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Virginia Special Education - News
IDEA Money Watch - VA

Back to VA Special Education l VA Legislative Advocacy

In the News

02/27/17 New resource for students with dyslexia approved in Virginia legislature. The bill SB 1516 requires that if a local school board employs reading specialists, at least one must have expertise in identifying and teaching students with dyslexia or a related disorder. That expert then would serve as a resource for other teachers in the school district.

02/13/15 Virginia Passes Bill to Rein in Restraints of School Children. The bill was passed unanimously by Virginia's House late last week and now moves to the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe. It requires the state education board to adopt regulations that follow federal guidelines.

Action Alert 09/29/14: Tell Virginia to adopt safeguards to protect children in school

Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Schools. Following a comprehensive investigation at two public special education schools, the U.S. Department of Education has found that the repeated use of physical restraint and seclusion to manage student behavior is ineffective and inappropriate. (Legal Aid Justice Center News, August 7, 2014).

Prince William schools restrain, seclude disabled kids frequently, inquiry finds. The investigation concluded that the techniques were part of an approach that denied students with disabilities a free appropriate public education, as required by law. William B. Reichhardt, lead attorney in the case, filed jointly by two law firms and the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia. (Washington Post, August 6, 2014) US DOE Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Letter of Findings, July 29, 2014.

Henrico and Chesterfield Schools Included in $20 Million Lawsuit. Families claim school leaders broke federal laws when it comes to educating their children with disabilities. (NBC News 12, July 3, 2014)

Second graders in Suffolk suspended for pointing pencils at each other and making shooting noises. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 7, 2013)

VA Board of Education approves graduation requirements for special-education students. The Virginia Board of Education on Thursday adopted revised high school graduation standards for students with disabilities, created clearer guidelines for waivers to open before Labor Day, and set minimum scores for new reading exams. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, March 29, 2013)

Governor McDonnell Proclaims March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Nearly 145,000 adults and children across the Commonwealth are estimated to have a developmental disability. Particulary interesting are the statistics in VA. (March 2013)

Complaint: Students with disabilities restrained or isolated at Prince William school. Alleging discrimination on the basis of emotional disability, the Complaint asserts that staff at PACE East relied too frequently on seclusion at the Manassas area school, with students missing long periods of instruction. It also alleges that school officials too often resorted to the use of physical restraint, with some students held facedown on the floor. (Washington Post, December 6, 2012)

Protest Virginia AMOs. VA Parents Demand Education Equity for Virginia Students (Response to VDOE Faq on AMOs, August 2012). "In an attempt to put lipstick on a pig, VDOE today released a FAQ on its Math AMOs. According to the FAQ, AMOs are really only intended for VA's lowest performing schools."

Yes, Virginia, You are a Swing State. Candace Cortiella of the Advocacy Institute summarizes the new methodology Virginia cooked up for calculating annual math objectives (AMOs). ...the new AMOs for math (below) paint a dismal picture for Virginia’s underachieving students – now given the pejorative moniker of “Gap Groups.”...

Chesapeake Parents Fear for Middle School Safety. Dozens of parents have banded together to fight a proposal to move a group of special-needs students - including children and teens with severe, disruptive behavior - into the middle schools. (The Virginian Pilot, 08/12/12)

Virginia - meets the requirements of Part B of IDEA based on 2010 special education data. This table (pdf) provides OSEP’s analysis of the State’s FFY 2010 APR and revised SPP.(07/13/12)

Mom: Special Needs Student Dragged, Mom Says School Won't Tell Her What Happened. A Virginia Beach mother says someone dragged her special needs daughter across the cafeteria floor  at Renaissance Academy. (WAVY, 05/04/12)

Virginia's NCLB Waiver Request Needs Work, says Education Department. (The Washington Post, 04/30/12) The feds praised the Va's strong curriculum standards, but dinged them on severa limportant areas:

  • Virginia's current plan does not set ambitious enough achievement targets for its schools. The targets are static and do not advance over time.
  • Virginia's current plan does not do enough to hold school systems accountable for the performance of traditional student subgroups - on both achievement and graduation.
  • Virginia does not explain how it will intervene in schools that are identified as priority and focus.
  • Virginia needs to be clearer about how it will make sure that student growth - i.e. test scores or other measures - are a "significant factor" on teacher and principal evaluations.

