Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued two letters to Powhatan County Public Schools (PCPS), warning PCPS that it was facing sanctions, such as having federal funding pulled, if it didn't come into compliance with Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and implementing state regulations.
June 23, 2023, Samantha Hollins, VDOE's assistant superintendent for the Department of Special Education and Student Services, issued the first warning letter, and stated the following:
"The Virginia Department of Education has recently been advised of delays in resolving the dispute between Powhatan County Public Schools (PCPS) and the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for [STUDENT'S NAME REDACTED]. . . . On June 27, 2022, the Office of Dispute Resolution and Administrative Services (ODRAS) received the Implementation Plan for the May 13, 2022, Hearing Officer decision" which "ordered placement in a private day school."
Hollins requested "documentation that placement at a private day school and a contract between the LEA and the private day school has been agreed upon" and stated that, "In the event that PCPS fails to come into compliance with the implementation plan within fourteen days of this letter, VDOE will forward the matter to the Superintendent of Public Instruction for further action."
July 7, 2023, two weeks from the date of Hollins' letter, PCPS chose to issue a letter to VDOE, arguing against VDOE's stance, rather than complying with what was outlined in Hollins' June 23, 2023, letter.
August 28, 2023, Lisa Coons, VDOE's superintendent of public instruction, issued a second letter from VDOE to PCPS, in which she put PCPS on notice and stated PCPS had until September 30, 2023, to take the outlined actions:
"This letter provides notice that PCPS may no longer delay completion of the placement, as (i) the student's placement in a private day school was not at issue (ii) the school division has, in essence, conceded that the private day school for which the parent has returned a signed release for application would meet the student's needs; and (iii) the parent has consented to an IEP for the placement. Should this matter not be resolved and PCPS continue to delay actions to comply, the VDOE will seek remedies available under CFR 200.339 and 200.208, which may include restrictions on or withholding of federal funding.
"Documentation that placement at a private day school and a contract between the LEA and the private day school has been agreed upon should be provided to the previous VDOE staff contact shared no later than 30 days from the date of this letter."
PCPS failed to meet Coons' September 28, 2023 deadline. VDOE has not issued a statement of how PCPS's refusal to comply with VDOE's notices will be addressed moving forward.
These documents were obtained by the PCPS parent whose student is the focus of the letters issued by VDOE and PCPS.