Learning Beyond the Classroom: The Importance of HHIP for Children with Disabilities

When many students returned to in-person learning in August 2021, our client, Michael, a second-grader, had to stay home. He wanted to be in school with his friends, but his pre-existing health conditions made it too dangerous to be exposed to Covid-19 at school until he could be fully vaccinated.

The Home and Hospital Instruction Program (HHIP) is a crucial educational lifeline for children in Michael’s situation. When students cannot participate in classroom instruction due to illness or other medical conditions, HHIP provides individual instruction at the home or virtually to help the student avoid falling behind.  For students with an IEP, like Michael, instruction should be from a special education teacher and related services like speech therapy should also be provided.

To qualify for this program, a licensed medical provider must complete a certification form for the local school district to determine eligibility, and instruction must begin within 5 school days of submission. Despite his mom providing adequate documentation, the district denied services to Michael for most of the school year. To keep Michael learning at home, his mom paid for an educational aid and occupational therapy – services he should have received as part of a free public education.

CMLPC team attorney, Sarah Hess (she/her), represented Michael and his mom in obtaining compensatory education services and reimbursement for the private instruction and services.  Reflecting on the case, Sarah noted, “Unfortunately, Michael’s case is one of many examples of parents and caregivers doing everything the district asks, and the district still denying that child an education. School systems are particularly inept at providing the bare minimum of the HHIP program’s requirements, and compensatory services never really make up for what was taken from that child.” This is why the CMLPC team, in partnership with other legal aid providers, continues to pursue systemic improvements to the program. At the heart of the work, CMLPC strives to expand the lessons from individual cases to the larger population, helping as many kids as possible get what they need.