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Patrick County Schools probed
State to investigate alleged violations of special ed regulations
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will investigate alleged violations of special education regulations, testing irregularities and other practices in Patrick County Schools, according to a letter to the school system from the state superintendent of public instruction.
The Oct. 12 letter titled “Notice of Investigation” from Patricia I. Wright, superintendent of public instruction, stated that the department “has received specific allegations of violations of special education regulations, of testing irregularities and of other practices that call into question the integrity of data reported to the VDOE under both the federal B IDEA indicators and the Virginia Standards of Accreditation.”
“Many of these allegations pertain to Patrick County High School during the 2011-2012 school year and involve the graduation status of special education students, student grades, student credits, student schedules and testing,” the letter added.
IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, and Part B deals with kindergarten through 12th grade, according to Charles Pyle, director of communications for the VDOE. He declined further comment on the investigation.
Wright wrote that personnel from the Department of Education will conduct an on-site investigation Oct. 29 through Nov. 2. The team will be led by Judith A. Douglas, director of the Office of Dispute Resolution and Administrative Services of VDOE’s Division of Special Education and Student Services.
The letter asks the school system to name a person to serve as the team’s local contact while in Patrick County.
The responsibilities of that person may include notifying people involved in the investigation, such as division or school personnel, students and parents; obtaining data, documentation, records or other materials requested by the team; and establishing an interview schedule for people identified by the team, Wright’s letter stated.
“Parallel with this investigation,” the VDOE’s Office of Federal Program Monitoring will conduct a monitoring review of all special education programs in the Patrick County schools, Wright’s letter stated. It added that details of that review were to be provided in a separate letter.
According to VDOE’s website, that office is responsible “for adoption and use of effective methods to monitor compliance with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act” and other areas.
Patrick County School Superintendent Roger Morris said that review is done routinely on a six-or seven-year cycle.
Wright’s letter was addressed to Morris and Patrick County School Board Chairman Bobby Mangrum.
Mangrum said Monday he was surprised by the “Notice of Investigation” and was not aware of the allegations in some areas.
“I think the best thing is to see what the state has when they get here and see what the allegations are,” he added.
Mangrum also said the school system has asked the VDOE who made the allegations, but that information “has been withheld.”
Morris said he was not surprised by the investigation. “I just know the situation and some individuals that may have complained to the DOE. I have my suspicions,” but he has not been told who made the allegations. He also would not say who he suspects of making them.
Morris said he has no details of the allegations.
“If we are doing something wrong, we’ll fix it. If we’re doing something right, we’ll praise it,” he said.
Wright’s letter stated that schools found to be in violation of the Standards of Accreditation will be subject to “appropriate action by the Board of Education, including, but not limited to, the withholding or denial of a school’s accreditation.”
Morris said he was not aware of that happening at any school division in the state.