RICHMOND, Va. — Recent federal documents reveal concerns both new and continued regarding the education of students with disabilities in Virginia.
In a February letter sent by the U.S. Department of Education to the Virginia Department of Education, concerns are raised related to the state’s potential compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the law that guarantees children with disabilities can receive a free education and protects special education services.
This letter, directed to former state Superintendent Jillian Balow, cites “significant new or continued areas of concerns with the state’s implementation of general supervision, dispute resolution, and confidentiality requirements” when it comes to IDEA policies.
The February letter follows a 2020 report from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) under the previous Ralph Northam administration, which cited concerns related to special education oversight in the state.
A portion of the text regarding the additional concerns reads:
"...OSEP has identified significant concerns around the implementation of key requirements of IDEA that, while related to the 2020 findings, go beyond the scope of those findings."
The most recent February letter lists several areas of continued concern from OSEP, including:
- General Supervision procedures for the identification and correction of noncompliance
- Provision of FAPE (free appropriate public education) during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Compensatory Services
- State complaint policies, procedures, and practices
- Due process complaint and hearing procedures and implementation
- IEE policies, procedures, and practices
A spokesperson for the VDOE noted there are no mentions of sanctions against the department written in the February letter, and that Virginia has received the “Meets Requirements” designation by the federal government for 11 consecutive years regarding its implementation of the IDEA.
However, the letter states additional monitoring will be conducted in August/ September 2023.
The letter, stamped February 17, is dated less than two weeks before the announcement of Superintendent Balow’s resignation.