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Letter to a Stranger: James Brody Case

Note: This is a "Letter to a Stranger" which we discuss in our articles about letter-writing.

In this letter, the parents described James' educational history as a part of their request for tuition at Landmark School. A a special education due process hearing was held. At trial, this letter was an important exhibit. This letter was also used extensively during direct and cross-examination of all witnesses.

When you read the Final Decision, you will see that the Hearing and Review Officers read, understood, and accepted the truth of the parents' letter.

Linda Brody
Zander Brody
P. O. Box 391
Buxton, North Carolina 27920
August 6, 1996

Mr. Terry Jones
Dare County Public Schools
P. O. Box 640
Manteo, NC 27954

RE: James Brody

Dear Dr. Jones:

On May 30 and June 11, 1996, we met with your staff to discuss an appropriate educational program for our son, James. To provide Dare County Public Schools with current information on what James needs educationally, we obtained comprehensive evaluations from two experts in the field of special education, Rick Ellis, Ed.D. and Rebecca Felton, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellis, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist from Norfolk, Virginia evaluated James on April 20 and July 25, 1996. Dr. Felton, a nationally known expert in the field of learning disabilities, performed educational evaluations of James on April 21, 1996.

IEP Meeting: May 30, 1996

On May 30, Dr. Ellis and Dr. Felton traveled to Dare County so that they could discuss their findings and recommendations with you and your staff. At the meeting, Dr. Ellis and Dr. Felton advised your staff that James' language arts curriculum must include remediation. Your staff informed us that he will not receive remediation because the program is not set up for it. They also said that special education in Hatteras presents a "unique challenge" because the school system is so small.

During this meeting, school psychologist Mitchell Bateman and Dr. Shepherd insisted that James' passing grades proved that he was mastering grade level material adequately. Their position completely overlooks and ignores his multiple skills' deficits that have been repeatedly documented by educational evaluations completed both by Dare County and by private evaluators over the years. Although Dr. Felton advised your staff that reading and writing are essential skills that James must master, it became clear from remarks made by Mr. Bateman that the school has no intention of providing remediation and that the teachers are not trained in remediation.

Dr. Shepherd asked for information about Landmark School and after hearing the Landmark program described, he told us that Dare County cannot duplicate the Landmark program.

Since you did not attend the May 30 IEP meeting, another meeting was scheduled for June 11. At that meeting, we again requested remediation for our son and were advised that this was not possible. We asked that James be placed at Landmark School where he can receive the remediation that he requires and that Dare County cannot provide. We have still received no response from you about our request that James receive his education at Landmark.

I am asking you to reply to our request to place James into Landmark School. To put the situation into perspective, I would like to provide you with some additional information about our son, who has attended Dare County Public Schools for the past six years and received special education services during most of this time.

Kindergarten: Cape Hatteras School
School Year 1987-1988

James began school at Cape Hatteras School. By the end of kindergarten, he had not memorized the ABC's, the days of the week, or nursery rhymes. He got very upset when he brought home papers with "sad faces" or F's. He was embarrassed when he had to stand up in front of the room when it was his turn to recite a nursery rhyme and he could not remember it. By the end of kindergarten, he began to avoid doing things, rather than trying to and failing. He told us "I would rather put my head on the desk and play the computer in my head than do the work in class." My husband and I were very worried that James was "tuning out" of school before he had even entered first grade. We talked about it and decided that he needed a school experience where he could have more individualized attention.

First and Second Grade: The Island Academy:
School Years 1988-1989; 1989-1990

For first grade, we enrolled our son in The Island Academy, a small kindergarten through fifth grade private school on Hatteras Island. Although this was a big financial strain on our family, we wanted our son to learn to enjoy school. In first grade, James began to like school and learning. Although he was doing remedial work, he felt good about himself and his abilities. The school worked with him at his level and he made steady progress.

