Students with disabilities suspended more, according to Fairfax County Public Schools investigation

It's been two years since Fairfax County Public Schools began an investigation into the district's special education program following complaints from parents.

Now those parents are finally getting a chance to hear the school board's findings.

FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick said the comprehensive review was ordered as part of a settlement and looked at 21 questions about how special education students and families are served.

Alnwick reports that in 2019, Jennifer Tidd and other parents with children in special education filed a lawsuit over FCPS seclusion and restraint practices.

"I decided in observance of the 437 days that my son spent locked in a solitary confinement cell – that I was going to stand out here every day for 437 days to show them how long that is," Tidd said.

This school year seclusion is now banned everywhere in Fairfax County Public Schools and restraints are used only when necessary to prevent a student from imminent harm.

Alnwick says the new audit found students with disabilities were expelled or suspended more than other students - but did not explain why.

There were some positives like high retention rates for teachers and assistants and low "student-to-teacher" ratios. Alnwick also says FCPS students with disabilities outperformed their peers across the state in reading and math and parents are mostly satisfied with the program.

But Alnwick says deficiencies were noted in other areas such as:

-New teachers aren't prepared to support students with disabilities

-Staff overwhelmed by paperwork and case management

-Translation services aren't easily accessible

As far as the suspension rates, Alnwick says the audit found the same was true in Prince William and Loudoun Counties.

It also said FCPS procedures did not contribute to the higher suspension rate, but it did not offer any other explanation.

Read the full Special Education Comprehensive Program Review below: