The U.S. Division of Schooling’s Workplace for Civil Rights has introduced an settlement to resolve its investigation of particular schooling providers within the Fairfax County Public Faculties. (Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock)

For the second time this yr, federal officers say they’ve reached an settlement with one of many nation’s largest college districts for failing to correctly serve college students with disabilities in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Division of Schooling’s Workplace for Civil Rights mentioned final week that it has come to a decision with the Fairfax County Public Faculties in Virginia after the district fell brief in assembly its obligations to supply a free acceptable public schooling, or FAPE, to hundreds of scholars with disabilities when colleges shifted to distant studying as COVID-19 emerged.

Specifically, the federal company’s investigation discovered that Fairfax County colleges diminished or restricted providers to college students with disabilities for causes apart from their particular person instructional wants. As well as, the district incorrectly advised employees that they weren’t required to supply compensatory providers to college students with disabilities who have been denied FAPE for the reason that district was not at fault.

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Fairfax County colleges didn’t correctly treatment conditions the place kids have been denied FAPE and there have been issues about insufficient recordkeeping, the Schooling Division mentioned.

Underneath the settlement, the college district will develop and implement a plan to supply compensatory providers as acceptable and take different steps.

“I’m relieved that the greater than 25,000 college students with disabilities in Fairfax County will now obtain providers federal regulation guarantees to them, even throughout a pandemic, to make sure their equal entry to schooling,” mentioned Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights on the Schooling Division.

Fairfax County Public Faculties was certainly one of 4 entities underneath investigation by the Schooling Division’s Workplace for Civil Rights associated to its dealing with of providers for college students with disabilities in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal company reached an settlement with the Los Angeles Unified Faculty District earlier this yr whereas an identical inquiry into the Indiana Division of Schooling was dropped. The division’s investigation of the Seattle Public Faculties is ongoing.

The Schooling Division has constantly reminded colleges for the reason that begin of the pandemic about their ongoing obligations to supply FAPE underneath the People with Disabilities Schooling Act, which may embody compensatory providers.

Denise Marshall, CEO of the Council of Mother or father Attorneys and Advocates, or COPAA, mentioned the settlement with Fairfax County Public Faculties exhibits that the Schooling Division is critical about these expectations.

“By taking this motion, OCR is demonstrating that no district can shun its obligations to college students and should use the assets supplied by Congress to handle their instructional wants,” she mentioned.

Because of the settlement, Fairfax County colleges mentioned it should convene conferences for all college students with individualized education schemes and Part 504 plans to evaluate whether or not compensatory providers are wanted.

“As we emerge from the worldwide pandemic, FCPS stays dedicated to working diligently to supply the help wanted to make sure every scholar recovers from studying loss,” the district mentioned in a press release. “FCPS has and can proceed to leverage assets to make sure college students with the best want obtain prioritized help for enhanced outcomes.”

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