7.25.22: Article first published.
8.15.22: Article updated to include new information about FCPS’s FOIA request.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) submitted an expedited FOIA request for parents’ communication with the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Office of Civil Rights (OCR), just a week after OCR sent FCPS clarifying information about its investigation of FCPS.
January 12, 2021, OCR announced it would be investigating FCPS.
May 4, 2021, OCR sent FCPS a “letter clarifying the focus of OCR’s directed investigation.”
Between May 4 and May 5, 2021, a flurry of emails passed between FCPS staff and legal counsel. Dawn Schaeffer, FCPS Coordinator of Due Process and Eligibility advised staff and counsel:
We have received the attached data request regarding the directed COVID investigation from OCR.
Kathy will gather the requested data and draft the narrative response. We’ll work with Bob and John C.’s team to make sure we have legal support. I’ve also requested an extension to June 1 given the breadth and depth of the data request.
May 12, 2021, FCPS submitted an expedited FOIA request to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) for “information that OCR used to support its decision to initiate a directed investigation (e.g., press reports, televised news reports, parent or community communications, etc.)” (This is visible in USDOE’s FOIA Log for May 2021.)
FCPS FOIA Records
This article will be updated when more information is available.
Update: August 15, 2022
July 26, 2022, I asked FCPS why it didn’t provide me the records that OCR provided FCPS in response to its FOIA request.
July 28, 2022, FCPS responded via email and stated that “there were no responsive records provided by USDOE, as confirmed by the attached letter (fifth attachment.).”
The “attached letter” is dated June 23, 2021, and indicates there is a link at which FCPS can obtain documents that are responsive to its request and there is a link to a “responsive news article link”. The link to the documents is missing from the version provided by FCPS. At the time of this publication, FCPS has not provided access to the link to the documents.
USDOE’s July 2021 FOIA log indicates that on July 1, 2021, someone named Lucas Jolicoeur submitted an almost verbatim request to OCR, to obtain the same records:
On January 12, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, notified Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) that it had opened a directed investigation regarding FCPS’ provision of educational services to children with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. On May 4, 2021, OCR forwarded to FCPS an initial data request letter in this matter (OCR Directed Investigation #11-21-5901). The OCR attorney assigned to this investigation is (b)(6). The information that I am interested in obtaining via this FOIA request is any information that OCR used to support its decision to initiate a directed investigation (e.g., press reports, televised news reports, parent or community communications, etc.)
Since there’s such a delay in USDOE’s publishing of its FOIA logs, it is unknown how Lucas Jolicoeur obtained the same language previously submitted by Kathy Murphy.
The July FOIA log indicates that, minus a few exemptions, records were forwarded to Jolicoeur.
A check of USDOE’s FOIA status portal indicates that both cases are closed. To check, insert “21-02053-F” and “Jolicoeur” for one search. For the second, insert “21-01622-F” and “Murphy”. Yet, FCPS states there were no responsive records and USDOE’s documentation indicates otherwise.