Due Process Documents

Due Process Hearing Officer Orders Private College Prep School Placement for Student; Parents and Student Prevail in Rare Virginia Decision

February 29, 2024, two Virginia parents and their student prevailed in a due process hearing against Prince William County Public Schools (PWCPS).

When Hearing Officer Rhonda Mitchell found a private college preparatory school to be the appropriate placement for the student, and ordered PWCPS to pay for the student’s tuition, the word unprecedented came to the minds of the parents and their advocate.

(June 13, 2022, Update) Due Process Case 22-84, Chesterfield County Public Schools, Virginia: Subpoenas, Motions, Transcripts, and More

June 13, 2022, Update: Transcripts for due process days March 25th, 28th, 29th, and 30th, 2022, were added.

Thank you to two Chesterfield County, Virginia, parents for sharing their due process experiences and associated documents.

You’ll find the hearing transcripts at the end of this article. In the coming weeks, subpoenas, motions, and other documents will be added, providing readers an example of how due process hearings play out record by record.

Due Process and State Complaints Documents: “Just Words”

The documents in this article may be of use to you if you are filing a state complaint or due process—or to present to your local education agency if you’re not at a state complaint for due process stage.

The documents were used in one, or both, of two due process hearings in Virginia that included a focus on the program “Just Words”. In both cases, the hearing officer ruled that “Just Words” is inappropriate for students with Dyslexia. The cases were held within a year of each other (2019 and 2020). John Cafferky of the firm Blankingship & Keith represented Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in both cases.

The hearing officer’s decision for the first hearing is included as well. The hearing officer’s decision for the second hearing has not been posted to VDOE’s site. The one page on which the hearing officer addresses her final decision in relation to “Just Words” is included. The transcripts for the “Just Words” sections of both hearings will be added in the coming week.

Due Process Diaries: Hearing Officer Confirmation, Pre-Hearing Scheduling, Granting Control to LEA Lawyers

The hearing officer’s confirmation letter and her notice of pre-hearing letter fall on the benign side, with a few exceptions:

Metadata lists them as being associated with the U.S. Army.

They included incorrect information related to the parents.

They granted the LEA’s lawyer control of the conference platform.

Prepare for Due Process by Tapping into the Training Provided to Hearing Officers

Did state hearing officers receive training related to COVID and/or compensatory or “recovery” services?

Can a hearing officer force a family to meet in person, rather than virtually, even though the family and/or witnesses fall into the category of at-risk?

Can their training help parents prepare for due process?

These are just a few of the questions running through my mind when I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) for “all of the training materials that VDOE provides to hearing officers, as well anything else related to their training.”

Due Process Timeline

Per §300.500, each state education agency (SEA) “must ensure that each public agency establishes, maintains, and implements procedural safeguards that meet the requirements of §§300.500 through 300.536”, which includes the due process timeline.

The timeline isn’t stated in one place, so the dates have been pulled from various sections, to provide a one-page rundown of deadlines that follow receipt of a due process complaint.

Due Process Diaries: Don’t Let the School Division Get a Jump Start with Hearing Officers and Subpoenas

When you file for due process, request that you and the school division, and/or its counsel, be made aware of the hearing officer assigned to the hearing at the same.

While there is a regulated timeline for the assignment of hearing officers to due process hearings (see below), there aren’t federal statutes or regulations stating that the parent and school division be made aware of the hearing officer assignment at the same time.

Due Process Diaries, Part II: Subpoenas

In part one of this series, I shared regulations related to filing for a due process hearing—and a bit of what happened after I filed a few years ago. Let’s continue the story.

Before I knew a hearing officer had been assigned, Blankingship & Keith, one of the law firms Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) taps into for due process hearings, started in with subpoenas.

I’d never been served—much less seen—a subpoena before those arrived.

With the help of Google and God, I got up to speed on subpoenas.

I learned they are kin to a child in a toy shop. Ask the kid what he or she wants, and the response will be everything in sight—plus the G.I. Joe with the Kung Fu grip (for those “Trading Places” fans).

Due Process Diaries, Part I

I filed for Due Process August 26th of this year.

A due process hearing is an experience I could have done without, but I learned a tremendous amount—especially about hearings held via a virtual platform. I learned, too, more than I ever thought I needed to know about the transcripts related to the hearing (more on this later).

In the coming weeks, I’ll share slices of the hearing, from due process filing to final decision—which in this hearing included privacy breaches, perjury, technical glitches, an ADA complaint, denial of full access to the hearing, and denial of rights guaranteed under both federal and state regulations.