Joseph Tyler spent 7 years in the Dry Creek School District in Roseville, California. By the time he was in 6th grade, his math scores had gone from "proficient" to "far below basic". His reading and writing skills were at a 1st grade level. Joseph's parents filed for due process to get a trained professional to teach their son basic academic skills. Joseph's IQ is at least average and is perfectly capable of learning. In a single year, a properly trained reading specialist selected by his parents brought his reading up 3 grade levels. The school district however, "forgot" to teach him any math even though they had a written agreement in his Individualized Education Plan to do so. Now the district has not agreed to continue his reading services even tho he still needs to climb to a 7th grade level. Now it will cost them more in legal fees to attempt to stop Joseph's services by going to court than it will to pay for them. The district now is using three attorneys trying to fight this family in the past few months. The same kind of disagreement happened approximately one year ago.
Joseph's parents met with the school to have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting on May 28, 2009. School starts on August 10, and Joseph still does does not have any sort of educational services in place.
This seems to be becoming an annual event. In the following letter, Joseph's parents plea to the school board to be fiscally responsible.
Dear School Board Members,
We hope that you, as board members, will be aware of a Due Process case involving our son, Joseph. It is with great frustration that we, a family in Dry Creek District, have to spend a second summer in litigation with our District. Last year we wrote the board and shared our frustration with the litigious nature of the District and their proclivity to spend much-needed funds on legal services instead of programs for our special needs students.
As taxpayers, and parents, we are personally experiencing this short-fall last year as our son was entering Jr. High basically as an illiterate. Last year we informed you that our son is of average IQ, but after 7 years in the district was unable to fluently read or write at even a 1st grade level. However, his specialists assert that he, with appropriate instruction, will perform at grade level.
After settling our issues last year, we are now again in Due Process working to retain the services that helped our son this last school year. After the appropriate placement was made, our son achieved a reading and writing level approximating the middle or end of third grade. Our son achieved his District proposed goals and now reads daily, writes multi-paragraph reports in cursive and can spell. Unfortunately the District did not give our son any math instruction as required in the IEP.
The District hired his provider to make a full report of his progress at an IEP meeting in late May and the goal reporting was made to the IEP team. The reporting was made with full regard to all the standards for reporting as listed on the District designed goals that were part of the current signed IEP. As you can imagine, the team was very pleased and excited at Joseph’s progress.
At this meeting, led by the District’s attorney, we were told, and it was agreed, that we would be receiving our offer of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) the following Friday. Our advocate was present and understood this as well. This would have been on June 5, 2009. As of this date, we have not received this offer.
We filed for Due Process since we did not receive our offer as promised by the District’s Attorney and the Director of Special Education that were both present at the meeting. We also filed because the District failed to provide math to our son as incorporated into his IEP. We do not think the District can refute this since there was no math instruction and no offer of FAPE as promised.
In addition, and certainly aggravating the matter, is the fact that the District failed to answer the complaint in the 10 days required by Federal Law. It has not answered as of the date of this letter and was due by June 22, 2009. We then filed a second Due Process claim for failure to file. Also, the District failed, as required by law, to set a resolution meeting in a timely manner. Both of these issues have been confirmed by the California Department of Education.
We would like the board to look at what is happening from a cost/benefit position. The District paid an attorney to be at our IEP and this was expensive and litigious. The situation was worsened when the District did not make the FAPE offer as promised. Then the District hired a new attorney to contact us when the District did not respond to our request for the FAPE offer and we had filed for Due Process. That District did not respond to our Due Process filing as required by Federal Law. This caused a second Due Process Filing and also a complaint to the Department of Education. The second attorney involved a third attorney whom we requested not appear at our resolution meeting. The second attorney was paid to attend our Resolution meeting with a law clerk.
Now the District will pay for mediation, experts, filing of the late answer, filing of the current answer (your attorney estimated 10 hours to answer), preparation for Due Process (usually at least 20 hours as noted to us by our advocate), law and motion, preparation of witnesses and attendance at a Due Process hearing that could last five days. In addition, they will have to continue our son in his current placement until all process is resolved in all matters which (according to our advocate will be 90 days or more). All told, we understand that the dollars involved in legal fees, experts and the services that will continue in any event, will exceed the cost of our son’s program for one year. Consequently, it appears that the District appears to prefer to allocate funds for consultants and lawyers rather than programs that work for students. Regardless of if the District prevails, the funds will be spent in excess of one year of the effective program.
It a travesty that attorney’s, who contributed to the filing of two Due Process cases, benefit as much or more than providing the absolutely beneficial services to our son. The litigious nature of the district has created a situation that benefits the attorney’s not the students. It is all the more shameful in a year where budgets are so tight and program dollars are so necessary. After a quick review of our District’s budget, we are sorry to note that our Superintendent salary is close to the dollars that we paid the District’s attorney’s last year.
As parents of a learning-disabled child in this District, we are shocked to see the District's legal counsel in our and other parent's, IEP meetings. The District's counsel also was present at our resolution session. We suggest that this use of expensive legal services escalates the problem and leads to continuing use of legal services that may have been avoided if the proper non-adversarial environment was promulgated for resolution of special education issues. The redirected educational program spending would provide much needed funds that could facilitate appropriate programs in the District.
This extremely litigious position will, most likely, engender excessive legal bills and escalate litigation instead of resolution. The only winner will be the legal providers. Our desire is to work with the District to help our son obtain the education he needs, not against it.
As the School Board, we ask you to stand for the students, not the lawyers, and help our family quickly resolve these issues so that our son can continue the remediation due him and continue to achieve grade level performance so that he can participate in education with his peers. Our children deserve to have all available funds directed to education not litigation.
With great concern,
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