A mother still in scrubs after her shift stood before the Blue Valley Board of Education in a faltering voice, pleading with the board to help her daughter. Angela Milliren teared up as she recounted her 2nd graders’ struggle with dyslexia and fears for her well-being.
“My daughter has always been a happy go lucky kid with amazing confidence. My greatest fear is that she will lose it due to her continuing to fall behind and the frustration she will encounter,” Milliren.
Milliren was one of a dozen parents who spoke at the meeting about their children’s battles with dyslexia and the district’s failure to provide effective services. Some parents have pulled their children out of Blue Valley. The district’s refusal to accept or pay for independent evaluations of students was a common theme.
“Blue Valley has not conducted an evaluation to determine eligibility in Blue Valley. However, the school psychologist has offered 11 significant accommodations via email and through no formal process,” Milliren said.
Kansas is one of a handful of states that has not passed legislation that requires children to be screened for dyslexia. Parents say the result is that many students do not get screened at Blue Valley. However, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, dyslexia is protected by three federal laws. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) expressly uses dyslexia as a type of ‘special learning disability.’ IDEA was passed to ensure that students with disabilities had access to “free appropriate public education.” Students found to have one under the law are entitled to an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
“This is a literacy crisis,” says Alisa Matteoni, a member of the Kansas Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia and mother of three Blue Valley students with dyslexia.
All the recommendations of the dyslexia task force were approved by the State Board of Education, but August 2020 is the earliest that recommendations will go into effect; districts aren’t required to screen students until then and they have until August 2021 to utilize structured literacy as the explicit and evidence-based approach to teaching literacy skills. Matteoni pleaded with the Blue Valley School District to implement the task forces recommendation immediately.
“As parents we expect the district administrators making literacy decisions to be highly qualified and capable of overseeing the implementation of structured literacy in every classroom. We want this to be based on the science of reading and stop guessing.”
Collectively the parents have spent thousands out of pocket for tutoring, their own training, or in some cases private school.
Patrick Meraz has dyslexia and is the father of three kids with dyslexia. He understands the emotional roller-coaster and has observed the stress on other fathers of dyslexic children.
“especially dads, they take it personally, ‘not my child,’” says Meraz.
Meraz realizes that doing whatever takes to get help, even outside help can impact a student’s chances of getting evaluated by school authorities. It’s the only way parents can immediately help their kids given Blue Valley’s intransigence, Meraz says, but that also gives the district an excuse to not take action, telling parents to ‘keep doing what you’re doing.’
“By you the parent paying for private services you are doing a disservice to your child to get service.” Meraz continued, “They are defining our children and they don’t know our children.”