The tides may finally be turning for students with dyslexia in the state of Washington. Parents across the state have been clamoring for evidence-based dyslexia interventions, such as the Barton Reading and Spelling Program, only to be told that districts have no obligation to implement specific interventions for students with IEPs. This latest decision in a case against the Peninsula School District argued by Cedar Law Partner, Elicia Johnson, says enough is enough.
In the Peninsula case, the family requested that the Peninsula School District implement the Barton Reading and Spelling Program or any other “evidence-based, structured literacy program designed for students with dyslexia” for their daughter who has dyslexia. The Peninsula School District refused to consider the family’s request in any meaningful way and the ALJ determined that such refusal was illegal:
Based upon this fundamental failure to consider the family’s request for a specific intervention, the ALJ found that it “naturally follows that the District violated the IDEA and denied the Student FAPE by failing to provide the Student with an evidence-based, multi-sensory, structured-literacy program for students with dyslexia and implement it with fidelity.”
Notably, the ALJ ordered the Peninsula School District to reimburse the family for the costs of two private evaluations by outside experts as a result of its failures as well as to provide two full school years of compensatory education.
The ALJ also ordered the Peninsula School District to work with the family to create an appropriate IEP by no later than the 5th day of the 2023-2024 school year. The requirements for this new IEP underscore the Peninsula School District’s failures and how they need to be remedied.
Specifically, the new IEP must:
Critically for other families in the Peninsula School District, the ALJ took the extraordinary step of ordering the district to take district-wide remedial measures including training staff on compliance with the law and create and maintain a district-wide list of all approved reading curricula. In ordering these remedial measures, the ALJ made the following notable findings:
To the extent there was ever any doubt, the Peninsula case makes absolutely clear that districts are required to provide students who received specially designed instruction for dyslexia with an evidence-based, multi-sensory, structured-literacy program designed for students with dyslexia, and that such a program must be implement with fidelity by qualified and trained staff. We believe this case serves as a roadmap for families across the state struggling with district that, like the Peninsula School District, refuse to consider specific interventions for students with dyslexia. Please contact us if you would like to consult on your family’s case.
Read the full decision here.