FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA. (WDVM) – The US Department of Education (DOE) for Civil Rights (OCR) announced to Fairfax County Public Schools that it opened a targeted investigation based on “disturbing reports” of the school district’s COVID-19 response in the year providing educational services for students with disabilities.
The DOE sent the letter to FCPS superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand, and since then the FCPS has told WDVM that they “are aware but have not received any follow-up”.
Eileen Chollet is the mother of a second grader with a rare developmental disorder that prevents her from excelling in virtual school. In July, when FCPS announced that all schools would be virtual, Chollet understood until she found out that the school allowed personal childcare at a price per month based on the family’s income.
“I kind of understood this is for safety’s sake until they announced on August 18, ‘Well, we can’t allow a standalone special education class for 10 people in their school, but we can allow paid supportive learning for $ 1,472 per month in separate classes of ten children. ‘That’s sure, but ten kids in a special classroom are not safe,’ said Chollet.
When Chollet found out, she briefed another news source about childcare. She thought it would end there; instead it led to a federal investigation.
“Someone in the federal government was listening, and the US Department of Civil Rights opened that investigation in January,” said Chollet.
In the DOE’s letter to Dr. Brabrand mentions the childcare program followed by this statement: “… OCR is concerned that the district has failed to provide“ Free Appropriate Public Education ”(FAPE) by federal law and refused to provide any qualified student with a disability Students with disabilities have equal access to education. “
Letter to dr. Scott Brabrand of the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office.
Meanwhile, Chollet has filed a special education complaint under the People with Disabilities and Education Act (IDEA) with the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) alleging her daughter does not have access to a FAPE. VDOE initially decided that FCPS was providing adequate training in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was later turned back by an appeal examiner.
“The Appeals Examiner, because I appealed this complaint, overturned the Virginia Department of Education and said, ‘You are required by law to provide free adequate public education to every student. It is clear that this student does not have access to virtual learning, ”said Chollet.
Chollet expects another decision from VDOE in about two months. Your daughter will return to FCPS for two-day hybrid virtual learning on Tuesday.