Where to Find It: Where the Information is Hiding

Years ago I had the honor of working with LTG Samuel Vaughan Wilson, who was the youngest of Merrill’s Marauders. After WWII, his career led him toward the intelligence arena, which later led him to making the observation that obtaining information is less about being James Bond and more about being Sherlock Holmes. The stories he shared were of Truth being out in the open, staring us in the face. (I wrote a bit on this in 2021, in the article “Less James Bond and More Sherlock Holmes”.)

This article will share some of my go-to places to obtain information. I’ll start with a few today and gradually update the list.

FOIA Release: Fairfax County Public Schools “Determining Compensatory Education Training Development” Training Videos and Materials Required by Office for Civil Rights

February 10, 2023: Article first published. February 22, 2023: Article updated to include second training video and transcript (see below). *At about the 20-minute mark of the second video below, Dawn Schaefer mentions that one of the points of contact within FCPS is the ombudsman’s office. Not long ago, Kathy Murphy was announced as FCPS’s new “ombuds”. Previously, Kathy was FCPS’s Section 504 expert, in the same office as Dawn and Dawn’s predecessor Jane Strong. Kathy’s name is all over records FCPS provided to OCR for its investigation and seems to have been FCPS’s contact with OCR. In addition, after OCR made its investigation public, Kathy filed a FOIA request with the U.S. Dept. of Education to obtain, among other thing, information on any parents who might have submitted OCR complaints. Jane left the county, Dawn stepped into Jane’s job, and then Kathy disappeared as the 504 Plan expert, only to reappear later as the ombuds.

Office for Civil Rights found Fairfax County Public Schools in massive noncompliance for denial of FAPE during April 2020 through June 2022.
Following its investigation, OCR entered into a resolution agreement with FCPS. As part of the agreement, FCPS is required to meet with families of the 28,000+ students who were enrolled in FCPS during the time period investigated, to determine compensatory education.

In this article, you’ll be able to access some of the training materials and one of the training videos FCPS provided to staff.

VFOIA-6763 Response: FCPS’s Recovery Services and/or Comp Ed Records and Practices

October 21, 2022, I submitted a Freedom of Information request (FOIA) to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). The request was for the following:

1) any forms, letters, or documentation that address FCPS advising parents to pick their own recovery services and/or comp ed provider

2) any forms, letters, or documentation that address FCPS advising parents FCPS will reimburse parents for recovery services and/or comp ed.

3) any forms, letters, or documentation that address FCPS capping the service provider payment amount to a certain amount of dollars per hour and/or per service.

I know the above has already been provided to parents. I’m not asking for their educational records.

I know FCPS has internal records and form letters it developed.

I know that responsive records that are not also educational records exist.

This should include but not be limited to any training materials, slides, videos, presentations, too.

UPDATE: Fairfax County Public Schools FOIA’d Parents’ Communications with Office of Civil Rights

Fairfax County Public Schools submitted an expedited FOIA request for parents’ communication with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, just a week after OCR sent FCPS clarifying information about its investigation of FCPS.

FOIA Response: More Internal Emails Provided, More Proof FCPS is Aware of Problems with Independent Educational Evaluation Rates and Other Issues

July 26, 2022, Fairfax County Public Schools provided its response to another FOIA request, this one focused on staff correspondence over a few days in May 2022.

For the limited time covered, the FOIA response includes significant information related to the hot-button issue of FCPS’s below-market Independent Educational Evaluation rates.

Although numerous parents through the years have complained to FCPS and/or have filed state complaints about the rates, FCPS has refused to change the rates.

Yet . . . It looks like FCPS has known for years that the rates are a problem.

FOIA Response: Records FCPS Provided to Office of Civil Rights for OCR’s COVID Investigation

January 2021, the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools, for civil rights violations related to the COVID pandemic.

A FOIA request was made for all of the records FCPS provided to OCR for the investigation. In response to the request, FCPS refused to provide the records within the mandated timeline, filed a lawsuit related to the request, and to date has refused to respond to subsequent requests for records and to questions about records responsive to the request.

Over a period of about a month, FCPS provided the records published here.

Freedom of Information Act

FOIA: Fairfax County Public Schools Independent Educational Evaluations

Update: This article was published July 2020. It is being updated to include an email indicating Fairfax County Public Schools has long known that its price cap for Independent Educational Evaluations is below market price. FCPS’s low rate limits parents to 1) using private providers who accept FCPS’s low IEE rate or 2) paying the difference out of pocket for providers who don’t accept FCPS’s low rate. The email was obtained via a FOIA request for documents FCPS provided the Office of Civil Rights.

This FOIA request was done in 2018 and was submitted to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia.

The response includes 528 pages, including how FCPS set its “rates” and letters to providers asking if they’ll accept FCPS rates.