Hear Darryl Lester’s (Larry P.) Podcast:

A Landmark Lawsuit Aimed to Fix Special Ed for California’s Black Students. It Didn’t.” by Lee Romney (October 18, 2019), KQED

October 18, 2019 – Decoding Dyslexia CA & the Northern California Branch of the International Dyslexia Association have teamed up to create a “Larry P. Student Scholarship Fund” with the purpose of awarding scholarships to African American students in public school in Northern CA who are struggling with reading and spelling skills.  Fundraising has begun, and once complete, the funds will be used to secure private tutoring, including tuition and other expenses necessary to provide evidence-based Structured Literacy interventions to scholarship award recipients.  

Details on the scholarship award guidelines and application process will be announced once the fundraising phase has been completed.

The Northern California Branch of the International Dyslexia Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations made to Northern California Branch of the International Dyslexia Association designated for the Larry P. Fund may qualify as a charitable deduction for federal income tax purposes. Donors should consult with their tax advisors or the IRS to determine whether a contribution is deductible. Interested donors can find more information and donate here.

Who is Larry P.?

California has a sad legacy of mistreatment of its African American students. Larry P. was the pseudonym given to the main plaintiff (his real name is Darryl Lester) in the landmark 1970’s case which was filed against the state of California on behalf of African American students.  The parents of these students successfully argued that disproportionate numbers of African American children were being identified and inappropriately placed in dead-end special education classes for the “Educable Mentally Retarded” (EMR) based solely on racially-biased IQ scores, rather than comprehensive assessments. Once placed in these dead-end special education classes, the children did not have access to the core curriculum taught in regular classes. The focus of these classes was learning basic living skills with little emphasis on academics.

Mr. Lester, now 60 years old, was never taught how to read.  It is highly suspected that he has an underlying reading disability known as dyslexia.  He never received the appropriate help in CA public school as a young child and was labeled as EMR.  Mr. Lester’s lifelong dream has been to be able to read. He has recently become a public spokesperson, sharing his painful life experiences of being illiterate.  Bringing his story to light has raised awareness and further highlighted the need to address the reading achievement gap and its significant impact on African American students.

Even today, people of color are still oppressed by lower literacy levels. On the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress 4th Grade Reading Level Assessment for California (2017), 61 percent of white students scored at or above proficient while only 18 percent of black students scored at or above proficient.

How Can You Help to “Pay It Forward”?

On behalf of Mr. Lester and all other African American students who were negatively impacted by this legacy of mistreatment in our California public schools, it is our collective hope that creating a Larry P. Student Scholarship Fund will help future African American scholarship recipients receive access to evidence-based Structured Literacy interventions that will improve their reading and spelling outcomes.

Please consider giving to the Larry P. Student Scholarship Fund today through IDA NorCal.  

“Think about it: When someone cannot read, they are excluded from many of the things that allow us to be fully functional citizens with choices. Those who are illiterate can lack access to information, are excluded from making choices about their rights or government through voting, and have fewer opportunities for employment. Illiteracy keeps people trapped in a cycle of poverty and subjugation, limiting life choices and making it difficult to achieve social mobility. Literacy truly is power—power over one’s own life.”
Source: Crisis Point: The State of Literacy in America, A Blog from Concordia University – Portland, March 5, 2018

Additional Information:
Want to learn more about Mr. Lester’s (“Larry P.’s”) story?

A legacy of mistreatment for San Francisco’s black special ed students” by Lee Romney (January 15, 2019), KALW Local Public Radio
A Landmark Lawsuit Aimed to Fix Special Ed for California’s Black Students. It Didn’t.” by Lee Romney (October 18, 2019), KQED


Want to learn more about Larry P. case history and how it impacts California African American students today? Refer to CA Association of School Psychologists’ website.