U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights FOIA Responses

Department of Justice

Justice Department Finds Utah at Fault for Failing to Provide Effective Transition Services

June 18, 2024, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (DOJ) released the findings of its investigation into Utah’s statewide violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

DOJ determined Utah is violating ADA “by unnecessarily segregating youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) during the day, instead of helping them find work and spend their days in their communities.” In addition, it found that gaps in Utah’s transition service system put students transitioning out of children’s services “at serious risk for unnecessary segregation in these settings”, because the students “enter adulthood without the experiences or the services they need to live fully integrated adult lives.”

VDOE Finds FCPS at Fault for Systemic Failure to Implement IEPs; FCPS Must Address Delays in Providing Compensatory Education and Reimbursable Expenses

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is at fault for systemic failure to implement IEPs division wide.

A Letter of Findings (LOF) released today by Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) cites FCPS’ failures to provide compensatory education and reimbursable expenses in a timely manner consistent with IEP implementation regulations.

What Do Parents Need to Know?
In both cases, the reimbursable expenses and compensatory education are related to FCPS’ November 30, 2022, resolution agreement with Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Although the findings address the families who joined the systemic complaint, neither VDOE nor FCPS can ignore noncompliance faced by other families.

2008 IEE Noncompliance Finding

17 Years of Independent Educational Evaluation Noncompliance: Virginia Department of Education Fails Students and to Perform Its General Supervisory Duties

For at least 17 years, Virginia Department of Education has failed to ensure compliance with IDEA and state IEE special education regulations.

During the last four years, VDOE has failed to ensure that all local education agencies statewide have implemented the changes required by U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs findings in its June 23, 2020, differentiated monitoring and support report on VDOE.

Prince William County Public Schools Found at Fault for Systemic Noncompliance; Must Change Independent Educational Evaluation Practices

May 3, 2024, Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) found Prince William County Public Schools (PWCPS) at fault for failure to implement federal and state special education regulations at a systemic level.

VDOE identified four counts of noncompliance related to PWCPS’ division-wide independent educational evaluation (IEE) practices, to include failure to follow U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) June 2020 required changes to Virginia Administrative Code (VAC).

Updated 4.7.24—Virginia in More Hot Water; U.S. Department of Education Issues New Report, Finds VDOE at Fault for More Noncompliance

March 18, 2024: Article published. April 7, 2024: Article updated. Updated information appears below in bold/red.

March 13, 2024, U.S Department of Education (USDOE) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) found Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) in noncompliance for the fourth year in a row. OSEP released its findings in a new Differentiated Monitoring Support report and letter. The issues identified relate to state complaints, mediation, due process, prior written notice, confidentiality, and independent educational evaluations (IEE).

March 15, 2024, Superintendent Lisa Coons responded to OSEP’s letter and report by issuing a letter to USDOE that states VDOE’s commitment to change and includes a chart outlining VDOE’s proposed corrective action plan (CAP) and timelines.

Notable corrective actions include changes to Virginia regulations regarding state complaint and due process filings. Moving forward, parents and advocates will be able to file state complaints and due process against VDOE.

Long-term noncompliance continues to relate to independent educational evaluations (IEE).

UPDATED 3.29.24—VDOE to Investigate Fairfax County Public Schools for Systemic Noncompliance; District Fails to Implement IEPs in a Timely Manner

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), Virginia, again finds itself the focus of a systemic noncompliance investigation.

This time, Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is investigating FCPS’ failures to implement IEPs in a timely manner.

Notably, FCPS has failed to ensure timely provision of compensatory education to students and timely reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses to parents, even though both appear in IEPs proposed by FCPS and consented to by parents. The compensatory education and reimbursements at the core of the complaint relate to FCPS’ resolution agreement with Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

In some cases, parents and students have been waiting more than six months for FCPS to provide reimbursements and/or ensure provision of compensatory education.

Dept. of Justice Finds Florida School District Discriminated Against Students with Disabilities; Routinely Relied on Suspensions and Referrals to Law Enforcement

March 5, 2024, U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) released the findings of its investigation into Pasco County Public Schools (PCPS) and its settlement agreement with PCPS.

The investigation focused on the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22 school years and concluded PCPS discriminated against students who have disabilities when it “routinely relied on suspensions and referrals to law enforcement to respond to students’ disability-related behaviors that could have been addressed through proper behavioral interventions and supports.”

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.

VDOE Orders FCPS to Stop Delaying Provision of Compensatory Education and Reimbursable Expenses; IEPs Addressing Office for Civil Rights Findings Must Be Implemented

For over a year, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has refused to fully implement consented to portions of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) — and treated the implementation of IEPs on a first-come, first-served basis.

That stops now.

IEP Teams Must Consider Assistive Technology Devices and Services Every Time a Student’s IEP is Developed, Reviewed, or Revised

Assistive technology (AT) devices and services must be considered every time a student’s IEP is developed, reviewed, or revised.

U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) clears up misconceptions about this requirement in its new guidance document “Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services” and the “Dear Colleague” letter accompanying it.

Office for Civil Rights Addresses Asthma, Diabetes, Food Allergies, and GERD; Issues Guidance on Medical Conditions Triggering Protections Under Section 504

February 20, 2024, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released individual guidance documents on asthma, diabetes, food allergies, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

The documents address how these medical conditions “can be disabilities for purposes of Section 504 . . . when these medical conditions trigger protections under Section 504, what kind of modifications an educational institution may need to take to avoid unlawful discrimination, and what an institution may need to do to remedy past discrimination.”

In addition, they provide descriptions of the medical conditions and examples of how the conditions can affect a student’s experience in school.

U.S. Dept. of Education Issues Assistive Technology Guidance; Dispels Myths and Underscores Importance of Reducing Barriers to Education

U.S. Department of Education’s (USDOE) new guidance documents debunk myths about the provision of assistive technology (AT) services and devices to students and underscores the importance of reducing barriers to education.

Released January 22, 2024, “Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services” and the “Dear Colleague” letter accompanying it provide long-needed guidance addressing the important role technology plays in ensuring all learners are afforded “meaningful access and engagement in education”.