AJE is excited to announce that beginning at the start of the 2020-21 school year, OSSE will fulfill its legal obligation to disclose state complaint Letters of Decision (LODs) by publishing them on its website. OSSE has also agreed to retroactively publish LODs issued during 2018 and 2019 and has already started to disclose those LODs here.
In 2019, AJE filed two state complaints alleging that DCPS failed to adequately staff self-contained classrooms. In response to the state complaints, OSSE issued two LODs–one on October 1st, 2019 and one on December 13th, 2019–confirming the inadequate staffing of self-contained classrooms and outlining steps DCPS must take to correct their failure. Unfortunately, these LODs could not be accessed easily and most often required interested parties to file a Freedom of Information Act request (also called a FOIA request) to view them. This process was not a practical method of keeping families and advocates abreast of some of the most pressing matters in education, and for state complaints that included systemic findings and relief, it meant that families who were impacted by the decision might even not know about it.
As a result, many advocates in the community, including AJE, have been pushing for OSSE to make these decisions public. You can find one such effort here. These collective efforts eventually successfully convinced OSSE to fulfill its obligation to make these documents accessible to the public. This decision is a huge step in the fight for institutional transparency. With access to these LODs, parents and advocates will be able to better understand the landscape of special education services and rights in the District of Columbia. It is particularly useful in helping parents understand what other parents have gone through, how LEAs and/or OSSE have responded, and what the outcomes have been.
Overall, persuading OSSE to post LODs is a resounding success that will allow us to push for further transparency and accountability in all of DC’s public schools. For more information about how parents and advocates have used state complaints to improve educational outcomes for students, see this link.