Parent Workshop: This Work shop with attorney William B. Reichhardt, April 21, 2012 is designed for Parents, Caregivers and Community agencies serving children who are receiving special education services.

Legislators Pass Bill to Make School Disciplinary Data Public. Supporters hope this bill will be Virginia's first step to develop programs that reduce suspension and expulsion rates.  The bill awaits Governor Bob McDonnell's review. Virginia public schools suspended 90,500 students during the 2010-2011 school year. It was found that African-American and disabled students were disciplined at higher rates. (, 02/29/12)

Va lawmakers OK tax credits for scholarship donations benefiting poor kids in private schools. Scholarships would be limited to children from families with income no greater than 300 percent of poverty level, and to students with disabilities. (Washington Post, 02/29/12)

State Board of Education Will Ask for Waiver of NCLB Law. The Virginia Board of Education today voted to ask federal officials for a waiver of the No Child Left Behind law. (Fredericksburg. com, 02/23/12)

Family Academy 2012 Parent and Youth Workshop offered in 5 Virginia areas. FInd the schedule and register at

Gov McDonnell signs bill that provides insurance coverage for children with autism. The bill will require health insurers to pay for specialized treatment (ABA) as well as occupational, speech and other therapies for children ages 2 to 6. (Washington Post, 02/07/12)

Advocates in Disability Award. If you know a person with a disability between the ages of 14 and 26, check out the ADA Award guidelines. selected recipients are awarded $3000 for disability advocacy. Applicants must be citizen or permanent resident of the United States. Application deadline February 28.

Oral Health Training - Stuart, VA, February 16. Families of children with special health care needs can learn about the most current evidence-based information about oral health care and disease prevention. The training is open to family educators, family support workers, and associated staff; it lasts from 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. There is no registration fee, and lunch is included. To register, email and feel free to call Kami at 804.864.7804 if you have additional questions. Participants must pre-register by February 9.

The Family as Warriors, Heroes, and Collaborators. Family Advocacy Institute Workshop, February 18, Hampton University. Learn more about your child’s rights, how to navigate the systems (including IEP tools) and enjoy breakfast and lunch. Funded through a grant by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, this workshop is for parents, family members, and caretakers of children with disabilities. Contact 757-637-2589 or to register and obtain additional information.

Ciolfi and Rotherham: State Schools are Not Held Accountable for Struggling Students. Like many states, Virginia is asking the Obama administration to allow it to stop enforcing the No Child Left Behind Act. Virginia wants to use its long-standing school accreditation system and only require public reporting of student results — a practice that failed to spur significant improvement nationally during the 1990s — instead of holding schools accountable for closing achievement gaps. (Richmond Times Dispatch, 01/30/12)

Parental notification about student disciplinary investigations sought. Schools would be required to notify parents if their child is the subject of a disciplinary investigation, under four bills up for consideration in the state Senate and House of Delegates. (Richmond Times Dispatch, 01/23/12)

Lifting Bans on Parents in the Classroom. Del. Hope's effort to do something about school districts discouraging parent observations. HB400 adds a new section " H " to Va. Code 22.1-79.3, that directs local school boards to enact policies to allow a parent to observe the education of their child in a Virginia public school in a non-disruptive manner.

Finding a rational middle ground on school performance. Will VA's application to waive certain portions of NCLB mean a real step backwards for students with disabilities and others? (The Roanoke Times, 01/18/12)

Special Education Parents Fighting to Get Son Specialized Interpreter. (Daily Press, 05/18/11) Update (05/20/11) Undue Process (05/21/11)

New ADHD Support Group in Hampton-Roads. First meeting October 18, 2011, Renaissance Academny, VA Beach. For information email: hampton-roads l at l

The Parents Guide to Special Education is now posted on the VDOE website in E-pub format. Users can view on their iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Nook, and other electronic devices with accessibility features such as enlarging the font size, increasing brightness, electronic bookmarks, etc. There's an English (PDF) and Spanish version in PDF format, too.

