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No funds for reading instruction in Dry Creek school district in Califoria but plenty for lawyers

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,
Joseph's Parents

If you want to let the Superintendent Mark Geyer to know that tax dollars should be spent on reading instruction instead of lawyer fees.  Contact him at


Lynn Barbaria, Special Education Director

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  • ash 5 years ago

    school boards have been sued for deliberate indifference

  • gino117 5 years ago

    Let me guess-Miller, Brown and Dannis or Faegn, Friedman & Fulfrost. Get copies of the detailed legal bills these attorneys have charged the district so far and you will see that it already has far exceeded a year of education.

  • Sharon 5 years ago

    The Dry Creek School District just signed up with Lozano Smith tonite! Can you believe this...They have added another law firm and one that has a reputation for spending crazy money against parents and also has done badly for many districts...They do not live and learn.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Call me a monster, but I just don't get it. How is it fare and appropriate that the Special Ed kid ges 10 time the resources spent on them than my GATE kid? And WAY more than that for my general ed kid? The district wouldn't have to spend money on lawyers if the special ed parent wasn't suing.

  • Benjamin Franklin 5 years ago

    It is "fair" if the District has represented that they could teach the child and they knew they could not do so. It took 7 years of that boy's life with poor instruction. The correct instruction methods have been available and guaranteed to students in California since 1999 by the Reading Initiative. How would that parent know until they realized what proper instruction could do for their son. It was the school district's responsibility to teach and they did not! Had they done so - none of this would have happened. It is true that the district wasted money through their neglect. The child should not pay by being forced into bad instruction that does not work. It is their neglectful acts that should frustrate you.

  • Joe shmo 5 years ago

    I can't believe someone would balk at money spent on special education. Are you saying that those kids aren't worth it? How dare you, why do we even have a GATE program? What does that do for our kids? It tells the kids that aren't smart in the way the school judges smart, that they aren't good enough, and it tells the kids that are in the program that they are better than the other kids so they get special priviledges. What this parent is saying is that the school and the district are not giving this kid what he needs to survive in the real world, instead they are spending the money that they should have spent on getting him an education, and all the kids after him an education, on fighting his parents. If they would have just given him what he needed in the first place the parents would have never had to sue at all.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Big surprise, an emotional response without a shred of logic to be found. I did not suggest that funding shouldn't be allocated for special ed. Just commenting on the inequity. Of course you would disagree that EVERY child should be educated to the best of THEIR ability. Nicely done 'Joe' don't challenge the exceptional, let's keep everybody as average as possible and allocate all of our resources to your special needs kid. I do not have an issue with educating every child. I just think there has to be a better way. The system is broken. Districts are frequently having to spend $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 yearly on individual students. If I can't afford gas for my car because it needs a $50,000 part, I might consider getting a new car.
    Again, unlike Joe, I am not advocating not educating EVERY child. I am saying that EVERY child should be challenged and an equitable solution needs to be found.

  • robin Sped examiner 5 years ago

    John Adams The dollar figures you quote " Districts are frequently having to spend $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 yearly on individual students" are completely out of line especially with a studuent (80% of sped) like this who is a "typical special ed student". These kids usually just get a different class session while the regular language arts class continues. How does that match with your $ figure? Many of these kids who end up illiterate thru poorly trained teachers will COST society $40k per YEAR in the justice system. Then there are welfare costs too. They can last the life of the adult.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Furthermore, I think it's irresponsible for the examiner to run this piece in this way in the first place. Notice that we get a paragraph from the writer about why the school is evil, followed by what I guess is a letter the family sent to the school board, then emails for the administrators so the outraged can can pick up their pitchforks and torches and go kill the monster. Aren't you liberals supposed to believe in balance? Clearly the writer had the contact information for the administrators, where is the writer's attempt to contact them for comment? Or is it that the emotionally charged pleas from the parents of the agrieved child play better. Could there be another side to this story? Why is it that the parents always have to be the authority of what is a proper education over the educators who's job it is to be the expert.
    My kids are in this district too, so I know a bit of what I'm talking about.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Okay Robin, you got me. I don't see where I said that EVERY sped student came with this price tag, but let's approach it as if I did. You have educated me by saying that 80% of them don't cost that, then you are saying that 20% DO? That's actually many more than I thought. I thought it would have been just a few. I don't understand why a school district would have to spend $40,000 or more educating ANY single student. Special ed or top of the class.
    Again, this will forever be an emotionally charged issue. so for the record, I am not saying that special education students should not be educated. I am saying that EVERY STUDENT deserves equal resources to challenge them and maximize their individual potential. If a special ed student needs a one-on-one $20k tutor to get him to read, why then shouldn't the math prodigy deserve the same for her's to get her to excell?
    In this system the remedial get resources, the average get time and the exceptional are towing the anchor.

