Special Education Action is a 501(c)3 nonprofit publisher covering special education.

Its mission is to ensure parents, educators, and students have the information and tools necessary to fully understand, address, and safeguard the unique needs of all students who require special education.

Recent Articles

VDOE state complaint tracking logs

Updated 11.21.23—FOIA: Virginia Department of Education State Complaint Tracking Logs, 2014-2023

November 8, 2023, I included a request for volunteers in the article below. I’d like to thank the volunteer who helped pull together the data provided by VDOE, for 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18.
The link to the spreadsheets pulled together by the volunteer is being added here, with the understanding that the data needs doublechecking, as well as more slicing and dicing to identify trends. Help still is needed. If you’re interested in helping, please let me know.

September 2023, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) released a report of its in-depth look at state complaints. Its findings aren’t surprising. Parents who believe their local education agency (LEA) to be in noncompliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), can seek remedies under IDEA’s dispute resolution processes. However, those processes—such as filing state complaints—are stacked against parents. VDOE’s state complaint tracking logs provide a portrait of a state heavy on dismissals and findings in favor of LEAs.

UPDATED 11.20.23—VDOE FOIA Response: Independent Evaluations of Virginia Department of Education’s Special Education Program

*Thank you to the three parents who submitted FOIA requests for this information and shared it with Special Education Action. 10.8.23: Article first published.
11.20.23: Article updated to include original report submitted by Dr. Robert Pasternack to Dr. Lisa Coons, as well as emails between Robert and Lisa regarding the first final report, and invoices related to both reports.
Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released two independent evaluations of its special education program. The evaluations were done by Dr. Robert Pasternack, Sam Howarth, and Nathan Levenson at the request of Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons. The findings aren’t a surprise. In Virginia, educators and families are two ends of the same burning match—and VDOE fuels the fire. Rather than being the “North Star” guiding educators and bridging the gap between families and educators, VDOE’s actions and inactions continue to increase the divide.

UPDATED 11.20.23—FERPA Violation Report Card: Fairfax County Public Schools

This article was updated November 20, 2023, to include more FERPA violations. FCPS has been breaching the privacy of staff and students for years. This article details FCPS FERPA violations between 2017 and 2023. It includes breaches FCPS inadvertently provided to me, breaches related to my own family (and about which I filed state complaints), breaches other FCPS families shared with me, as well as the ransomware attack of FCPS that occurred in 2020.

FCPS Knew Reading Program Wasn’t Intensive Enough for Students Who Have Dyslexia, Proposed it Anyway

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) knew that a program it proposed for years division wide, for students who have Dyslexia, is not intensive enough for students who have Dyslexia. Yet, even though parent after parent expressed concerns about their students not progressing and/or about the appropriateness of the program—and at least two went so far as to file for due process—FCPS continued to propose it. September 1, 2020, FCPS’ long-time lawyer John Cafferky emailed the following to FCPS staff, regarding an upcoming due process hearing for a student who has Dyslexia:

Helpful Information from FCPS Lawyer John Cafferky, which You Won’t Find in VDOE’s “Parents’ Guide to Special Education Dispute Resolution”

In 2008, Virginia Department of Education issued “2008 Parents’ Guide to Special Education Dispute Resolution.” Although a lot’s changed in the past 15 years, the guide “designed to assist parents in understanding Virginia’s dispute resolution systems of mediation, complaints, and due process hearings” has remained the same.
The following is helpful information that I hope VDOE considers should it revise the guide. It comes from advice that long-time Fairfax County Public Schools lawyer John Cafferky provided to FCPS staff. In its 2008 guide, VDOE acknowledged John on a list of individuals who “contributed to the development of this document and/or who served as a reviewer.” Hence, it seems fitting that the following advice be considered for a future edition.

How to File a Privacy Violation Complaint

Imagine your school or someone in the school division violates the privacy of your child. 

Can you file a complaint? If yes, how? Parents and/or students who believe a student’s privacy has been violated under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), have a right to file a complaint. FERPA applies to all students. However, students who have IEPs have additional protection under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Let’s explore both below.