Washington, DC - Today, the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education, an independent office housed within the District of Columbia State Board of Education (SBOE), released a report detailing its work over the past year. The report provides recommendations for increasing parent engagement, reducing out-of-school suspensions, and ensuring that students with special needs have equal access to education.
“The Office of the Ombudsman has done remarkable work over the past year,” said SBOE President Jack Jacobson. “They provide direct and effective problem solving services to District of Columbia students and families who often don’t know where else to turn for help.”
The recently re-established Ombudsman's office is responsible for resolving complaints from students and families regarding the District of Columbia's traditional public schools and public charter schools. In addition to addressing families' concerns, the Ombudsman’s office is also responsible for reporting on trends in the complaints received in order to inform policy recommendations to improve DC's public education system.
This year, the office resolved a record number of disputes, more than doubling its caseload from last year's 150 cases to this year's 469 cases. Student discipline (16%) and special education (15%) continued to be the most common complaint issues, followed by student safety/abuse (9%), enrollment (8%), bullying (8%), and truancy/attendance (7%).
"The top two issues are likely related since nearly half of the students with discipline complaints were either identified as having a disability or suspected of having a disability. We find that students with disabilities are at high risk of being pushed out of school when their special needs are not appropriately addressed," said Joyanna Smith, Ombudsman for Public Education.
Much of the office’s case work focused on finding student-centered solutions in collaboration with the students, families, schools, and at times in partnership with other relevant organizations and agencies. Examples of the offices success included ensuring that a charter school provided tutoring support for a 7th grader serving a long-term suspension and expediting the placement process for an elementary school student enrolling in a DCPS school after expulsion from a charter school.
“We are excited about the opportunity to share some of the work that we have done over the last year, and we look forward to our continued work within the education community in DC,” said Smith. “We encourage parents, students, and families to reach out to us with any concerns they may have about public education in DC.”
A full version of the report can be found at http://sboe.dc.gov/annualreports. The Ombudsman is also presenting the report at today's SBOE public meeting at 5:30 pm in the Old Council Chambers located at 441 4th Street, NW, near the Judiciary Square metro.