  • Robin Sped Examiner 5 years ago

    No. I am not saying that 20% of them do cost that. In fact sped students (less than 10%) with severe disabilities have other pots of $$ to draw from such as low incidence funding, medicaid, regional center funding and Ca childrens services. Few,if any actually get all their funding from the schools. As far as gifted kids, it is so much cheaper to hire a and find tutor to help a child excel versus trained orton gillingham or lindmood bell teachers to can teach reading comptantly, they are scarce. What about kids who are learning disabled and gifted? How could they excel without reading skills?
    Check out todays update to the story.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    So, Robin, you have educated me again. You are saying that all of the funding for sped students comes from other pots of money, not from the district's general fund. Why then would any district ever contest a requested course for a sped student regardless of the cost?
    Regarding the gifted student, regardless of cost, imagine the outrage from the public if the district paid $20,000 to tutor a single exceptional student to split atoms. I don't think there is a pot of money out there for this.

  • Kevin 5 years ago

    This seems to be a one-sided pile of crap if I ever saw one. Print a letter from the parent, but also make sure not to ask the school district for their side to the story. How do you know that any of these claims are true? How do you even know if this is not a made up story, with a made up child? Have you even contacted the school district to see if there is a Joseph Tyler enrolled?

    How about and interview with a teacher or two to see what they think? How about saying when the court case is going to be, so there will be follow up? Are you planning on writing more if the judge rules against the parents, or is your article just a way to make schools look bad? I would bet a large drink at Starbucks that you are not going to follow up in any way, or going to do any research, because that might "ruin" a perfectly good story.

  • Kevin 5 years ago

    Why the heck is this news in San Francisco? You are getting folks in the bay area riled up about a Roseville CA dispute that is over 100 miles away. My guess is the parents went to you, because the Sacramento Bee or the Roseville newspaper, being journalists would not touch it with a 10 foot pole. They know better than to run this without any research to back up the claims.

    In addition, I will make sure that the school district knows that you are writing these articles, so that if they ever want to reimburse any of their legal fees, they can always go after you and your parent company for libel or harassment if they so choose.

  • Benjamin Franklin 5 years ago

    This issue is pertinent across the state and throughout the country. It is representative of what many parents of special ed children experience. It has found its way into newspapers all over, but for other children. This is not new and it is not fair. If a district does something wrong in educating any of it's students, then it need to remedy the problem. The child reads, obviously this cannot be faked. The district should take responsibility and let the child continue his services. Is it expensive, yes, but if the proper instruction had been given then there would not be this problem. Districts should be responsible like the rest of us would have to be. If the district pays enough times, like in business, then the district will put better programs in place. Consider the cost and divide it by the years they did not serve the child. It is a small price to pay to ensure that our citizen's are literate.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Com on Ben, do you really believe that this kid has been in the school district for seven years and it was just discovered he was reading at the 1st grade level? This just cropped up overnight and the big bad district is solely to blame?

  • Benjamin Franklin 5 years ago

    Hey Kevin - previous blogger
    I just saw a report on channel 13 about this situation. I guess they must have not researched it also...Local news is covering the situation. I bet national news will carry it within the week! Thanks Robin, you did great research!

  • Benjamin Franklin 5 years ago

    Yes I do. It is not an uncommon story. There is a case on the records referred to as the Draper case where this happened. I believe the boy made it through high school and could not read and write but was simply dyslexic like this boy. He was awarded an education until he could 'really' graduate high school. The district, like here, was so egregious, that it became a landmark case several years ago.

  • Robin Sped Examiner 5 years ago

    John Adams, the school district does spend the state amount for sped students then same they do for regular ed students, plus additional IDEA funds they get from the government. I didn't mean for you assume the district spends nothing on severly impaired kids.
    This is a national problem and it happens in San Francisco too. I have lived this parents nightmare. Sure, my LD kid didn't learn to read in SF public schools. When I brought it up over and over again, year after year. The IEP team pretended I was exagerating even tho my childs STAR reading test was in the 1st percentile!
    Check my previous columns on what school districts say to parents who ask for help repeatedly. Check out dyslexic and discarded columns part 1 and 2. All stories are from the bay area.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Robin: If the average dollar amount spent in CA for sped were spent on every student, where would budgets be? How much better could ALL students be?
    Another point is that this family's letter says they are trying this case in court. Clearly the are also trying it in the court of public opinion with a narrow audience. I have been the victim of this type of smear campaign in the past as a small business owner when I had to terminate a worthless employee. A frivolous wrongful termination suit was filed and I had to go through the time, energy and expense to fight it. It was worth fighting because I was not wrong and I won the case. Of course the terminated employee could tell anybody that would listen what an ass I was, but because I was the employer I could not defend myself. To clarify before one of you zealots jump on me, I'm not saying anything about the merits of this case because as I have said, I don't know the facts. I was making reference to these one-sided blog attacks.

