Oregon Homeschooling Laws for Special Needs Students

Oregon homeschool laws make provisions for home educating children with eligible disabilities and allows alternatives to standardized testing. The summary of Oregon homeschooling laws for special needs students is provided below. This summary reflects the homeschool statute (ORS 339.035(5)) and accompanying regulations in OAR 581-021-0029 which deal specifically with children with disabilities.

Note: If you would rather use the standardized testing option instead of the provisions for students with disabilities, you are free to do so. 

NOTIFICATION 

Letter of Intent – Parents are required to notify the ESD that they plan to homeschool their student. As with all homeschool students, this letter of intent must be mailed to the ESD upon withdrawal from public school or when the student is 6 years old by September 1.

The letter only needs to contain your name and address, names and birthdates of the children you are homeschooling and the name of the last public school your child attended or the school district in which you reside. For a child with a disability/special needs, you also need to include that the child has a disability. We recommend that you include ONLY that required information. Establishing a PDP can come later, when you are ready. Following is an example letter of intent. 

Dear Sirs,
This is to inform you that we
intend to home educate our child, _____________,
birth date ___________. We reside in _____________
School District. Our address is ________________
(if you haven’t included it in the heading).

 

Sincerely,
Your Name.

Acknowledgement Letter – The ESD is required to send you an acknowledgment letter within 90 days and to notify your local school that your student will be homeschooled. 

Evaluation / “Stand Ready” Offer – Once the local school district is informed or suspects your child is disabled, it is required by federal and state law to offer you an evaluation to determine the child’s eligibility to receive special education and related services. As a parent, you may refuse consent for evaluation, in which case the school district will send back a letter saying they “stand ready” to evaluate your child whenever you might give consent.

Once your child has been identified as a homeschool child with disabilities, the school district is required to send you an annual letter saying that if you enroll you child in public school, they will provide him with a “free appropriate public education.” These letters are not pressure tactics from the schools. The schools are required to do this so they have documentation that they offered the federally mandated services to you and that you refused. This gets them out of the responsibility to provide those services and you out from being forced to have your child in public school.

EVALUATIONS

Just as with other students, Oregon homeschooling laws for special needs students specifies that they must be evaluated by August 15th of grades 3, 5, 8, and 10. Their evaluation results must be kept on file by the parent and submitted to the ESD if the ESD requests it. (Keep in mind that the ESD may have requested that you report in grades 3, 5, 8 and 10 when they responded to your letter of intent to home educate.)

There are three evaluation options for students with special needs: 

1. Standardized Testing. While your student may have special needs, you may find that they are still easily able to complete standardized testing and meet the 15th percentile requirement. In this case, some families choose to go that route instead of pursuing alternative evaluation options. Read more on homeschool laws for standardized testing, including grades the tests must be completed and percentile requirements.

2. An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) through the public school system. An IEP may be an option for homeschoolers who wish to use public school services. The parent would be considered part of the IEP team, which would set forth goals and a plan of service for the child. Parents should contact the school district to find out what they are willing to provide, as it is up to their discretion. However, many homeschool parents do not want the public school system involved and look to the PDP as an alternative. 

3. A Privately Developed Plan (PDP). The PDP option is specific to Oregon homeschoolers. Here is what the law requires for a PDP:

  • It is developed by a team that includes the parent and one or more private service providers chosen by the parent.
  • The plan includes individual educational goals for the student.
  • The PDP indicates how “satisfactory educational progress” will be determined.
  • “Satisfactory educational progress” means educational progress across academic and/or developmental areas appropriate to the child’s age and abilities. 
  • At the end of evaluation years, the provider submits a statement indicating whether satisfactory educational progress has been met, providing a copy for the parents.
  • Not all goals must have been met in order to determine that the student is making satisfactory progress. 

Learn more about how to develop a PDP for your child. 

ELEGIBILITY 

Children with at least one of the following disabilities qualify for using an IEP or PDP in lieu of standardized testing under homeschool law: 

1) Children who have one of the disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This includes children with:

  • an autism spectrum disorder
  • a communication disorder
  • deaf/blindness
  • an emotional disturbance
  • a hearing impairment
  • mental retardation
  • an orthopedic impairment
  • another health impairment
  • a specific learning disability
  • a traumatic brain injury
  • a vision impairment

OR

2) Children who are considered disabled under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which would be those who have a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities (which includes learning). Note that for disabilities in this category you may be required to provide documentation of disability upon request by the ESD. We suggest contacting your ESD to determine what documentation of diagnosis they require. 

You Can Homeschool Your Special Needs Student

If you have any questions about Oregon homeschooling laws for special needs students, feel free to contact us. Get more support for your homeschool journey: 


Thanks to the ongoing vigilance of individuals and organizations like OCEANetwork, families in Oregon have enjoyed homeschool freedoms that are worth protecting. Please consider supporting this work by becoming an OCEANetwork Supporting Family. Make sure you sign up for political action alerts from OCEANetwork so you can help preserve your homeschool freedoms.