National Center for Youth Law

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Independent Study Rights for Students in California

Read our September 2021 letter to the California Department of Education and State Board of Education urging better support for students and families

During the 2021-22 school year, parents and guardians can choose to have their children return to school for in-person instruction or enroll in distance learning through “independent study.”

California schools will no longer have to offer a “distance learning” option to students like they did during the 2020-21 school year. But most county offices of education and school districts instead must offer independent study to certain students who need to engage in remote, instead of in-person, learning. For example, students whose health would be at risk by returning to school in-person will be able to go to school through independent study.

For decades, independent study has been an optional program that California school districts, county offices of education and charter schools could provide to students. However, to accommodate families’ desire for distance learning, the state recently changed the law to expand who can enroll in independent study and to improve certain aspects of it for the upcoming school year and into the future.

In partnership with nine other California organizations, National Center for Youth Law has prepared guides – in English and Spanish – to families’ rights to distance learning through independent study. Click the links below for Spanish and English versions of these resources.

Parents, guardians and students who have questions about this new process can reach out to NCYL for support at info@youthlaw.org.

Last updated: August 9, 2021