  • tell it like it is 5 years ago

    You do seem like an ass.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Thanks 'Tell it', well played. Shouldn't have left myself open for that one.

    Robin: Ben brings up a good point. If this kid has been in the district for 7 years and can't read and just went into sped last year that is a problem. On the other post Ben says he has taught this student (I guess Ben doesn't teach reading in his class), so he should know, but can you find out from the family or the district when this student was first evaluated and went into sped, then let us know?

  • Robin Sped Editor 5 years ago

    This child was in special education from either k or first grade. Most school's have a "wait and fail" approach which unfortunately, costs schools and children dearly in the end. A child who is properly diagnosed and taught in first or second grade can have about 120 hours (most of the time less) of individualized instruction and will not require it later on. The child who waits until 4th grade will need 300 hours or more PLUS their fluency will be so far behind the class, they will not catch up. Repeated research shows that children who do lot learn to read fluently by the end of grade 3 will have probelms with reading for the rest of their lives. There is great info on Check it out. The reading instruction in the US is a national scandal and I intend to make everyone aware of it. School boards are funded with parent/taxpayer money and we need to shift the power back where it belongs.

  • Robin Sped Editor 5 years ago

    Sorry, meant to say:
    who do NOT learn to read fluently by the end of grade 3

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Well Ben, you have now lost all credability. You say that you believe that he, like Draper, just came into sped last year, but you also said that you personally taught this student. Robin's research says he has been in sped since K or 1st grade. You taught him when, Pre-K? Which is it?

    Anyway Robin, I have posted an apology to your 'Update' to this piece. I mistook this for an extension of the SF Examiner and believed it to be a news feed. I have been corrected that this is intended to be an opinion blog, not objective news. I do not belong here in your community and will now remove myself. I do and have always wished this boy well.

    Robin: I will watch your page in the coming weeks. Please post the results of the trial and any associated testimony if possible as I am curious to see how it concludes.

  • Benjamin Franklin 5 years ago

    John - we will miss you... I did work with this child. I did not compare the particulars of the Draper case in that he entered sped last year. I do not even know when Draper entered sped. Robin is correct. This young man entered sped very early. He participated in RSP and in the classroom. It was clear what this young man needed and when he got it, it worked. All the sped services he was given by the district prior to this were useless. This is not a new story - this happens all the time.

  • Robin Sped Examiner 5 years ago

    If you want to know more about Jarron Draper, he is a dyslexic african american child who was relegated to the status of "mentally retarded" because no one had taught him to read either. The family begged for help year after year and were ignored. My prevous article, "Wasting a bright mind" tells it all.

  • John Adams 5 years ago

    Will you really, Ben? Somehow I doubt that. Robin has actually been pretty patient with me. More patient probably than I deserved in light of the fact that I was jumping on her because I misunderstood her role. In spite of that, she repeatedly tried to educate me. You on the other hand Ben, have done nothing but try to shout me down. I openly admitted from my first comment that I don't get it and you just decided that since I wasn't on your band wagon bashing the district, then I must be against you. Please don't be so quick to judge.

  • Benjamin Franklin 5 years ago

    Welcome back and I am GLAD to hear from you. Healthy discussion is not bashing and this would be a waste of time without multiple points of view. If you truly want to be educated about these issues - I applaud you. These are hard issues and involve vulnerable children who have no politics to play. My experience is that their parents have to become strong advocates for their children. There are many situations where it is their responsibility to demand services for their child. It is certainly the child's legal right to receive an appropriate education. There has been many abuses in education regarding special ed children. It seems to be a matter of funding and yet the law says it must be done. I think the waste happens when the district misspends funds on litigation when there are children need services. Perhaps districts should not roll over, but there are times when they have made a mistake and they should own up to it and put the situation back on track. Welcome bac

  • GATE mom of 3 sped students 2 years ago

    All of this is true what the sped districts are doing to sped students. The argument of why a gifted student shouldn't get the same as disabled student is a poor analogy. My IQ is 145, I got through school fine because I had the advantage of being bright AND not having dyslexia or processing disorders. My youngest has dyslexia and severe ADHD which makes it impossible for a public school to teach him properly and "appropriately" using that term the way the law intended it to be used . The school district SUED my 13 year old son to remove him from his IEP, humiliated him all year, he got severely depressed and gained 70 pounds on ONE year. I paid for 15 hrs per week private after school tutoring . He was so exhausted he still failed 3 major classes. All this while the school was claiming he was just lazy. I have had to hire attorneys to protect his rights since they sued US! If the district would give legally required services to these kids they would be saving millions in tax payer money instead of fighting students and their parents. I am sorry you are so cynical. I come from the East coast where we spend less on schools, more on kids versus peripherals ( cops, admin fees) and we are FIRST in the nation. Here in CA where people think special ed services are some BONUS for kids who cant read or write or succeed in school we are 50th in the nation. SHAME SHAME SHAME.!