Henrico County Public Schools’ wish list for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session requests more state money and new laws against criminalizing student misbehavior but does not yet include regulations for special education advocates.
The schools’ legislative liaison, Beverly Lammay, said Thursday that with two weeks remaining before the board votes on its agenda, she and Henrico officials will likely be unable to begin lobbying for changes to rules for lay special education advocates when lawmakers convene in January.
“I don’t see us having a position or anything to recommend to the board in that time frame,” she said, adding that more research is needed before the school system reaches out to lawmakers and state officials to adopt new rules for the non-attorney advocates who represent families in special education disputes.
The school system pledged earlier this month to seek rule changes for the laypeople who represent families in special education disputes after spending millions of dollars on a lawsuit against a former student and his family, who at a point were represented by an unlicensed advocate.
U.S. District Judge Robert Payne sanctioned the woman, Kandise Lucas, and issued a ruling that took aim at Virginia’s lack of regulation for people advocating for families in special education cases.
Payne fined Lucas $1,000 and barred her from working on special education cases filed in the Eastern District of Virginia after determining that she had lied in court proceedings for a case involving a family she had been representing.
Lucas, who is running for the Varina District seat on the Henrico School Board, has appealed the federal court ruling.
Lammay said the county is busy doing its homework.
“It could be that we’re able to figure out a recommended plan of action that doesn’t require legislation; it could just be a change in policies or procedures,” she said. “We really are just starting to work on it.”
In an email Thursday, school division spokesman Andy Jenks said Lammay has been speaking to school superintendents and school boards around the state for their input.
“The work includes researching a 1983 law that created the current structure, continuing our review of how other states handle the role of parent advocates, and considering how to create a bipartisan approach to doing what’s best for families and their students,” Jenks said.