Investigators in town to probe Virginia Beach schools’ special education complaints

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Following a complaint from eight families with special needs students, investigators from the Virginia Department of Education have begun to interview concerned parents.

After our story in June, advocate Cheryl Poe’s phone began to ring. She founded Advocating 4 Kids and assisted the families with filing their complaint.

“We literally had parents call up and say, I saw this, I’m so glad these parents did it. I’d like to be a part of this, I don’t want to be named though.”

One of those who are named is Cathy Heinz. Her son Dallas has Autism and ADHD. By identifying herself, she is also identifying her son. She realizes not everyone is willing to do that. 

“There is great personal cost and it’s been very stressful, but our family did not really hesitate to step in.”

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: State investigating special needs claims against Virginia Beach schools

Heinz wants Beach schools to provide better protection for her son from bullying, as well as better transition plans to help him before he graduates from Tallwood High.

“How to choose a college, how to figure out the college that’s gonna be the best for their disability, how to find the disability services at their college.”

In a June statement, the school system says it works tirelessly to create “welcoming and productive learning environments … for more than 7,000 (special ed) students” and “will work closely with the state to address the issues raised in the complaint.” 

The school division updated its response today.

“(VBCPS) will work with the VDOE as part of its investigation and again note that the fact that a complaint has been filed does not mean there has been any wrongdoing by the division. Anyone, at any time, can file a complaint with the VDOE. The school division will have the opportunity to present its facts of the case as part of this process.”

Tom and Sydney Jillson were also willing to put their names on the complaint. Their son entering first grade has autism, and they want the school district to use resources and specialists to help him that have been successful in the past.

Meanwhile, Poe says she’s cautiously optimistic.

“I want to be hopeful that they will really investigate, they will really hear these parents, they will not blow the parents off.”

Two parents who were among the eight named complainants told 10 On Your Side they got very short notice about the face-to-face interviews scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4  p.m. Tuesday  and Wednesday at the Virginia Beach Human Services Building.

VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle gave this response: “If there are parents who have not yet scheduled interviews and wish to bring information to the attention of the department, they may contact VDOE’s Division of Special Education and Student Services to schedule an interview.”

Pyle would not specify whether later interviews would be in person or by telephone. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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