Columbus, Ohio 43221
Bill Schaefer, Superintendent
Upper Arlington City Schools
1950 North Mallway
Columbus, Ohio 43221
DOB: August 31, 1979
to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504
of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act,
this is a request for a special education due process hearing in
order to secure retroactive and prospective tuition for our sons
special education at the Kildonan School.
understand the history leading to this request, please allow me
to describe our sons public school experience and present
can never describe how proud I am to be the father of Joseph Albert
James. My wife and I named him for his great grandfathers: Joseph
Romas, an Italian immigrant who valued education and Albert F. Cameron,
an educator who at one time was an Ohio School District Superintendent.
son has lived up to his namesakes. In spite of a severe handicapping
condition he has learned. In the process, he has and continues to
demonstrate a level of determination and perseverance worthy of
admiration. From the time he started school, Joe has had to deal
with a world of intolerance, humiliation, repeated failure, lost
childhood, living away from his family, lack of self esteem, a desire
to run and hide, no self confidence and the fear of being worthless.
was born on August 31, 1979. He was our third child. His older sister
was Nancy Susanne and his big brother was Arthur Louis. Together
we liked to refer to our family as The James Gang.
wife and I often talked about how different and individual each
of our children was. Nancy Susanne was incredibly vocal, Arthur
Louis was quiet and intense and Joseph Albert was our happiest child.
He seemed to be gifted with a happy-go-lucky attitude and he was
always laughing. When I picture Joe in mind as an infant or toddler
I see a face filled with a great big smile.
worked at a television production company and my wife dedicated
herself to raising our family. These early years in Joes life
were exciting and enriching. They were filled with family activities.
My wife read to our children almost daily. They went to story time
at the public library and participated in church groups and community
my job required children as talent in videotape or slide show. So
Joe and his siblings got to go on location and be involved in my
work. Joe always behaved professionally and he demonstrated a good
ability to listen and to follow directions.
a preschool child Joe had difficulty producing certain sounds. He
would often mispronounce a word or use a word in the wrong context.
Because we have a family history of dyslexia we had Joe tested by
Dr. Stewart. Dr. Stewart diagnosed Joe as dyslexic in July of 1985,
before Joe entered kindergarten.
wife and I had grown-up and lived most of our lives in Upper Arlington.
Although, I had not experienced much academic success in school,
we had great confidence in the education the Upper Arlington School
System could provide for our children.
the time Joe started kindergarten, at Barrington Elementary School,
my wife provided the school with Dr. Stewarts report and discussed
Joes learning disability with his classroom teacher, the school
nurse and administrative staff. The school system did not provide
an evaluation or I.E.P. for Joe and he was not served.
wife specifically asked Lou Willis, a vice principal, about testing
Joe and Mrs. Willis told my wife Joe was really too young to be
wish I had just one day to live over again in my life. It would
be Joes first day of kindergarten. I would hold Joes
hand and walk into the school. We would go directly to Principal
Ted Oakleys office and I would not let go of Joes hand
until I was certain that Joe James would be served appropriately.
kindergarten year seemed uneventful. I really didnt notice
a big change in Joes personality.
before Joes first grade year was to begin, his teacher contacted
my wife and told her that Joe qualified for the Reading Recovery
program and Joe would receive one-on-one instruction, daily, from
Joetta Beaver. My wife reminded Joetta that Joe was dyslexic. However,
Joetta said, I dont want to hear about his dyslexia.
Im going to recover Joe.
Beaver had been our daughters classroom teacher. She was also
a teacher leader in Reading Recovery. We thought she knew what she
was doing. We considered Joetta and the other educators at Barrington
as the experts in deciding what to do about Joes
I have learned that Reading Recovery was probably the worst thing
that we could have done to Joe. Due to Joes dyslexia, he had
no natural phonological awareness and a poor visual memory. Instead
of an intensive, systematic, phonological method like Orton-Gillingham,
the Reading Recovery method teaches the child to use picture and
context cues, and tries to get the child to memorize sight words.
Every day, Joetta taught Joe to guess at words based upon what he
saw in the pictures and his understanding of the sentence context.
did not learn to read with the Reading Recovery method, but he did
practice guessing at words day after day. This had a devastating
effect on Joes learning to read. Every time he would guess
and be wrong, he felt he had failed. This will emotionally affect
Joe the rest of his life.
got so frustrated that year that it changed his personality. Joe
our happiest child was gone and Joe became a child who feared failure.
