Applause for advocacy organization

Published 2:59 pm Thursday, January 27, 2022

We are thrilled to see a new advocacy organization has set up shop in North Suffolk to provide a resource for parents of special education students across the region.

The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center’s Hampton Roads office is in the Harbour Breeze Professional Center. As reported by Jimmy LaRoue on today’s front page, this office provides a working space for several employees from throughout the region who have been working from home and now have a place to meet face-to-face with those in need.

This office being centrally located in the region will help many who need help with navigating the special education system and accessing support for their families.

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In June 2020, a federal report found “systemic failures in how the Virginia Department of Education monitors and responds to special education complaints against local school districts,” according to reporting by the Virginia Mercury. The investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services began in 2019 — before the pandemic — and was spurred by “an unusually high number of customer service communications from parents, advocates, and other stakeholders in Virginia with concerns that appeared to raise potential compliance concerns,” according to a letter from the federal department to the Virginia Department of Education.

By many accounts, the pandemic has only made access issues worse for students and families in need of special education services. The Hampton Roads area also has a high transient population because of its military presence, and that presents another challenge for those advocating for these students and families.

While we’re certain that the individual special education professionals all across our region are doing great work and overcoming many obstacles, having an advocacy organization locally that truly partners with families as well as educators is important. The PEATC is helping to ensure that families and students in the Hampton Roads region are able to get the support they need.