The Loudoun County School Board’s Ad Hoc Committee for Special Education presented its final report and recommendations during Tuesday’s board meeting.
The 19-person committee, chaired by School Board member Beth Huck (At-Large), was formed in June 2018 in response to concerns regarding Loudoun County Public Schools’ policies, practices and procedures relating to special education services. It met regularly during the past year to identify areas of common interest to form recommendations for special education practices.
“We had an amazing group of people who served on this committee,” Huck said. “Considering how large our group was, we had a very high level of participation.”
Other committee members included School Board members Chris Croll (Catoctin District) and Debbie Rose (Algonkian District), LCPS employees, parents from the special needs community and representatives of the Gifted Advisory Committee, the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee and the Special Education Advisory Committee.
The 18-page report presents 17 recommendations based on themes of communication, consistency and community engagement. Recommendations include increased publicity and access to Parent Resource Services for parents of students with disabilities, notably those whose first language is not English; expanded training for special education teachers and substitute teachers; and developing a staffing standard to hire special education deans at the middle school and elementary school levels.
The committee voted its approval of most of the recommendations with an overwhelming majority — all but two unanimously, though three committee members were absent for the final vote.
The tightest vote in the report was over Recommendation 3: that LCPS consider hiring a neutral ombudsman — an official tasked with investigating complaints against school administration involving special education — within the next 12 months. It was eventually approved with a 9-7 vote.
The report is supplemented by five appendices, including the LCPS Policy 5345 and Regulation 5345, which address the appropriate use of seclusion and restraint tactics in the classroom, a subject that gained widespread attention last year after the Times-Mirror released a photograph of a student with special needs inside a makeshift seclusion chamber in her classroom at Belmont Ridge Middle School.
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles District) praised the committee’s efforts, particularly lauding the timely nature of the report.
“It’s great that we’re having this discussion now in June, because that means that we can certainly attach recommendations to the budget and get that forwarded for the next operating year,” he said. “The product you put out is wonderful. It gives us a great road map on the issues of concern to the special education community.”