We re-enrolled James in The Island Academy for the second grade. By the end of second grade,

he was working on grade level in math, science and social studies but was still below grade level in reading. Since he was making progress, we hoped that he could now be successful in the public school and felt that it would be good for him to go to school with his friends. My husband and I also had to accept the fact that we could not afford to send James to private school on a continuing basis.

Third Grade: Cape Hatteras School
School Year 1990-1991

Before James entered Cape Hatteras School, I scheduled a conference with his teacher to discuss his reading problems. The teacher asked that I give her some time to do her own assessment. In November, the teacher told us that she saw no problems because James was a bright, enthusiastic child. We agreed that he was bright and enthusiastic but we were worried about his ongoing problems with reading and writing. After we shared our concerns, she obtained some tests from a school psychologist, administered these tests herself, and told us that James did well. We expressed our continuing concerns to her, because he was not working on grade level in reading or writing. She arranged for another observation.

After Christmas, another teacher observed James. At that point, Dare County Schools agreed to test James to determine if he had a learning disability. On February 13, 1991, James had his first psychological evaluation. School psychologist Mitchell Bateman found that James’ Full Scale IQ was 127 but that he was reading and writing at a second grade level. In his report, Mr. Bateman stated:

"Intellectually, James presents as an individual with superior to very superior cognitive functioning abilities . . . Overall mental development appears to be in a superior range . . . A negative discrepancy of 32 points is noted in the reading area and a negative discrepancy of 24 points was noted in written language."
The discrepancies showed that James did have a learning disability.

We were very relieved to learn that there was a reason for James’ inability to read and write like his friends. On March 6, 1991, Dare County developed an IEP for James. This IEP indicated that within one year, James’ reading level would increase from a 2.2 to a 3.1 grade level. The IEP described James as creative, curious, cooperative, accepting of suggestions, and a frequent contributor to class. It also indicated that he had frequent reversals of letters and numbers and appeared depressed when he was unable to do his work. Based on this IEP, James was placed in a "pull out" Exceptional Children's program for two periods a day. Those periods were to coincide with the reading and language arts periods in his regular classroom.

We were optimistic about what was going to be done to help James. We did not realize the negative impact that this placement was going to have on our eight year old son -- being placed in a "special" class with children who had serious emotional problems and severe mental retardation, children who ranged from first grade through eighth grade.After he started the "pull out" sessions, James told us that he was worried about having to leave his regular classes and miss what was going on. We insisted that he continue with the "pull out" class because we understood that this was where he was going to learn how to read and write. We felt that his objections would lessen after he had some time to adjust.

By the end of third grade, James' oral reading was still at least one grade level below average and he was still having severe difficulties with written language. Yet, we ended third grade still feeling positive about what was going to be done to help our son.

James had perfect attendance in third grade.

Fourth Grade: Cape Hatteras School
School Year: 1991-1992

In fourth grade, James' classmates began to react when he left the classroom. Some of his friends told him he must be retarded since he was going to a class with "retards." Even though we tried to reassure him that he was very bright, he continued to be upset about being pulled out. In addition to being upset at James’ distress, my husband and I began to wonder how one teacher could effectively respond to the educational needs of so many different students of so many different ages and so many different exceptionalities.

On April 24, 1992, Dare County tested the children using the California Achievement Tests. According to these standardized test scores, James was functioning below average in most areas including reading vocabulary (30th percentile), reading comprehension (40th percentile), language mechanics (34th percentile), language expression (31st percentile), word analysis (17th percentile), and spelling (10th percentile), despite his superior cognitive functioning abilities.

On June 4, 1992, an IEP was developed for James' fifth grade year. This IEP included two goals: to increase James' reading comprehension to a 6.0 level and to increase his written language score to the 70th percentile. The IEP also reduced his special education services to one period a day.

James missed fourteen days of school in fourth grade.

