UPDATED 11.21.23—FOIA: Virginia Department of Education State Complaint Tracking Logs, 2014-2023

November 8, 2023, I included a request for volunteers in the article below. I'd like to thank the volunteer who helped pull together the data provided by VDOE, for 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18.

The link to the spreadsheets pulled together by the volunteer is being added here, with the understanding that the data needs doublechecking, as well as more slicing and dicing to identify trends. Help still is needed. If you're interested in helping, please let me know.

September 2023, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) released a report of its in-depth look at state complaints.

Its findings aren't surprising.

Parents who believe their local education agency (LEA) to be in noncompliance with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), can seek remedies under IDEA's dispute resolution processes. However, those processes—such as filing state complaints—are stacked against parents.

The following are a few of COPAA's findings:

"Nationally, about 1 in 4 complaints was dismissed or withdrawn prior to any investigation, with 27 percent of complaints withdrawn or dismissed in 2019-20 and 31 percent, or nearly 1 in 3, withdrawn or dismissed on average over the three-year period. In the most recent year analyzed, the states ranged from 0 percent dismissed or withdrawn in Alaska, Nebraska and Wyoming to 70 percent dismissed or withdrawn in North Dakota, followed by Louisiana and West Virginia. Over three years, Alaska, Nebraska and Nevada had the lowest rate of dismissals/withdrawals (each had fewer than 10 percent of complaints dismissed) while North Dakota had approximately 2 in 3 complaints withdrawn or dismissed, followed by Louisiana and New Jersey.

"About 40 percent of complaints resulted in findings of noncompliance in 2019-20 and over the most recent three years. The rates varied dramatically among states, from 83 percent in Alaska to 0 percent in North Dakota and Iowa in 2019-20. Over three years, states with the highest percentage of findings of noncompliance were Wyoming and Delaware at 71 percent followed by Nebraska while Iowa had the lowest percentage with findings (0 percent) followed by Louisiana (15 percent) and North Dakota, New Jersey and Virginia (17 percent each).

"Complaints investigated nationally yielded slightly more reports with findings than reports that did not, with about 1.3 reports with findings of non-compliance for every report that yielded no findings in 2019-20 and 1.5 over the most recent three-year period. The rates varied significantly across the states, however, with the District of Columbia having the highest rate with 15.0 reports that resulted in findings for every report that did not in 2019-20, by far the highest of any jurisdiction and nearly three times the rate of the second highest state. DC was followed by New York, Alaska, Nebraska, and Idaho. At the other end of the range of outcomes, North Dakota and Iowa had no complaints that resulted in a determination of noncompliance in 2019-20. Over the three-year period, DC again had the highest ratio at 6.7 followed by Delaware and Wyoming. Meanwhile, Iowa had the lowest ratio with no complaints that resulted in findings of noncompliance. Massachusetts, Louisiana, Hawaii and New Jersey also had a ratio of less than 1.0, meaning they had more reports with no findings than reports with findings.

"The majority of reports were issued within the required time, with just over 90 percent of investigations nationally completed within the mandated 60-day time limit in 2019-20 and over the three years. A total of 18 states had a 100 percent “on time rate” in 2019-20 while 13 states completed 100 percent of their investigations on time over the three years. On the other hand, Vermont had the lowest rate of investigations completed on time in 2019-20, with 0 cases completed on time, followed by Iowa (50 percent) and Maine (65 percent). Over the three years, the Bureau of Indian Education had the lowest on time rate (29 percent) followed by Vermont (33 percent) and Iowa (44 percent)."

VDOE State Complaint Tracking Logs

Also not a surprise: Virginia is among the states with the least favorable outcomes for complainants over the three-year period reviewed by COPAA.

Although Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found VDOE's largest school district—Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)—at fault for systemic noncompliance between April 2020-June 2022, VDOE's state complaint tracking logs provide a portrait of a state heavy on dismissals and findings in favor of LEAs. Parents were filing complaints about FCPS' noncompliance, yet VDOE refused to find fault with some of the very same allegations OCR later investigated.

Below are links to VDOE's state complaint tracking logs, which were shared with Special Education Action by the individual who filed the FOIA request to VDOE for them.

VDOE redacted the names of school divisions and regions, even though that data alone wouldn't lead to identifying the individuals who filed the complaints. Instead, it hides important data on where findings are being made, the type of findings being made, and whether there are trends in findings related to specific locations and/or types of noncompliance.

2014–2015  /  2015–2016  /  2016–2017  /  2017–2018  /  2018–2019  /  2019–2020  /  2020–2021  /  2021–2022  /  2022–2023

Volunteers Needed

If any readers are interested in diving into the data in these tracking logs, please let me know.

2 comments on “Updated 11.21.23—FOIA: Virginia Department of Education State Complaint Tracking Logs, 2014-2023

Comments are closed.

  1. Defining “dismissals”

    I filed a complaint with VDOE. They sent notification to the LEA within 48 hours. They summarized my allegations and added more, based on the facts as I described them. Maybe I got lucky on the VDOE staff—or maybe they are sick of seeing so many FCPS violations. The VDOE ombudsman’s office was also helpful.

    We did mediation, I got everything requested and a few additional things. This was a faster resolution than the due process route.

    My complaint was dismissed based on the settlement. It’s possible that LEAs try to settle the worst cases—which then are dismissals.

    My big regrets—being patient with FCPS and not filing sooner—and that our result will only impact us. Maybe FCPS gets away with what they do because settlements are subject to confidentiality? And while settlements don’t have broader impacts, the dismissals might also include successful complaints.

    Oh, and we got the “sorry about our FERPA goof up” which is how I found this article. I wish I had found this site sooner—it’s great.

    I wish we could bring a class action qui tam type suit in federal court against FCPS. I would happily be a complainant.

    1. Thanks for your comment and kind words. If FCPS is found in noncompliance, it should not take other parents filing on the same issue for FCPS to fix the compliance if it exists elsewhere. Unfortunately, parents don’t always talk and compare notes – and/or too many parents won’t file in the first place. Evidently parents who ask questions are problems. Thanks again, Callie