U.S. Department of Education is required to issue annual determination letters to each state on their progress in meeting the requirements of IDEA.

Virginia -NEEDS ASSISTANCE. If a state "needs assistance" for two consecutive years, the Department must take one or more enforcement actions, including among others, requiring the state to receive technical assistance, designating the state as a high-risk grantee, or directing the use of state set-aside funds to the areas(s) where the state needs assistance.

OSEP Response Letter June 20, 2011 to the VA State Performance Plan (SPP)/ Annual Performance Report (APR) Pdf format

Response Table shows OSEP Analysis and next steps for VA. Pdf format

Autistic children's school: Newport News families opening school geared to needs of autistic. The Peninsula School for Autism, founded by two mothers is a new year-round private school that will employ one-on-one applied behavior analysis methods and hire a paraprofessional for each student. An early-childhood program also is planned. (Daily, 06/08/22)

Sports on Wheels Adaptive Sports Camp (Brochure PDF). July 18-22, 2011, Ages 5-17, Scholarships Available.

UPDATE: School Board attorneys respond in special education case. An attorney representing Hampton City Schools filed a response Friday to a hearing officer's description of unethical behavior by School Board legal counsel. (Daily Press, 05/20/11)

Fairfax County Council Of PTAs Asks For Fewer Involuntary Transfers, More Parental Involvement. The FCCPTA submitted their resolution to Superintendent Jack Dale and the board, urging them to discontinue automatic involuntary transfers of students who are expelled from their schools and involve parents earlier in the disciplinary process. (Vienna Patch, 05/14/11)

McDonnell Signs Autism Insurance Bill. To the delight of the autism community, Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed the state's autism-insurance bills.Virginia is the 26th state to enact autism-insurance reform legislation. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 05/07/11)

The Virginia Department of Health, in collaboration with the Virginia Dental Association Foundation, is sponsoring free children’s dental clinic days at the Charlottesville Free Clinic.Who qualifies for this is a one-time opportunity? Children with special health care needs up to age 18 years and children under three years old with or without special needs.

The application deadline is Monday, February 7, 2011.

Services will be offered on February 26 and March 5 in Charlottesville, May 7 in Saltville, and May 14 in Martinsville. For more information, contact Kami Piscitelli at the Virginia Department of Health, 804-864-7804 or

Dog that helps epileptic boy will get 2-week tryout at school. Fairfax County school officials and the family of an epileptic 12-year-old boy have worked out an agreement that will allow him to attend school with his specially trained service dog on a two-week trial basis. (Washington Post, 01/04/11)

VBOE has just released a Report on Homebound Instructional Services. The report also talks about home-based instruction for students with IEPs and 504 plans, but it is not clear whether the surveys distinguishes between students placed for medical reasons, and students placed by their IEP teams (usually for disciplinary reasons). 

New Website Caters to Hampton Roads' Special Needs Community. A new website and an iPhone application have been created to help individuals with special needs in Virginia's Hampton Roads region be prepared for emergencies. The website is also home to a registry, where residents with special needs can provide information that will assist officials in devise alert systems and other emergency services. (Daily Press, 11/15/10)

Parents ask Va. Beach to pay for son's tuition at private school. Instead of sending Antonio back for a third ninth-grade year, his parents took him out of the public schools. Antonio's family is asking the school division to pay for his new school setting through an administrative process. (Pilot Online, 11/01/10)

MFS day school's expansion gives students more options. A Richmond, Va., school for students who have special needs has expanded and added career-oriented programs for students. (Richmond Times Dispatch, 11/090/10)

VA chart 2008 sped kids in general classroomsIncluding special education students in general classrooms carries a special challenge in Hampton. Parents were called in for last-minute meetings and asked to sign off on paperwork moving their children from special education classrooms to general classrooms in the fall. The district's new special education director, Elisabeth Powers, dissolved 37 percent of self-contained special education classrooms, going from 175 to 110 over the summer. (Daily Press, 10/27/10)

