebound Services: Legal Requirements for Serving Students With Disabilitiesand the pamphlet Homebound Services Under the IDEA and Section 504: An Overview of Legal Issues -- Second Edition.
Amy E. Slater, Esq. covers special education legal issues for LRP Publications.
June 13, 2013
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