Ed Department Office of Civil Rights Rules Against Fairfax County

by Asra Q. Nomani

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Tears of joy came to the eyes of special education advocates Callie Oettinger and Debra Tisler as they read a much-anticipated decision by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

For years, they have been advocating — to deaf ears in Fairfax County Public Schools and the entire state of Virginia — on behalf of students denied educational services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Today, the U.S. Department of Education ruled that they were indeed correct.

“This is a victory for every parent,” said Oettinger. “In 2020, we knew that the actions that FCPS was taking were in noncompliance with IDEA. We are now vindicated, and every parent should contact FCPS to make sure that every child receives COMPENSATORY EDUCATION and other services that meet their needs.”

The key words here are to ask for COMPENSATORY EDUCATION.  Many parents with special needs children paid out of pocket and took on second jobs to pay for tutors and other services to meet educational needs that Fairfax County failed to provide. And many other parents couldn’t afford these extra services, and their children were left behind.“It’s criminal that so many children went without services and appropriate education,” said Tisler, at her dining table, as she learned the news. “The investigation must not stop with Fairfax County. Governor Glenn Youngkin should now reconsider the leadership that he inherited that allowed such an atrocity to occur under their watch. The full weight of his office must be used to hold accountable those responsible for this failure.”

The Department of Education concluded:

Office for Civil Rights Reaches Resolution Agreement with Virginia’s Largest School Division, Fairfax County Public Schools, to Meet the Needs of Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

November 30, 2022

Protecting Students: Sex discrimination

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights today announced a resolution agreement with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia requiring the School Division to take steps necessary to ensure that students with disabilities receive educational services, including compensatory services, during and resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. OCR investigated the School Division’s provision during the pandemic of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities, as required by Federal civil rights law. OCR’s investigation found that the School Division inappropriately reduced and limited services provided to students with disabilities, based on considerations other than the students’ individual educational needs, and failed to adequately remedy these denials of FAPE. OCR also identified concerns with staffing shortages and other administrative obstacles that may have limited the School Division’s provision of FAPE, as well as its ability to sufficiently track its FAPE services.

The School Division agreed to resolve the compliance review by creating and implementing a comprehensive plan to address the compensatory education needs of students with disabilities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Press Release
  • Fairfax County Public Schools – Resolution Letter PDF
  • Fairfax County Public Schools – Resolution Agreement PDF

Asra Q. Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and cofounder of Coalition for TJ. She is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a senior fellow in the practice of journalism at Independent Women’s Forum. This column has been republished with permission from Asra Investigates.