When Cassandra requested special education services from her local school in Tennessee, she was told her daughter could not receive any while being homeschooled.

District staff clarified that Cassandra would have to seek services for her daughter in a different school district, the one where her church-related homeschool umbrella is located. But when Cassandra sought services there, she was told she wasn’t eligible because she wasn’t residing in the district.

Caught in a catch-22, Cassandra reached out to us for assistance.

Competing Locations

Cassandra, an HSLDA member, was homeschooling her daughter under the auspices of a church-related school, which is one of three options for homeschooling in Tennessee. Her church-related school is located in Jackson County, but Cassandra lives in Gibson County. This is what led to confusion and ultimately a denial of services.

Importantly, there is no right to receive special needs services as a homeschool family in Tennessee. But the Tennessee Department of Education has opined that, in compliance with federal regulations, homeschool students are eligible for the same services as private school students.

This potential ambiguity helps illustrate why HSLDA typically recommends that homeschool families try to find private services for their children with special needs when available. In our experience, working with private professionals reduces the risk of encountering legal entanglements and places parents in a better position to provide personal, custom care to their children.

Here for Your Family

Nevertheless, when Cassandra was denied services in both school districts (who were pointing back at each other), we were there to provide clarity—and some advocacy.

After reviewing the facts, we quickly concluded that Cassandra’s daughter must be treated like any other private school student in her resident district. We clarified for her district staff (in Gibson county) that the location of the church-related school with which Cassandra associates does not change the location of her homeschool.

After reviewing our letter, her district readily agreed and confirmed eligibility.

We were grateful to see this situation resolved favorably for Cassandra and her daughter. And we’re happy we can use our homeschool-specific experience to bring clarity and serve homeschooling families like Cassandra’s all across the country.

Additional Resources

  • Wondering about your state's provisions for homeschooled students with special needs? Click on your state on this map and then scroll down to "Special Education Provisions for [My State's Name]."
  • You can discover tips for finding and working with a local private special educational professional here.
  • If your family needs help with additional expenses associated with homeschooling a child with special needs, you can apply for an HSLDA Compassion grant.