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.

2008 IEE Noncompliance Finding

Updated 11.1.23—16 Years of Independent Educational Evaluation Noncompliance: Virginia Department of Education Fails Students and to Perform Its General Supervisory Duties

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).

UPDATE: VDOE Opens Systemic Complaint on FCPS: Denial of FAPE to Preschool, Honors, Foreign Language, and Day School Students

June 1, 2023: Article first published.

July 13, 2023: Article updated to include additional information Complainant submitted to VDOE; FCPS’s response to Complaint’s state complaint; and the timeline extension letter VDOE issued itself July 10, 2023, one day before VDOE’s Letter of Findings was due. VDOE set September 15, 2023, as the new due date.

September 18, 2023: Article updated to include VDOE’s second timeline extension letter, in which it changed its timeline from September 15 to October 31, 2023, as well as additional evidence provided to FCPS by Complainant.

May 23, 2023, Virginia Department of Education opened another systemic complaint investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools, in response to a complaint filed May 12, 2023.

The complaint alleges FCPS is at fault for systemic failures to provide FAPE, to include but not limited to failure to address the unique academic, behavioral and functional needs of its students; failures to appropriately place students; and failures to provide services to students who elect to enroll in Honors classes.

WTF?

Dear VDOE: Is it Okay for Compliance Specialist to Judge, Joke at the Expense of Parent Advocating for Her Child?

Yesterday I shared comments from a Virginia Department of Education staff member, which appear in a Letter of Findings (LOF) to which she contributed.

Here’s another curious comment that appears in the same document:

“This is my justification for the length of the narrative in this case—they made me do it!! ? I wanted to separate the three categories of requests that Parent had initiated las summer — IEP, ESY, Reevaluation, Reading inventory testing. Sheesh. It shows the confusing atmosphere that FFX handled professionally. She was making lots of FFX staff work, sometimes in conflict with others. Please edit and make it better, ML.”

VA Dept. of Ed Opens Systemic Investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools: Team Composition

May 11, 2023, Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued a Notice of Complaint (NOC) regarding Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) being in noncompliance regarding composition of IEP and eligibility team members.

The complaint alleges that specifically, since at least 2017, FCPS has engaged in the following: a) holding IEP meetings that are in noncompliance with IDEA and implementing state regulations; b) unauthorized practice without a license; c) unlicensed “diagnosis and treatment of human physical or mental ailments, conditions, diseases, pain, or infirmities”; d) procedural violation of Parent’s and Student’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of FAPE to Student.

Portrait of a Systemic Complaint, Part IV: FCPS’ Late Responses; VDOE’s Ignominious Failures (a.k.a. Obliterating 60-Day Timelines)

September 14, 2020: This article first published.

December 8, 2022: This article was updated to include this mention of Office of Civil Rights (OCR) November 30, 2022, letter of findings about Fairfax County Public Schools and OCR’s resolution agreement with FCPS. OCR’s findings cite this systemic complaint and make it clear that parents should have prevailed in 2020.

Part III of this series discussed the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) extending Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) deadline for responding to the Notice of Complaint (NOC) issued by VDOE.

It discussed, too, FCPS missing the extended deadline and VDOE accepting FCPS’ late submission, even though VDOE’s NOC states, in bolded type:

“Both the school division’s response and supporting documentation must be provided by the response due date in order to be considered for review by this office. Should the supporting documentation not be included, our review will rest on the documentation submitted by the response due date.”

What happened next?

A colossal mess.

Portrait of a Systemic Complaint, Part III: Virginia Dept. of Ed. Bends Rules for Fairfax County Public Schools

August 24, 2020: This article first published.

December 8, 2022: This article was updated to include this mention of Office of Civil Rights (OCR) November 30, 2022, letter of findings about Fairfax County Public Schools and OCR’s resolution agreement with FCPS. OCR’s findings cite this systemic complaint and make it clear that parents should have prevailed in 2020.

When rules are set in concrete for parents, but set in Jell-O for school divisions, it is hard to believe that children will ever have their rights implemented in full.

If the very state education agency that is mandated by law to ensure the rights of children, is in noncompliance itself—and bends its own rules for school divisions—who will ensure the rights of children are implemented in full?

Portrait of a Systemic Complaint, Part II: Virginia Department of Education’s Notice of Complaint

August 21, 2020: This article first published.

December 7, 2022: This article was updated to include this mention of Office of Civil Rights November 30, 2022, letter of findings about Fairfax County Public Schools and OCR’s resolution agreement with FCPS. OCR’s findings cite this systemic complaint and make it clear that parents should have prevailed in 2020.

May 8, 2020, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) received a systemic complaint against Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

VDOE issued its Notice of Complaint (NOC) May 18, 2018.

When you review the NOC, compare it with the parents’ complaint. You’ll see that the items VDOE picked to investigate aren’t the actual complaints, but information supporting the complaints.

As I wrote in Part I of this series, this is classic VDOE—and is a topic I’ll cover in depth at a later date.