Lawyers representing families who say Virginia denied disabled students federally mandated special education services expanded the scope of a class-action lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board and the Virginia Department of Education.
The amended complaint, filed Friday in federal court, alleges the Virginia Department of Education not only knew that school districts denied disabled students their rights, but was “actively complicit in ensuring students did not receive services,” according to a news release. DCist was the first to report on the expanded suit by the law firms Susman Godfrey and Merritt Law, as well as the Civil Rights Clinic of Georgetown Law School.
The suit says Fairfax County Public Schools and the education department employed “many tactics including obstruction, burden, delay, concealment, bullying, and outright harassment” to prevent students from receiving services, DCist reports.
The lawsuit also claims that the education department pressured hearing officers to rule against families, DCist reports.
The initial complaint alleged that in Northern Virginia, 83 percent of special education hearing officers have never sided with families in 10 years.
“The data reveals for the first time that Virginia’s due process hearing system is dramatically biased towards school districts and against the parents of disabled children,” says a September news release announcing the suit.
The suit seeks the following, according to the lawyers:
- More oversight and transparency in the selection, training, and certification of hearing officers, as well as decision outcomes;
- The elimination of conflicts of interest and unfair financial incentives that “stack the deck against disabled children and their families;”
- Removal of biased hearing officers.
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