Joe began to judge himself by his peers. They could read and he
couldnt. Joes self esteem dropped through the floor.
was so determined to Recover Joe that she indicated to us that she
kept him in the Reading Recovery program twice as long
as normal. Joe finally got so upset that he refused to go to Reading
Recovery and Joetta stopped her sessions.
son Joe had more than 100 Reading Recovery lessons before Joetta
referred him to special education.
have learned that Joetta had an above average interest in proving
the success of Reading Recovery. I believe this is why she specifically
wanted Joe in the program and why she so aggressively used the method
with him. The Ohio State University Department of Education was
instrumental in bringing Reading Recovery to the United States from
New Zealand. Joe was one of the first students, in this country
to use this significantly modified New Zealand approach. I consider
Reading Recovery, at the time it was used on Joe, to be experimental.
We were never informed of this.
was one of the very first Reading Recovery teachers. She was a Reading
Recovery teacher leader. She worked closely with Carol A. Lyons
at The Ohio State University. After Joetta taught Joe, she published
research on Reading Recovery. She participated in speaking engagements
regarding Reading Recovery. She received peer recognition for her
work with Reading Recovery. I believe Joetta had a professional
and emotional stake in proving the success of Reading Recovery.
I do not know to what extent, if any, she has benefited financially
from her role with Reading Recovery. However, I perceive that Joetta
had a conflict of interest when it came to deciding what would be
the best method to use with a dyslexic child. I keep asking myself
was Joe used as a guinea pig for Joettas research?
crucial years had passed for Joe. At the end of first grade the
school system finally tested him and we were notified of an I.E.P.
meeting. At this time my wife and I had heard about the Orton-Gillingham
method of teaching reading. Prior to going to Joes I.E.P.
meeting we spoke with Jane Renner of the State of Ohio, Department
of Special Education regarding what we could request for Joe. Our
understanding of what Jane told us was that we could not request
a specific program. We could describe the type of program we thought
the I.E.P. meeting my wife described in great detail the type of
method we thought Joe needed. It should be a multi-sensory, intense,
systematic, phonetic approach. The other members of the I.E.P. team
reacted as if they had never heard of this method. They all shared
the view that Joe had difficulty with parts-to-whole.
They suggested that if you tried to teach Joe the parts he would
just become more confused and frustrated. No matter how we tried
to get them to try the approach we thought Joe needed they would
come back to the theme of Joe having difficulty with parts-to-whole.
I look back on that meeting it is clear to me that the school system
could not provide an appropriate education for Joe. The only people
the school had on staff believed in the whole language philosophy.
No one was trained in methods that would have taught Joe how to
read. No one knew how to teach Joe the parts. Thats why Joe
was having difficulty with parts-to-whole.
Joes I.E.P. meeting, instead of the team focusing on why Reading
Recovery had failed Joe, the focus was on why Joe had failed Reading
Recovery. To my wife and me, the educators on Joes I.E.P.
team were the experts in deciding what was appropriate for Joe.
None of them ever challenged the appropriateness of using Reading
Recovery with our dyslexic child. None of them ever challenged the
appropriateness of using a whole language approach with our dyslexic
believe the educators on Joes I.E.P. team had a conflict of
interest because the school followed only one instructional philosophy:
whole language. Reading Recovery fit the schools whole language
mold. An intensive, systematic, phonics approach to teaching reading
did not fit the schools mold.
did not understand back then, but I see now that Joe was a little
boy, trying his best. Regardless of how hard he tried, he could
not fit the mold. Joe could not learn from the way he was being
taught anymore then a deaf child could learn without an interpreter
or a child with paralyzed legs could learn without a wheelchair.
do not know how Joe survived. Each day he walked down the street
from our home to Barrington School knowing he faced another day
of failure. And all the time his parents, and teachers, the people
he admired most, kept telling him if you just try a little
harder Joe, you will learn.
Beaver taught the Barrington School classroom teachers Reading Recovery.
Joetta also taught Reading Recovery to the Special Education tutors
at Barrington. So, even though Joe was officially out of Reading
Recovery, it was still the primary philosophy behind the method
used to try to teach Joe how to read.
can imagine how worthless Joe must have felt because he didnt
fit the mold. The other kids laughed at him and called him stupid.
