State investigating special needs claims against Virginia Beach schools

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Education has agreed to investigate claims from eight families that Virginia Beach City Public Schools are failing to meet the needs of students with special needs.

The schools involved are Brookwood, Red Mill, Three Oaks and Thalia elementary schools; Corporate Landing and Brandon middle schools; and Tallwood and Ocean Lakes high schools.

“The Virginia Department of Education’s willingness to take these parents’ concerns seriously is a huge step in the right direction,” said Cheryl Poe, whose agency Advocating 4 Kids combined the claims for evaluation by VDOE in what’s known as a systemic complaint.

They allege that Beach schools failed to identify and evaluate special needs students, provide adequate Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and ensure the safety and security of special needs students, among other claims.

In a 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.” 

Tom and Sydney Jillson were among the complainants. They had a son with autism in kindergarten at Three Oaks Elementary until February.

“The things that were happening at school, we could tell the behaviors were getting worse, and it did start showing at home,” Sydney Jillson said.

The Jillsons say there’s no doubt the system has the resources to meet their son’s needs — because the specialists who had worked with him in pre-K were very effective.

“The gains he made over the past year or two years – they’re gone, and it’s very difficult to get that back,” Tom Jillson said. “He’s not a typical child. You can’t treat him like a typical child.”

VDOE will issue its findings by August 21, and Poe says the process will include a site visit where other parents, not included in the original complaint, can voice their concerns to investigators.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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