Due to the consistent lack of trained reading
instruction* for dyslexic children, the following true stories are all too
typical of schools in the Bay Area and across the nation, A local special
education lawyer tells me about her work. Here is her story.
"My practice has been consumed recently with
children who have been under served and then discarded. At some point,
the District realizes that they have failed these children and instead
of working harder to educate them, they wash their hands of them by way
of expulsion. Unfortunately, when I get them relief, the first thing
the District does, is require a confidentiality agreement to avoid the
shame and embarrassment of admitting what they did. I can offer
hypothetical examples because of the confidentiality agreements, but
it's a huge issue that warrants further exploration."
For example, Maria transfers into a district as a 10th grader. Maria's
parents inform the school district that she has a learning disability.
The testing is extremely outdated and district has the parents sign
assessment plan, The school never completes the assessment. They note
the triennial is due in later that year.
Maria is placed in special day classes (with
no testing to support placement), but doesn't really get any support.
Discipline records note Maria was sent to
office for not being prepared for class that is supposed to prepare her!
Maria starts cutting classes, but no
SARB (School Attendance Review Board) referral was sent to
parents even after over 30 absences. Maria is caught cutting class in
park, then she is suspended.
School staff discusses a "behavior plan" for
attendance and discusses
SARB with parents, but does nothing. A few days after Maria
returns from suspension, she's referred for expulsion for "hanging out
in park and smelling like marijuana", however there is no actual
possession, not even paraphernalia evidence to suggest actual drug use.
Maria's mother is so upset with school, she
withdraws Maria. The school district hold manifestation determination
AFTER Maria withdraws. District neglects to notify the parents and
cannot produce any proof they even tried to contact parents.
The IEP team "conveniently" finds that
Maria's behavior is not (1) related to disability (how
do they know about the disability if they never tested?) and (2) not
related to failure to implement IEP (behavior
plan discussed, but never implemented). Maria was referred for
expulsion and expelled. The mother didn't attend the suspension hearing
because Maria had withdrawn by that time. Maria's parents did not
realize that this expulsion would come back to haunt them. No other
school would take Maria nor could she return to her district because of
Eventually, Maria returns to the school district two years later after
several failed attempts at other districts. The district pulls up
conditions from prior expulsion (however
the conditions were never met because the student had withdrawn) and
tries to expel student again for not
complying with the conditions of the previous expulsion as soon as
enrollment is started. Maria, now seven to eight grade levels
behind in reading /language arts (they finally do the testing) and
hasn't been in the District for more than a month, before District
starts trying to expel again.
In the IEP meeting, the District does not have a transition plan that
addresses "self sufficiency", the IEP notes, "Maria cannot drive"
(because she cannot pass the written drivers exam) , no employment
experience and transition goal is "student will take a class (not obtain
AA degree) at a community college." Maria can't pass the
CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) .
In fact, at
the IEPmeeting, the English teacher admits that the Special Day Class (SDC)
does not read any books, do any written reports or projects and gets no
homework. Maria is passing because the only assignment is
learning 10 vocabulary words, making collages, and reading in class.
Maria is rarely called on.
After Due Process is filed to prevent 2nd
expulsion, the District agrees to fund a non-public school placement
that serves dyslexic students, like Maria, because they don't have a
multi-sensory program, They give her parents enough money to fund
NPS placement that serves dyslexic students. The
District conceded Maria will be considered
"functionally illiterate" if she doesn't improve reading to at least
sixth grade level and her transition plan is severely lacking.
District realizes that Maria will be stuck there until age 22 because
CAHSEE will be impossible as she reads at 4th grade and they're
doing nothing to improve reading. Maria's parents rightly refused to
accept a worthless certificate of completion in lieu of a high school
Here is Mason's story. Mason had severe
reading problems that were identified in first grade. He was held back
in fifth grade. By sixth grade, Mason was cutting school and stealing
Jack Daniels from the local grocery store and drinking at school. By
seventh grade, Mason was using a coke can as a weed bong in the
bathroom. Mason was continually suspended from school.
In the mean time school district was
eventually sued via class action for suspending kids without holding
manifestation determination hearings. The class action suit resulted in
Mason finally getting appropriate tutoring. He improved but was still
many grade levels behind. However, the tutoring lit a spark in Mason
and he was trying really hard.
Unfortunately, Mason was referred for
expulsion, but by this time he was involved in the juvenile delinquency
system. He was extremely far behind in reading. Mason's parents sued
his school district and they promised to do better. Finally, in a
confidential settlement agreement and the school agreed to provide lots
of compensatory learning services, but a few months later Mason was
killed walking home from school. He never received any of the
In general, I see a glaring pattern. By high school, kids with
Learning Disabilities are fully aware of their shortcomings and are
forced to choose between being identified as the "cool bad kid" or the
"stupid special ed kid" ....They always choose cool trouble maker,
cutting classes and smoking pot. School districts know they've failed
these students early on.
Right now I'm averaging one to two expulsion cases per month. I think
things are getting worse because of the budget cuts. Schools are
slashing Special Day Classes and Resource Specialist Pullout programs
and expelling Special Education kids. A few months ago, I got two in
one week. One School district just cancels the expulsion hearing as
soon as I send the representation letter because they know their
justification will not hold up in court. One school district recently
told a parent there's no point in fighting because they won't win. The
parents didn't hire me because didn't think they would win. This kid
was only in middle school.
Also, Districts are required to provide alternate placements and
expelled Students are still entitled to a Free Appropriate Public
These alternate placements are nothing but the road to drop out land.* http://www.sfbg.com/39/04/news_education.html
In cases where parents can afford it,
they can simply provide 10 days notice, place in an non
public school at parent expense and file for due process to seek
reimbursement. However, for low income families, those options are not
available. Parents can't afford to place. In fact, most parents can't
even afford to challenge the expulsions then the kids are simply kicked
out. Many of the more serious cases, I have to take at no cost to
parents and seek fees from the school district. I shudder to think of
all the kids that don't find me.
Recently, I'm seeing a new phenomenon on
the horizon. They are cases with students who clearly qualify for
special education, but are getting expelled before they can be
tested. There are many protections afforded to special education
students that are not afforded to regular education students. Since
the School Districts are aware of that, they are abandoning their
Child Find (Districts have an affirmative duty to seek out students
with special needs and serve them) obligation and expelling before
they are tested.
One parent was actively discouraged from
having their child tested and he was then referred for expulsion.
Fortunately, the standard for a regular education child to avoid
expulsion is whether the District knew or should have known the
child has a disability. I get the expulsion proceedings halted and
that child is immediately tested for special education before the
District can move forward with the expulsion. If the child is
determined eligible for special education, then all of the Due
Process rights help protect that child.
The biggest questions after reading
Mason and Maria's story are:
WHY do schools schools promote children
who cannot read?
How can these children complete any type
of academic work to stay in school?
How can teachers/administrators pass
these children along when they are 6-7 grade levels behind?
When parents DO ask questions, why are
their concerns are dismissed?
Why don't public school implement proven
methodology that work for dyslexic children?
For more info*: http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2009/may/03/ridge80910/