I remember Joe telling me about how it embarrassed him when his
teacher graded his paper at her desk, while other kids were around.
Once, after the kids did a writing assignment, the teacher asked
them exchange papers with classmates. The kid, who got Joes
paper, laughed about how bad it was in front of the class.
skills fell further and further behind those of his peers. He was
a little boy with almost no friends. He didnt want to go to
camp because they might ask him to read. He refused to go to the
shopping center with some boys once, because he couldnt read
the menu board at the restaurant in the food court. We had to make
sure the youth minister would not call upon Joe to read from the
Bible before he would go to Sunday school. Joe was a loner, preferring
just to stay at home. Home was safe for Joe. Out in the rest of
world he was in constant fear of being discovered. He could not
read and Joe believed it was his fault.
Joe started second grade in 1987, we hired a private Orton-Gillingham
tutor. Joe met with Mrs. Anne Schlichter once a week during the
entire school year and following Summer and Fall. Joes progress
was sporadic because the classroom instruction did not support the
tutoring instruction. Joe was instructed to use picture clues and
context clues. Sounding out words, or using phonics was discouraged.
How confusing this must have been for Joe.
Fall, due to a family illness, we had to discontinue the Orton-Gillingham
tutoring. Joes mother was not able to take him to tutoring
or work with him at home. After my wifes recuperation, Joe
resumed the Orton-Gillingham tutoring from the end of his third
grade until November of Joes fourth grade. At that time we
enrolled Joe in Marburn Academy where he would receive Orton-Gillingham
the first four years of Joes schooling, kindergarten through
third grade, we trusted the educators at Barrington. By the beginning
of fourth grade Joe was drowning and we realized that the educators
at Barrington would never teach Joe how to read.
Joes classroom teacher stopped my wife in the school hallway.
She appeared panicked. She said she didnt know what to do
about Joe. His skills were so far behind the rest of the class.
My wife asked for an I.E.P. meeting and one was scheduled.
When my wife went to the I.E.P. meeting she was informed that the
meeting was not an I.E.P. meeting. This was a disappointment to
my wife because she felt Joe was treading water and if something
was not done quickly Joe would drown. By not holding an I.E.P. meeting
we perceived the schools lack of commitment to Joe.
My wife stayed and talked to the educators, that day, anyway. At
that time, the classroom teacher brought out Joes writing
journal. My wife pointed out that Joe was using the book backwards
and asked why his teacher had not taught him the correct way to
write in it? She was told that it was important for children to
learn through discovery and that eventually Joe would learn the
correct way to use the writing journal. The message to us was that
if Joe stayed at Barrington he would receive little direct instruction.
We believed Joe needed direct step-by-step instruction. The message
was clear, at Barrington this type of instruction was not going
At that same meeting Joetta Beaver said she had done a Reading Recovery
test of Joe that day which showed him reading at a book level equivalent
to less than a first grade reader. Any trust we had in the educators
was gone. In spite of all the hours and hours of tutoring and Reading
Recovery, over four years, Joes skills had shown no growth!
The school psychologist, Paula Ford, said to my wife: . .
. Joe is just going to have to learn there are other ways to get
information besides reading.
school system might as well have sent us a telegram saying, Joe
James will never learn to read in the Arlington School System.
were we supposed to do? What would any parent do?
child was suffering terribly. He was not learning. He was not even
treading water. He was drowning and emotionally crumbling in front
of our eyes. We felt overwhelmed. We had to do something and the
school system only offered a failed approach.
school system had tried to teach Joe for four years without success.
To us, the educators were now giving up and telling us we should
accept the fact that Joe was never going to learn to read.
I.E.P. meetings were ineffective. No matter how hard we tried to
get the I.E.P. team to agree on an intensive, systematic, phonics
method, for Joe, they would not provide it.
a school system only believes in one instructional philosophy how
does a handicapped child receive an individualized education?
our family, important conversations always took place at our dinning
room table. Joe and I sat there that night and talked about school.
