Yesterday the Independence School District (ISD) officially denied two families’ appeals to lawfully enroll their children in a virtual school program, the Missouri Virtual Academy (MOVA) – a MOCAP-approved program. In one case, the District even exceeded their 30-day window to reply to the parents without explanation.
In both instances, the parents received brief hearings at ISD before the school board, though they were denied the right to bring an attorney in the room. Each family demonstrated they had a completed approval form to enroll in MOVA, signed by an employee of the school district, a critical component to enrollment in MOVA.
Independence said not good enough.
The District has acted shamefully throughout the whole process. Both families upon the conclusion of their hearings were given over 150-page packet from the District, their so-called “reply,” that counsel for the families had asked be produced prior to the hearings.
Now, despite legislation and a court case making it clear that Missouri families should have access to public virtual school, two families once again find themselves hoping their child may remain enrolled in MOVA after this semester, where each child is flourishing, per records submitted from the school leadership for these hearings. Otherwise, their students will be forced to attend a school that both families deem unable to meet their children’s’ academic and personal needs.
“The actions of the Independence School District are simply outrageous,” National Coalition for Public School Options Board President Colleen Cook said. “These families are simply trying to do what’s best for their children and instead of being lifted up by their local school officials, they’re being treated like dirt. The school district is probably hoping they are done with this situation now, but let me be very clear – PSO and our thousands of parents throughout the country will not rest until these families – and all future families are able to access their lawful right to this virtual school program.”
Tina Bucci, one of the parents involved said, “How can a parent defend their decisions and their child when they’re being given brand-new information at the end of a 10-20 minute hearing. Obviously, if this hearing and process had really been about what was best for our daughter, all the information would have been out in the open for discussion from the beginning of the process. I did not get one question about my daughter’s education from a school board member during that hearing. It’s like they had already made up their minds when I entered the room.”
The families now appeal the district’s decision to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the administrative arm of the State Board of Education.