VA Board Specifies What School Fees are Allowed. Virginia's Board of Education has updated state rules to specify what fees public schools are allowed to charge students and their families, and to require each district to have a clear policy in place and inform low-income families how they can get such costs waived or reduced. (, 10/20/10)

VCU center helping state's schools with autism teaching practices. Virginia public-school teachers will receive training on the best practices for educating students with autism through a new program at Virginia Commonwealth University. The program will teach Applied Behavior Analysis and other methods thought to improve learning for students with the disorder. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 09/07/10)

Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School Hustles to Get Off Urgent-Reform List. Federal officials say the school was put on the list for persistent achievement gaps among minorities and students with disabilities. Teachers and administrators at T.C. Williams High School are studying how best to close those gaps and work toward school improvement. (Washington Post, 06/18/10)

Program Trains Young People with Autism for Jobs. A Virginia program, the subject of federally funded research on classroom-based and on-the-job training programs for students with disabilities, provides job-training internships for students with autism and also helps these students improve their social skills and confidence. (Richmond Times Dispatch, 06/15/10)

U.S. Department of Education releases determination letters on state implementation of IDEA (June 3, 2010). The Secretary is required to issue annual determination letters to each state on their progress in meeting the requirements of IDEA.

If a state "needs assistance" for two consecutive years, the Department must take one or more enforcement actions, including among others, requiring the state to receive technical assistance, designating the state as a high-risk grantee, or directing the use of state set-aside funds to the areas(s) where the state needs assistance.

OSEP Response Letter to the VA State Performance Plan (SPP)/ Annual Performance Report (APR) Pdf format

Response Table shows OSEP Analysis and next steps for VA. Pdf format

Chesapeake faces hit from end of special-ed test exemptions. Throughout the state, special education students were exempted from about 5,000 Standards of Learning tests in writing, history and science last school year. Nearly 1,000 of those exemptions were given in Chesapeake. No school division in South Hampton Roads or the state grants anywhere near the same number of exemptions as Chesapeake. (Pilot, 06/07/10)

Student who cannot hear is a top achiever, athlete at Va. school. Cyron Stokes, a high-school senior at the VSDB, is making history as a student and an athlete. Stokes, who cannot hear, is the top student in his class (3.9 grade-point average) and is the first student-athlete at the school to take Advanced Placement calculus. Stokes has earned national honors in basketball and is the school's all-time leading scorer. (The News Leader, 5/25/10)

Judge rules Bedford schools didn’t meet former student’s needs. A judge has ruled that the Bedford County School Board did not meet the needs of a former student with learning disabilities in requirement with federal law. U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon ruled in an April 23 opinion that the board failed to provide the student, now 11 years old, a “free and appropriate education” as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Act. (The News & Advance, 05/13/10)

State Has Teeth But Rarely Bites Schools Suspected of Cheating. Virginia educators caught cheating or manipulating standardized testing.(The Virginian-Pilot online, 05/07/10)

Parent Forum 2010, Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 6-8 pm. Norfolk Public Schools and the Norfolk Special Education Advisory Council are sponsoring a Parent Forum for parents and guardians of special education students.

The School Board members, special education department staff members and parents who attend will brainstorm ways to improve communication and access to services. Norfolk Technical Center, 1330 North Military Highway. For more information, contact SEAC Chair Ginny Bobby, (757) 515-0261 or

Online testing introduced for students with disabilities. Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said the Virginia Grade-Level Alternative, a locally scored portfolio assessment for students with disabilities, will be replaced by a new online test -- beginning with mathematics testing in 2011-12. (Richmond Times Dispatch, 04/22/10)

Virginia Extends Digital Book Reading Service. The Virginia Department of Education has renewed its statewide license on the assistive software Read:OutLoud 6, which reads digital books aloud for students with print disabilities. (The Journal, 03/16/10)

City Council: Most Norfolk Schools Need to be Investigated. Most Norfolk City Council members said Wednesday that an investigation into school testing violations should be expanded to include all public schools in the city. (The Virginian-Pilot online,video 03/11/10)