Joe did not want to leave Barrington. I said, Joe, you only
get one chance to learn and I dont think they know how to
teach you at Barrington. Joe finally agreed. He said he would
go to Marburn Academy for one year, learn to read, and then return
the beginning of this letter I wrote that I was proud to be the
father of Joe James. Even though Joe was only ten years old, he
faced a major life decision. Joe demonstrated great courage in choosing
to leave Barrington. To him it meant facing the ultimate humiliation
and total rejection from his peers. Joe could hide no longer. He
would be discovered. His worthlessness would be reveal to his whole
world. Joe knew the pain. He faced it with courage and with faith
in the love of his parents.
can adults understand how Joe felt? What might make an adult feel
totally humiliated and worthless? Having their spouse file for divorce?
Being fired from their job? Going blank during their important speech?
Each of us knows a situation we fear facing. Just the thought of
being in that situation makes your body turn cold preparing for
shock. At the age of ten Joe James had to come to terms with what
he feared most.
his last day at Barrington, Joes teacher let him say good-bye
to his classmates. A year or two later I videotaped Joe as he talked
about his disability and school. Joe joked about it all until I
asked him to tell me what he had said to his classmates on his last
day at Barrington. Joe broke down and cried. I could see that Joe
will experience the pain his whole life.
started Marburn Academy in November. At the end of the school year
Paula Ford the Upper Arlington psychologist went to Marburn and
tested Joe. During his five months at Marburn Joe experienced a
year's growth in reading. To me this meant Joe was on the right
course for the first time since he started school. It meant that
Paula Ford might be wrong about Joe having to learn there are other
ways to get information besides reading. Joe could learn to read
when he received an appropriate education.
reading teacher who had been successful with Joe moved away. His
next year at Marburn was not successful and my wife and I began
to have concerns. Very few teachers have appropriate training to
teach the dyslexic. Because of the severity of Joes dyslexia
he needed a more intensive remedial program. After much consideration
we decided to look for a boarding school for dyslexics.
grade was spent at The Gow School. The Gow School is the oldest
college preparatory school for dyslexic young men. We considered
The Gow School because my wife knew the headmaster through The Orton
Dyslexia Society. When we inquired about the school we were told
that they use the Gow method for reading and we were told that the
Gow was just like Orton-Gillingham.
really painful to look back on the day we visited Gow. Joe told
the admissions director that he needed someone to help him with
any reading activity. Do you understand that I cant
do my homework in study hall because I cant read well enough
to do my homework by myself? He answered, dont
worry we have proctors in study hall that will help you. As
the school year progressed, the Gow School called to tell me that
the school wanted to hire a tutor for Joe so he could get the additional
attention the school could not provide. This would be an additional
expense since this service was over and above their regular program.
We consented but the tutor left the position and the school did
not or could not replace her before the end of the school year.
In retrospect, almost a whole year went by before Gow realized that
Joe was a severe, non-reading and non-writing dyslexic!
we arrived on the last day of school, we were handed Joes
testing results. Joe had regressed. My wife and I requested Mr.
Sweets attention and asked him if he had an explanation for
the lack of progress. Mr. Sweet said, no.
summer, Joe suffered great depression. Depression over loss. I cant
think how that must have felt. Joe saw failure everywhere he turned.
He would not accept returning to Gow. He told us he would kill himself
first. Joe, his mother and I looked to a psychologist for help.
He confirmed Joes depression and asked us to find a different
placement. The psychologist felt that The Gow School was not meeting
the same time, we asked Anne Schlichter to reevaluate and work with
Joe during the summer months. Mrs. Schlichter also found that Joe
wife checked around and decided to look at The Kildonan School.
We woke Joe up early one morning and told him to pack a bag for
overnight. Joe and his mother were flying to Hartford and then driving
to Amenia, New York to visit The Kildonan School.
testing and tour of the school grounds Joe had an opportunity to
observe a one-on-one Orton-Gillingham tutor session.
mother will never forget that day because at the end of their visit
Joe looked at his mom and said, If you send me here next year,
my skills will leap." Joe was accepted. My wife called me from
the airport before their return home. I asked her how it went and
with tears in her voice she said, I have new hope that we
found the right school for Joe."
the beginning of Joes eighth grade and first year at Kildonan,
he was reading on a third grade level. Today, Joe is in the tenth
grade at Kildonan, and reading on a seventh grade level. Joe has
chosen to return to Kildonan each year. He knows they teach they
way he learns. When he started Kildonan two and a half years ago,
he couldnt write well enough to score on the Ayres Copying
Speed, last May he scored on a third grade, sixth month level. Thats
more than a three-year gain in two years.
