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.
*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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
11.1.23: Article updated to include FCPS staff’s internal emails about how they made a decision to deny payment of an IEE in full at public expense. (See Lowballing Rates section below.) For at least sixteen years, Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) failed to ensure compliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and implementing Virginia regulations.
In 2007, FCPS refused to fund Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE) at public expense and refused to file due process to defend its refusals to fully fund IEEs at public expense. An FCPS parent filed a state complaint and, in 2008, VDOE found FCPS at fault for failure to comply with IDEA and implementing Virginia regulations regarding IEEs.
During the 16 years that followed the 2007 complaint filing, the same noncompliance continued in FCPS and other Virginia local education agencies (LEAs).
What’s New in Fairfax County Public Schools? Legal Invoices, Court Cases, Noncompliance, Closed Meeting Minutes, Toxic Emails, and the Failure to Secure the Privacy of 35,000+ Students Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) included unredacted records for over 35,000 students within…