Virginia Acts to Limit Use of Special-Ed Exam after Criticism. Virginia officials are moving to restrict the use of portfolio assessments, designed to replace standardized multiple-choice exams for students with special needs, in response to criticism that schools are overusing the alternative tests and inflating student scores. (Washington Post, 02/26/10)

House Panel Rejects Autism-Insurance Coverage. Members of a Virginia state House subcommittee voted to table a bill that would have required insurance companies to provide coverage for children's autism treatment. The measure, which had passed in the state Senate, drew opposition from members of the business community who said the proposal was too costly. (Richmond Times-Dispatch, 02/24/10)

Assistant Makes School Enjoyable for a Boy with Special Needs. One-on-one aide improves school life for student with disabilities. Sean Blackford, a fourth-grade Virginia student with spina bifida, is enjoying school with the help of a special-education assistant the district hired to help him throughout the day. (The Virginian-Pilot, 02/24/10)

Special-education pass rates higher on VGLA. State leaders are worried that elementary and middle schools across Virginia are increasingly turning to an alternative - some say easier to pass - measure of student competency to help earn accreditation. (The Virginian-Pilot, 02/21/10)

Autism Bill Passes in State Senate. A bill mandating insurers to cover treatment of autistic children ages 2 to 6 has passed in the Virginia Senate and is moving on to the House of Delegates.(Video iconNews Channel 3, 02/17/10)

Gatewood Teacher Goes Above and Beyond for her Students. A Newport News, Va., teacher has successfully written grants to provide her students who have special needs with a listening station, whisper phones that help students with language impairments improve their speech and other equipment to help her students learn. (Daily Press, 02/14/10)

The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC) is pleased to announce the development of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Checklist iPhone application. The IEP is an individualized program designed to support the educational needs of school aged students with disabilities. As shown on YouTube, this new IEP app helps parents of students with special needs become better-informed advocates by making IEP information easier to access.

The IEP app is offered free of charge. A special IEP app launch reception is being held on Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 4:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.

To download the IEP Checklist app, visit the Apple iTunes store, and type IEP Checklist in the search box.

What Will Happen to the SOLs in Virginia? What will happen to the Standards of Learning (SOLs) in Virginia when the CCSSI issues the Common Core standards? Is this an "alarmist" article or a call to action for VA to demand HIGHER standards than the Common Core minimums? (, 12/31/09; PWC (Prince William County) Education Reform Blog, 12/30/09)

The Legal Consequences of a Tuition Assistance Grant Program for Students With Disabilities. Does VA need TAGs for Private Schools for Students with Disabilities? According to a new paper written by William Hurd, former Virginia state Solicitor General, a state scholarship program helping students with disabilities access a private program would better meet their needs and have important advantages for both parents and the public. (Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, 12/30/09)

William and Mary Awarded Grant to Increase Number of Special Education Instructors. The College hopes to increase the number of special education instructors in classrooms. The project's goal is to recruit and train special education teachers through the William and Mary's master's degree program. (Daily Press, 12/26/09)

Alternative Test May Inflate Score Gains. 'Portfolio' exams spread in Va. 'How do you know we are closing the . . . gap?' The use of alternative testing in some Virginia schools has raised concerns about the validity of achievement gains, particularly among English-language learners and students in special education. (Washington Post, 11/19/09)

Coalition for PBIS for Virginia

State specific information for Virginia from the Coalition for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Advocating for the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports in place of aversive measures such as restraint, seclusion and other abusive practices.

IDEA Money Watch for Virginia

Here’s where you’ll find information about the impact of sequestration on federal funding for the IDEA in Virginia. Frequently Asked Questions on sequestration, IDEA, and the impact on education funding.

Follow IDEA Money Watch for Virginia. Virginia will receive $281,415,033 in IDEA Part B Recovery Funds to improve services to its 151,651 school age students with disabilities. The Virginia DOE has provided its school districts with guidance on use of these funds.

IDEA Money Watch has state-by-state blogs that report on use of funds and provide information and resources. State IDEA Facts provides quick data look-up on special education students and IDEA funds going to each state.

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Last revised: 03/02/17
Created: 11/18/09

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