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.