Kildonan School saved our sons life. He is beginning to deal
with the emotional issues of being dyslexic. He is learning to be
an independent student. Joe knows he is not at the end of his remedial
growth. Joe, his mother and I are just beginning to realize Joes
it wasnt for Kildonan, I shudder to think where we might be
today. Would Joe have found unacceptable ways to escape his pain?
If Joe had received an appropriate education during the early, critical
years, Joe would not have to grow up without me. Separation has
been very difficult but this selfless act has made the single most
important difference in his life.
continues to meet the challenges of being dyslexic in a society
based on language. Research shows us that if you dont provide
appropriate remediation for the dyslexic before the age of 8, they
will have life long difficulties with language.
will always feel cheated that my son had to be educated so far away
from home. I will always feel pain for Joes lost childhood.
I will always regret that my public school didnt know how
to teach my son. I will always be angry that my public school wouldnt
listen to my wife or me.
date, I have invested in excess of $150,000.00 in Joes education.
Next years tuition will be another $29,000. This letter is
a request for a due process hearing to secure reimbursement of prior
expenses and tuition for next year. If you can resolve this without
the necessity of a due process hearing, then that would be most
you cannot resolve this without a due process hearing, my attorney
is Jennifer Joseph, 88 E. Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, she
can be reached at 224-3111 and Peter Wright, 4104 E. Parham Road,
Richmond, Virginia 23228-2734, and he can be reached at 804-755-3000.
In consideration of summer vacation schedules and in order to allow
sufficient time to discuss settlement, I hereby waive the 45-day
Jennifer Joseph, Esq.
Peter Wright, Esq.
In 1996, Nancy and Cameron James requested a due process hearing on
Joe's behalf. At the time of their request, Joe was in the eleventh
grade at The Kildonan School in New York.
Joe's parents asked for a due process hearing to resolve disputes
about their son's special education, their request was turned down.
Hearing Officer rejected their request because they hadn't requested
a hearing BEFORE they withdrew Joe from the public school placement.
Later, a State Review Officer and a U. S. District Judge upheld
this decision. At this stage, no evidence had been heard at any level of the proceedings. These were summary dismissal dispositions!
When the parents withdrew Joe from a school that could not teach him
to read, they were not aware that they had a right to request a
hearing. Later, when the parents approached the school about re-admitting
Joe, they were told "Don't bring him back now, give me a couple
of years to get someone trained."
Pete Wright represented Joe and his parents at all levels and appealed to the U. S. Court of Appeals. This letter was the key exhibit that turned the case. During oral argument the Judges asked numerous questions of both counsel about the letter. It was obvious that two of the Judges were not only quite familiar with the letter, but that they also had strong empathy with the family.
On September 28, 2000, the
Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Joe and his
parents can have their day in court and that the parents did not have to enroll their child prior to obtaining an IEP.
The door to many years of tuition reimbursement for the parents was opened by the Court!
End of story? No.
Upper Arlington appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court. Pete asked the high
court not to grand certiorari. The U. S. Supreme Court refused to
grant certiorari and hear the case. When Pete prepared discovery about the financial relationship between Upper Arlington, Reading Recovery and The Ohio State University, the school district settled the case.
Ten Years Later
About ten years after this case, a number of Upper Arlington parents of children with dyslexia in the Upper Arlington School District (UASD) encountered difficulty with their children's education. The children could not read. One parent, whose child also attended Barrington Elementary, (many years after Joe), did online research, using the words "dyslexia and upper arlington" and found this letter. She was awestruck as she read about Joe's problems at Barrington. She realized that Nancy and Cameron had traveled down the same path, years before, litigated, and prevailed.
That parent organized a meeting of parents and had them read this letter. Nineteen parents banded together, pooled their resources, and signed and filed a formal complaint with the Ohio State Department of Education. They presented the issue as a systemic problem across the school district.
As a result of the "corrective action," many changes subsequently occurred in UASD. All special education teachers in the UASD are now trained in the Orton-Gillingham Approach. In Pete's opinion, the special education services provided by UASD for children with dyslexia are one of the best in the country.
A forty-five minute, award winning, documentary, "Our Dyslexic Children" was created by those Upper Arlington parents. The video tells their story and provides the roadmap for other parent groups nationwide who want to create change in their school district.
It is available on YouTube for viewing at: