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Feds to investigate advocate’s complaint against Chesterfield school system

Jeremy Lazarus | 12/8/2015, 7:49 p.m.
The U.S. Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into whether Chesterfield County Public Schools retaliated against special needs ...

The U.S. Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into whether Chesterfield County Public Schools retaliated against special needs advocate Kandise Lucas for her work on behalf of students with disabilities.

An arm of the U.S. Department of Education, an official with the OCR notified Ms. Lucas in a letter dated Nov. 21 that it has assigned an attorney and investigator to look into her complaint that the school system had her arrested to prevent her from serving as an advocate.

The letter did not state how long the probe would take, but noted the investigation does not mean that “a determination” has been made.

Chesterfield Public Schools has not responded to a request for comment about the OCR investigation.

Ms. Lucas’ complaint stems from her arrest for trespassing at Meadowbridge High School on April 29 while attending a meeting with school officials and a parent involving an autistic student’s Individual Education Progress (IEP) plan.

The student has been home-schooled since February, and his parent and Ms. Lucas have alleged that the high school has violated his IEP plan and provided him with improperly trained staff.

Ms. Lucas is appealing her conviction in Chesterfield County General District Court two weeks ago on the trespassing charge. Her appeal in Chesterfield Circuit Court is based on her claim that her participation was protected activity under state and federal law and that she attended the meeting at the invitation of the parent.

In addition, the OCR also is investigating whether the school system retaliated against Ms. Lucas after a secretary at Falling Creek Middle School took out a warrant Nov. 12 charging Ms. Lucas with trespassing at that school. Ms. Lucas has said she was 10 miles away at another program at the time of the alleged violation.

Ms. Lucas also has requested that OCR investigate whether school officials retaliated against her by seeking to have her held in contempt of court for talking with the director of special education Sept. 15 at a public meeting.

According to the OCR letter, the office enforces a federal law that bars discrimination and retaliation against students with disabilities or their advocates by an entity that receives federal funds.