Parents File Class Action Lawsuit Against Virginia Department of Education, Fairfax Board of Education Over Disability Hearings

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A federal class action lawsuit was filed against the Virginia Department of Education and the Fairfax County Board of Education alleging violations of the rights of students with disabilities under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The plaintiffs in the case — the parents of an anonymous Fairfax County student and their nonprofit Hear Our Voices (an organization focused on helping students with disabilities and special needs) — have filed a complaint against VDOE. and the Fairfax School Board have “actively promoted unfairness and prejudice.” Hearing system to oversee appeals of local decisions regarding students with disabilities.

The parents allege that state hearings, which are responsible for holding impartial hearings to resolve disagreements on matters relating to special education services, have disproportionately sentenced them for 20 years. claim.

Between 2010 and 2021, Virginia parents who initiated due process hearings “received favorable hearings” in only 13 of the 847 cases, the lawsuit says.

“Furthermore, over the past 20 years, about two-thirds of the hearing officers have never ruled in favor of the parents,” the plaintiffs wrote. “Worse still, in Northern Virginia, over her 11-plus years from 2010 to July 2021, his 83% of hearing officers never ruled in favor of a parent.”

Virginia’s low parental challenge success rate is “clearly an outlier compared to other states,” with a study finding parents hovering around 30%. , said the lawsuit.

Charles Pyle, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education, said in an email that the department does not comment on pending lawsuits, but that “all students with disabilities are eligible under federal and state law. We are committed to ensuring that you receive service and support.” law. “

Fairfax County Public Schools did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trevor Chaprick, the father of a Fairfax student, said the lawsuit was filed to clarify a Virginia hearing officer’s “extremely troubling record of sentencing” against parents of children with disabilities.

“Parents of children with disabilities and special needs deserve a better fate from Virginia’s public school system,” Chaprick said in a statement.

Chaplicks accused the Department of Education of creating a roster of “school-friendly” hearing officers, allowing local educational institutions to improperly communicate with hearing officers, and hiring biased police officers for financial gain. , which claims to have refused to certify new officers for over a year. Ten years.

The family is represented by the Civil Rights Clinic at Georgetown Law School, Sussman Godfrey Law Firm (LLP), and Merritt Law Firm (PLLC). The case is being heard in the Alexandria Division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“Children with disabilities and their families deserve ‘a life like you,'” said Aderson Francois, director of the Georgetown Civil Rights Clinic, in a statement. This is the first step in ensuring that we provide them with an education that meets their needs.”

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