Many of you have heard by now that Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has taken legal actions against me and another parent. See: FCPS Threatens Legal Action Against Parents Who Exercised Their First Amendment Rights And Right To FOIA
I’m in awe of the kindness and overwhelming support that complete strangers have shared in the past few days. It’s extraordinary — and truly appreciated. The journalists, parents, lawyers, advocates for children, advocates for free speech, and so many others.
1) FCPS’s legal actions are a sideshow.
Please don’t let them distract you from much bigger stories.
2) We need your outrage every day of every year.
Please focus on the needs of the children.
Please focus on FCPS’s failures to address the unique needs of every child in its county.
Please focus on FCPS’s repeat noncompliance.
A Few Requests
For the Journalists
I appreciate your interest in covering FCPS’s legal actions, but it would be extraordinary if you could go line by line through the documents released in the FOIA request.
There’s a lot in there and it needs to be shared.
I’m not talking about personal information about FCPS personnel or students.
I’m talking about waste, admission of noncompliance, and what seems to be a county that has outsourced to high-priced outside lawyers the responsibilities that I thought belonged to school board members and educators. (Or is there a reason I’m not aware of for outside counsel to be writing school newsletters?)
For those of you who have been covering FCPS, there are things in those documents that might fill in gaps for you or might lead you to investigate in a different or deeper direction.
I beg that you dig into FCPS’s special education system in particular. (If fictional Denise from 1987’s movie Summer School can get help for Dyslexia, how is it that FCPS can’t help real students with Dyslexia today? It’s not as if Dyslexia or any of what our kids are facing is new.) Please focus on the children.
Ask FCPS: How is it possible that so many problems exist in a county with so many resources? Its own audit — which isn’t even a comprehensive or complete audit — has pointed out major problems. See: Just In: FCPS “Independent” Special Education Audit Reveals Disturbing Data
Yet, we’re a year out on that audit being completed, which means we’re another year out on change being implemented because people have to discuss, argue, dismiss, insert their agenda, every step of the way. And then there’s more time required to train staff. And . . . Next thing you know, the audit is out of date, today’s kindergarteners are high school seniors, and the process starts all over again — with kids going unhelped all along the way.
I’m begging you to investigate the Virginia Department of Education, too. It’s not for nothing that the U.S. Department of Education and Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission released three reports about VDOE in a matter of about six month last year. See: JLARC’s Reports K-12 Special Education in Virginia and Operations and Performance of the Virginia Department of Education, as well as The U.S. Department of Education’s Differentiated Monitoring and Support Report on Virginia
And whatever you cover, please think about the families involved. They need help. They don’t need to be another bullet point in a story that needs more filling. They need help creating the change we all wish to see.
For the Lawyers
Thank you for the pro bono and reduced fee offers.
Please consider offering this to parents year around in Virginia.
Burden of proof is on parents in Virginia and FCPS’s piggy bank is deeper than Mary Poppins’ purse.
For the Advocates
Thank you for all you do. Please keep at it.
On the days when it feels like you can’t handle it another day, push forward.
For the Parents
Don’t let FCPS (or the school district wherever you are located) intimidate you.
They are people just like the rest of us.
There are some wonderful people — and then there’s the variety that provides false information in their due process hearing testimony (FCPS: Will you ever investigate this?) and then everything in between.
Trust your gut.
If you don’t advocate for your child no one else will.
A lot of phone calls and emails have been coming in. I promise I’ll respond. It’s just that life doesn’t go on hold for these types of things. I still have my family, friends, work, the usual household crap, and right now my beloved chocolate lab Fletch is giving me the side eye because he needs to go out for a pee.
Having a Food Allergy falls under Special Education Protection as well. We get 504’s too. So far, only Peanut Free Tables are provided even though many kids (mine included) have multiple food allergies – including Milk which is a big one. Why not a table Free of Top 8 Allergens. At least it’s better than just Peanut-Free. It’s one designated table out of the entire school. Yeah, we are defiantly a side-note.
