Q: Our district recently discontinued virtual learning for our students. We have had a general education student request “homebound” instruction due to a member of the child’s immediate family being immuno-compromised. The parent submitted medical documentation confirming the family member’s condition. Do we have to approve this request?
A: No. The student will not be eligible for “homebound” services because the student does not have a qualifying medical condition which requires confinement to a hospital or home setting for medical reasons.
Homebound instruction is outlined in Board Policies EEH (LOCAL) and EHBA (LEGAL) which track the instructional setting explanations found in the Texas Administrative Code and are further laid out in the Student Accounting Handbook (created each year by TEA). A “homebound” arrangement can occur if a student is expected to “be confined for a minimum of four consecutive weeks” at home or in a hospital. 19 TAC 89.63(c)(2). While homebound services are generally considered for those students who qualify for special education, a homebound setting may be available for a general education student if the child, similarly, has a medical condition which requires confinement at home or in a hospital for at least four weeks (which do not need to be consecutive). The medical reasons necessitating the hospital/home placement must be “specifically documented by a physician licensed to practice in the United States.”
The TEA Student Accounting Handbook lends further guidance as to the anticipated scenarios in which a general education student will need homebound instruction, and provides that such a student must meet three criteria:
1. the student is expected to be confined at home or hospital bedside for a minimum of four weeks (non-consecutive);
2. the student is confined at home for hospital bedside for medical reasons only; and
3. the student’s medical condition is documented by licensed physician.
In the event of a request for general education homebound services, the principal must convene a placement committee composed of “at least a campus administrator, a teacher of the student, and the parent of guardian” to consider the request and the necessity of the homebound placement. This type of committee works similarly to an ARD committee and is the final decision-maker regarding placement.
Here, the student at issue does not have a medical condition; rather, a family member in the home is immunocompromised and thus at an increased risk of complications if the student were to contract the COVID-19 at school and transmit it at home. However, the administrative regulations and state guidance do not provide for homebound instruction in this scenario and the student’s request should be denied, as the student does not meet the eligibility requirements to be properly coded as “General Education Homebound” or “GEH” in PEIMS for attendance purposes. As explained above, as well as in policy EEH (Local), the placement committee will need to properly document the decision. While the committee may be tempted to make an “exception” and grant the request in the interest of being accommodating for families during the Coronavirus pandemic, doing so under the guise of “homebound” instruction would violate student accounting guidelines and could be challenged by TEA.
In this instance, the family would have the option to withdraw their child and transfer to another school district offering remote instruction, enroll in a program offered by the Texas Virtual School Network, or elect to home school the student. We recommend dialogue with your school district’s legal counsel prior to granting or denying such a request as these scenarios are fact-intensive and may change as we obtain additional COVID guidelines from TEA.