What are my rights?
Author: Catherine Merino Reisman, Esq.
IDEA’s implementing regulations indicate that a student with a “learning disability,” and who needs specially designed instruction as a result of that learning disability, is eligible for IDEA services. The regulations define “learning disability” as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which manifests itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.” The regulations specify that the term “learning disability” includes dyslexia.
A student with dyslexia does not automatically qualify for special education services, because she must also have a need for specially designed instruction to address the dyslexia in order to be IDEA eligible. However, school districts have an obligation to locate, identify, and evaluate a student who is suspected of having a learning disability to determine eligibility for special education. Once on notice of the diagnosis of dyslexia, a school district has an affirmative obligation to determine if the student with dyslexia needs specially designed instruction to address the unique needs resulting from the disability.
For this reason, the school district cannot just ignore the dyslexia diagnosis, but instead must determine the student’s IDEA eligibility based on an individual evaluation. The evaluation must be thorough enough to identify the nature and extent of the disability and its educational impact.
If the school district refuses to evaluate your child with dyslexia for eligibility for special education services, you may provide them with guidance from the United States Department of Education. This guidance explains the obligation to evaluate students with dyslexia to determine if they need special education. Schools may use a “response to intervention” (RTI) framework, using scientific, research-based interventions, to identify children with a specific learning disability. But a parent may request an initial evaluation at any time and a school district may not use the RTI process to delay or fully deny a full, individual evaluation.
If the school district refuses to evaluate, you may have to bring a due process complaint, alleging that the school district is violating its “child find” obligation by failing to evaluate your child. If you prevail at a due process hearing, your child will be entitled to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) outlining appropriate individualized services going forward. The IEP must include a statement of the special education and related services, based on peer-reviewed research to the extent practicable, to be provided to your child. This is important because scientific, research-based programs proven to be effective in addressing dyslexia exist and the IEP can and should specify the use of such programs. If the school district has failed to evaluate in a timely manner, in addition to an appropriate IEP, your child may be entitled to compensatory education for the delay in providing appropriate services.
A free and appropriate education is a right, like voting and free speech. Yet every year, more than 2 million children aren’t afforded this basic right. All Children Learn is a free resource for parents to search and discover the appropriate schools, providers, and attorney’s, locally.