Thanks for your comment, Koreen.
I’ll never forget the day that one of my kid’s pre-school friends had her birthday celebrated at school. The pre-school always bought a cake for the kids to share, no matter whose birthday it was.
In this case, the little girl had allergies and, in addition to not being able to celebrate with her friends by eating the cake bought for her birthday, she had to sit alone on the other side of the room while her friends ate cake. The school was well-aware she had allergies, but didn’t think through the simple step of buying a different type of cake or a different dessert. Instead, it provided a sad experience at an early age.
In elementary school the same kids sat at a table or two – alone – for every single lunch. That’s heartbreaking.
Please continue to educate other parents. Defiance is good. Being a side note is not. Taking actions that drill holes in the souls of kids is awful.
Thanks again, Koreen.
Very proud of you. Be bold and courageous. Strikes fear in the heart of evil.
Thank you for your kind words and support!
Striking fear in the heart of evil sounds like quite a task.
If we can just ensure that every child in the United States receives a free appropriate public education, I could live with that.
Or do you think that too much too ask?
Would striking fear in the heart of evil be easier?
Either way, it would be wonderful to see every child championed.
They sued you because they didn’t want you releasing other parent’s information or information about CHILDREN that they mistakenly gave you. That isn’t hard to understand. How would you feel if the school system accidentally released information that included your child and the parent posted it online without removing that information. Would you be upset or would you think that was OK? You have to think beyond your own selfish interests sometimes and just do better!
People like you become so myopic that you can’t see when your actions are causing more harm than good. They made a mistake giving you personally identifiable information. Instead of being a good steward and at least redacting that information, you just want to publish it because they made a mistake. That isn’t right!
Thank you for sharing your perspective.
Special Education Action has NEVER and will NEVER feature documents that share personally identifiable information about children.
Per FCPS’s recent FOIA response, Special Education Action DID NOT post ANY documents that share personally identifiable information about children. Please consider asking FCPS what is really in that FOIA response that it wants back so badly and please consider asking FCPS why it isn’t releasing quotes to the press about what was actually in the documents that were posted on Special Education Action.
Please know that FCPS did release information about my own family and the parent who received it posted about it in a public space, so I am quite aware of how it feels and the importance of ensuring information like that isn’t released. It is why I’ve spent so many years advocating in an effort to FCPS’s privacy violations are stopped.
This week, that advocacy led to the Virginia Department of Education announcing that it will finally investigate FCPS for systemic privacy violations. Please see: https://specialeducationaction.com/virginia-department-of-education-to-investigate-fairfax-county-public-schools-for-systemic-privacy-violations/
Thanks again for sharing your perspective, Sarah.
Callie, hang in there, too, I have challenged the system for my complex daughter. I will never forget the day I was told my daughter’s disability falls into a “gray area.” Today I still carry around a sizeable gray binder. This started back in 1990. I, too, have done my research and advocated for my child. I’ve kept it very private, but as I sat down with all these so-called specialists who denied my child services and thought how do other parents help their child. Thank you for all you do. You’re right this has been going on way back and the struggles are real for us parents. I wish you well and you have my support!
Thank you. Just thank you.
Fairfax County Public Schools is Johnny-on-the-Spot when it comes to AAP students, sending out email blasts about its high schoolers’ SAT score average, and sharing info about everything that shines a light on it.
Special Education? Not so much. No shining light there. More of a pitch-dark room.
FCPS is one of the largest school districts in the country, with one of the largest budgets, yet it has just one school listed as a U.S. Department of Education “Blue Ribbon” School. Why is that? I know the argument could be made that some states don’t have any “Blue Ribbon” schools, but they don’t have FCPS’s budget, either. It just doesn’t line up.
Making it worse, none of this is new.
Thank you for the advocacy you’ve done and for making taking the time to reach out. You’ve put a smile on my face.