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Monday, October 31, 2022

In Virginia, Parents Almost Always Lose in Due Process

Justin Wm. Moyer and John D. Harden at WP:
Northern Virginia school systems grant fewer than 1 percent of requests from parents of children with disabilities seeking enrollment in schools that better accommodate their needs, according to data submitted in a civil rights lawsuit.

Plaintiffs allege the state’s education department has “curated” officials who almost always decide cases in its favor, according to the class-action lawsuit filed in federal court last month by parents of an autistic student. The state has prevented disabled children from getting the educational support they need, the parents say, disadvantaging a generation of people with special needs.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, told the story of a student referred to only as “D.C.," a 19-year-old who suffers from autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome, among other disorders. Attorneys in the case shared the data with The Washington Post.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which protects disabled students, allows parents to appeal school placements. But between 2010 and July 2021, just three petitions out of 395 in Northern Virginia prevailed.

Across Virginia, the results were not much better, according to the data. Just 13 parents in 847 cases, or about 1.5 percent, successfully challenged school district decisions about their children’s placements. By comparison, the suit said almost 35 percent of California parents — the state with the most special needs students in the country — won such cases, as did around 15 percent of Maryland parents. Virginia served more than 169,000 disabled students from 2021 to 2022, officials said.