DOED Rules That FCPS Failed Special Education Students Amidst Pandemic


FCPS Board Members meet to discuss the recent class action lawsuit against the county’s education plan during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the Covid-19 Pandemic hit students in 2020, it was noted that many people with special needs did not receive the right access to learning opportunities virtually. The U.S Education Department is now actively looking at Fairfax County and several districts to amend the damage that was caused to students over these last few years.
Recently, FCPS lost a class action lawsuit that alleged FCPS violated the human rights of disabled students during the pandemic. As a result of the lawsuit, FCPS will be forced to directly reimburse families with a special needs student.
This was a landmark lawsuit due to the size of FCPS, and it can be presumed that it will have ripple effects across the country.
The pandemic was always something that students and staff had to adjust with. Teachers needed to find ways to engage students into their learning, and students themselves were learning how to come to class on time and be able to do the school work.
At AHS, we have an especially large program for special education students, so this issue is something that had a first-hand impact on our school.
“I think that the year of Covid beginning March 2020 every school was virtual. As we came back our special education students had the option to be in person but also remained virtually online,” Principal Shawn DeRose said.
One important part of learning for special education students was the need for hands-on -intervention learning to help with remembering lessons and other important activities.
Principal DeRose notes how the staff at Annandale worked very hard to get accustomed to teaching virtually as well as being understanding of each individual student and their needs.
“We have an amazing Cat-B Program, and it is more impactful when you teach in person over virtually, but regardless of being virtual, our teachers did the very best job that they could do to provide the highest quality of instruction through the pandemic, [providing] individualized instruction when possible,” Derose continued.
Upon hearing of the U.S Education Departments address letter, Fairfax County has taken the approach to make a compensatory plan for special education based on the issues discussed in the letter. The county plans on designating a specific administrator to plan for the compensatory education for these students.
Along this outline, Fairfax County will plan on informing and training staff about this developmental plan. In addition to this change, FCPS plans on making sure that parents and guardians know of the upcoming plan.
“All of the principals [had a meeting yesterday] on this plan to learn about it and how it will impact schools. Fairfax County has a plan in place to address those concerns outlined.[At Annandale] we will continue to do everything we can to meet the needs of our students,” DeRose said.
School board members are currently in the ongoing process of finding a solution to this matter, and hope to reach a decision by early 2023. With this plan, districts will eventually be reporting their efforts to the Education Department of Civil Rights.
FCPS hopes to put this controversy behind them through extensive effort across the next 12 months to ensure the best educational experience possible for Cat-B students in the future.