Two New Resources from AJE – and the FOIA Request and Superior Court case to took to bring them to you

New Resources For Families          

 AJE is pleased to announce the release of two new Know Your Rights Documents created to inform DC families. One explains the workings of the DCPS CARE Team while the other sheds light on how DCPS responds to Unusual Incidents and Emergency Situations at your child’s school. This second document has some information charter families might find helpful. Both of these documents have links to the source information we used to create them.

The Know Your Rights Documents contain information previously undisclosed to families, obtained through AJE’s Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and as a result of AJE’s lawsuit filed to have DCPS share this information. Keep an eye on our social media channels as we highlight what we learned from these documents over the next few weeks. 

The FOIA Request 

As part of AJE and other members of the community’s efforts to increase transparency in public education (see here, here and here for examples), we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with DCPS in October of 2021.  We requested that DCPS produce documents about the CARE Team, including how they investigate complaints filed with them, how they make decisions and what those decisions are.  DCPS calls the decisions of the CARE Team Letters of Resolutions (LORs).   We also asked that they comply with the DC Code § 2-536 and publish those decisions online, just like OSSE publishes Hearing Officer Decisions (HOD) and Letters of Determination (LOD).  DCPS did provide some documents in response to our request, and published several additional policies online, but did not fully comply with either our request, or the law about publication of policies and LORs.  

However, families may notice how many more policies are available now on DCPS’ website, compared to in 2020 and earlier.  For example, DCPS now publishes its restraint and seclusion policy on its website.

The Superior Court Case

As a result of DCPS’ non-compliance with our request, AJE filed a complaint in DC Superior Court in the summer of 2023.  We were well represented in Superior Court by the Public Justice Advocacy Clinic at the George Washington University Law School who also represented us in the pre-litigation advocacy regarding the filing of the FOIA request and related negotiations before filing in Superior Court.   

After we filed the complaint, DCPS did produce more documents but still refused to produce or publish the vast majority of documents we asked for, especially the Letters of Resolution (LOR) that the CARE team created.  We were especially concerned by this refusal to publish or produce LORs because we learned that there were so many of them (over 2,000) and that the LORs covered a wide range of issues. The information DCPS eventually provided, combined with what we know from working with families, and other publicly available information, is what allowed us to create these two new documents for families – Know Your Rights DCPS Unusual Incident Reporting, and Know Your Rights The DCPS CARE TEAM.

Over two years after our FOIA request, we have received a favorable decision from the court requiring that DCPS publish the LORs.  The attorneys for the District conceded that DCPS was obligated to publish LORs and admitted in their own Supplemental Briefing that the CARE Team LORS are “final opinions . . . made in the adjudication of cases” and subject to the publication requirements of D.C. Code § 2-536 (3).

Judge Dayson’s Decision 

The most important parts of this decision are below, but you can read the whole thing here.

Judge Dayson ordered that “the Plaintiff’s (AJE) request for declaratory judgment is GRANTED insofar as the District has conceded that the redacted LORs that are the subject of the Plaintiff’s requests which the Court construed as applying to all redacted LORs requested in the Plaintiff’s original FOIA request, should be posted under D. C. Code § 2-536 (a)(3), (5).”

“The redacted LORs shall be posted in a manner reasonably calculated to be accessible by a member of the public without specialized knowledge regarding this litigation or specialized knowledge or skill regarding the DCPS disciplinary process.”  

Why This Matters 

Good, accurate, and reliable information is vital to making informed decisions in any context. Parent’s decisions regarding their child’s education are some of the most important they will make to shape, improve, and change their children’s lives. AJE thinks that parents deserve access to all the information they need to make decisions for their families.  

In the 5 years before AJE filed our FOIA request, the DCPS CARE team received over 2,000 complaints on topics ranging from bullying, discrimination, teacher misconduct, and safety.  We believe it’s important for families to be aware of any complaints and informed of the actions taken by DCPS in response; publication of LORs avoids the problem of “secret law” known only to DCPS and those involved in the complaint.  The publication of LORs also helps families decide if they want to file a CARE team complaint or look at other options when there is a problem at their child’s school. 

We are also very thankful the judge ordered DC to publish the documents in a reasonably findable way.  Right now the few LORs that DCPS has published are not connected to the CARE team page on the DCPS website, instead, they are listed as proactive disclosures under the Open Government and FOIA tab of the DCPS website – We hope that DCPS makes this location easier to find soon.

Families who are interested in learning more about FOIA are encouraged to look at this training offered by our friends at the DC Open Government Coalition.  

What Happens Next 

A status conference is scheduled for May 17th and both parties are expected to attend. The District will be called upon to present its progress report concerning the posting of the remaining redacted LORs and the time needed for full compliance with the order, there may also be an argument on the issue of attorney fees. This hearing is open to the public.  

We are grateful for the outcome so far and eagerly anticipate DCPS’ improved transparency regarding the CARE team.  While this litigation only covers LORs from the time covered in our FOIA request we are hopeful that DC’s admission in their filings that DC law requires them to publish these decisions means that they will eventually publish all LORs generated by the CARE team.

Interested families can access all the documents related to this litigation HERE,  or look up the case by number, 2022 CA 3436 B.

Amended Order on Partial Motion for Summary Judgment


KYR unusual incident reporting DCPS Feb 2024

DCPS’ Proactive Disclosure of CARE Team LORs 


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