The Dynamic Duo of LAUSD!

The Dynamic Duo of LAUSD: How two educator/advocate/moms convinced the school board of the largest school district in California to address dyslexia, and what we can learn from their experience.

 By Cheri Rae

Longtime educators and Decoding Dyslexia CA (DDCA) Los Angeles Regional Leaders Sherry Rubacalva and Pam Cohen were determined to improve how Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) deals with dyslexia. Thanks to their efforts, the school board passed not just one, but two dyslexia resolutions in less than a year, offering a great example for other California districts to emulate.

Last fall, as many districts do, LAUSD school board members recognized October as Dyslexia Awareness Month with a ceremonial resolution. But they didn’t just leave it there. In the months that followed, they listened to the follow-up requests of Rubacalva and Cohen and other dyslexia advocates who joined them, and responded by drafting—and passing—a second resolution directing the superintendent to come up with a comprehensive plan to update the district’s dyslexia policies, procedures and practices, including staff development, reading instruction, assessments and, “ensure the provision of free and appropriate public education by providing an evidence-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential approach to instructing students with dyslexia…,” and to report back “within 90 calendar days.”

That second resolution passed unanimously on June 20, with the news reverberating throughout the state.

As a result of the dyslexia resolution, LAUSD moved quickly into action, with the creation of the district’s Dyslexia Learning Group, comprised of educators, advocates and parents that will help the district develop policies and procedures to address dyslexia. They had their first meeting in July, just a month after the passage of the resolution.

A small number of committed advocates making big change in a short time—and getting positive results: This significant dyslexia action, by the largest school district in the state, serves as a great example for DDCA members to emulate in their own districts, and bring to the attention of their own school board members.

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You Asked! Question 17

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Q17:  The school says Section 504 plans do not provide for services only accommodations for my dyslexic student.  Is this correct?

A:  No.  A student under a Section 504 plan is entitled to a “Free Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE).  Appropriate education includes the provision of regular or special education services and related aids and services that are designed to meet the individual education needs of the student as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met.[1]  Thus, “appropriate education” may include “education in regular classes, education in regular classes with the use of related aids and services, or special education and related services in separate classrooms for all or portions of the school day.”[2]  Under Section 504, special education may include “specially designed instruction in classrooms, at home, or in private and public institutions, and may be accompanied by related services, such as speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy [etc. that are] … necessary to the child’s education.”[3]  Section 504 also requires that “appropriate education” must be free and provided at no cost to parents.[4]

Thus, “[i]f a student with a disability … is eligible for FAPE under Section 504 but is not receiving FAPE services under the IDEA, that student is entitled to the provision of any services the placement team decides are appropriate to meet their individual educational needs, regardless of cost or administrative burden”, especially if those services had been provided to IDEA-eligible students previously.[5]  “These services can be as varied and as comprehensive as necessary to meet a student’s need.”[6]

(Source:  Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund –  www.dredf.org)

[1] 34 C.F.R. § 104.33(b).

[2] See Footnote 4.

[3] See Footnote 4.

[4] 34 C.F.R. § 104.33(b).

[5] United States Dep’t of Educ., Office for Civil Rights, Dear Colleague Letter (July 26, 2016), p. 27, available at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201607-504-adhd.pdf.

[6] See Footnote 5.

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