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

Updated January 3, 2024, to include the question and answer to D-18 in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programming’s ” July 23, 2013, “Memo and Q&A on Dispute Resolution” (see end of article).

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.

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:

Due Process Breakdown: School Division Lawyer’s Opening Statements, John Cafferky 9.30.20

Thank you to everyone who shared and who reached out to me about the recent article “Second Virginia Hearing Officer Rules Reading Program Inappropriate for Student with Dyslexia”.

Today’s article shares more information about how that hearing played out, starting with the opening remarks presented by Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) counsel John Cafferky of Blankingship & Keith.

John presented his opening statements September 30, 2020, the first day of the due process hearing filed against FCPS.

Among other things, the hearing focused on whether the program “Just Words”, which FCPS proposed four school years in a row for the student who was the focus of the hearing, is appropriate for a student who has Dyslexia.

Why did HO Morgan Brooke-Devlin Work Out of the Office of Blankingship & Keith During a Due Process Hearing?

Due Process Hearings are supposed to be impartial—at least that’s what federal regulations state (See §300.511).

Does the Following Smell Neutral?

Virginia Hearing Officer Morgan Brooke-Devlin worked in a Blankingship & Keith office during a due process hearing for which she was assigned to be the hearing officer.

In addition to its lawyers being bcc’d on e-mails from teachers to students, Blankingship & Keith lawyers, among other things, represent school divisions during due process hearings.

FCPS Lawyer bcc’d on Student’s Emails; Claims He is a School Official; Says it’s “Appropriate” for Him to Have Access

Earlier this month, Special Education Action reported that Blankingship & Keith lawyer Wesley Allen and/or both Allen and his colleague John Cafferky were bcc’d on about three dozen emails between a teacher and student, as well as on emails between Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) staff and the students’ parents, spanning a period of over a year.

In a recent meeting, the parents and their advocate brought the bccing practice to the attention of a due process hearing officer.

The hearing officer, in turn, asked Allen, who was attending the meeting, too:

“What’s your authority Mr. Allen?”