P. O. BOX 2120
April 10, 1997


TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Richard T. La Pointe
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Commonwealth v. Riley: Fourth Circuit Decision

  On March 31, the United States Court of Appeals for the
  Fourth Circuit issued the order mandating its decision of
  February 5 in the above-referenced case.  In this decision,
  the full court reversed the decision of an earlier three-Judge
  panel and ruled that the United States Department of
  Education may not withhold federal special education funds
  because the Virginia Department of Education, through
  special education regulations, permits local school
  divisions to apply the same disciplinary procedures to
  properly expelled or long-term suspended* students with
  disabilities as are applied to non-disabled students.  

  Based upon this ruling, school divisions may continue to
  follow those procedures required in Regulations Governing
  Special Education Programs for Students with Disabilities in
  Virginia, 3.3, 11, which state "[I]f there is no causal
  connection and if the child was appropriately placed at the
  time of the misconduct, the child may be disciplined the
  same as a nondisabled child."  Disciplinary action may
  include cessation of services.

  Based upon this ruling, the Department of Education will
  assume no responsibility for students with disabilities who
  are properly expelled or suspended, effective March 31,
  1997.  All information received on any students expelled or
  suspended on or after this date will be returned. 

  Further information is forthcoming about the status of those
  students currently being served through Option I, Option II,
  or Option III.  Services to these students should continue
  until appropriate procedures can be developed.  

  Questions about this matter may be referred to H. Douglas
  Cox, Director, Office of Special Education and Student
  Services at (804) 225-2402.


  * "Properly expelled or long-term suspended" means that a
  determination has been made in accordance with procedures
  specified in the regulations that the student's misconduct
  is unrelated to the student's disability and the student was
  appropriately placed at the time of the misconduct.