Fifth Grade: Cape Hatteras School
School Year: 1992-1993

In fifth grade, things became much more difficult for James. Emotionally, he began to feel terrible about himself and his classmates were now certain that there was really something very wrong with James. He was struggling academically too. Much of his classwork came home because he could not complete it at school without assistance. He also had homework that had to be completed for the next day. There were many nights when ten year old James spent three to four hours working at home, with us scribing and reading to him, trying to complete both his unfinished classwork and his homework.

James would come home from school, go to his bedroom and cry. He said that he was dumb and he wished he were dead. We were frightened and at a loss about what to do to help our son. We felt that we were doing everything we could as his parents. Although James was having a terrible time emotionally, we believed that he was making progress with his exceptional teacher and we felt that some progress was better than none.

At the end of fifth grade, we asked about getting James' sixth grade textbooks on tape since he couldn't read well enough to understand them. We were concerned that James would be entering Middle School and felt that it would be helpful to him and his teachers if he had tapes to listen to instead of having to spend hours and hours struggling to read the books.

James was sick with pneumonia in fifth grade and missed twenty days of school.

Cape Hatteras School: Sixth Grade
School Year: 1993-1994

When James entered sixth grade, he had a new exceptional education teacher. This teacher was a very good support person and helped James with his classwork but she did not provide James with remediation of his reading and written language problems.

On February 7, 1994, James was re-evaluated by school psychologist Mitchell Bateman as part of the triennial eligibility process. At the time of this testing, James was midway through the sixth grade and had received special education for three years.

According to school psychologist Mitchell Bateman’s testing, James’ IQ scores had dropped. His Full Scale IQ dropped from 127 in 1991 to 114 in 1994. His Performance IQ dropped by 25 points, from 133 to 108. . After three years of being reassured that our son was making progress in his exceptional education program, we were shocked by these test results.

After Mr. Bateman’s testing, a new IEP was developed for James. Despite clear evidence from Mr. Bateman's testing that the special education program was not working for James, the next IEP provided for exactly the same level of special education services. The chart below includes James' scores in the areas of reading and written language. These scores clearly demonstrate James' regression since last tested.

W-J Subtest Score: Feb 1991/ Feb 1994
Progress after 3 Years - Please See Chart At the End of this article 

Our son's academic and emotional problems worsened. He was now having serious problems in math -- previously an area of strength for him. Although we asked that he receive help in math, we were advised that the school could not provide him with help because his test scores didn't show enough of a discrepancy. James developed alarming problems with anxiety and depression in response to his view of himself as a failure. He tried to avoid going to school, where he felt horrible about himself.

Since the school wasn't teaching him how to read, I requested books on tape for him -- repeatedly. This was a very frustrating experience. Each time I asked about obtaining books on tape, it was as if I was making a completely new request and the process of trying to obtain them started anew.

During sixth grade, James missed twelve days of school.

Comprehensive Evaluations: The Lab School
August 1994

Mitchell Bateman's re-evaluation of James and his findings that our son was not learning caused us to take action. We decided to find out exactly what was wrong with James and what needed to be done about it. A few years earlier, he was a bright, enthusiastic child who loved to learn. Now, he was depressed, anxious, withdrawn, and filled with self-hatred and self-doubt. We decided to have a comprehensive evaluation completed on him by known experts in the field of learning disabilities. I took James to Washington, DC where he was evaluated by Dr. Kathleen van Hover of The Lab School.

Dr. van Hover found that James had significant problems in memory or the ability to retrieve information. In some areas, he was functioning at the level of a kindergarten child (K.0, K.5) while in other areas he scored at the level of a college graduate (16.9). His ability to process information quickly and efficiently was very low -- at about the 3rd grade level (2nd percentile). But, his Comprehension/Knowledge abilities were at the 10th grade level (90th percentile).

Dr. van Hover's testing determined that James' basic reading skills were still stuck at the fourth grade level (25th percentile). On Numerical Operations, a test that measured his ability to perform basic math calculations, he scored at the third grade level (9th percentile), primarily because of his inability to multiply correctly. Dr. van Hover found that James' written language skills were extremely weak. His basic writing skills were measured at the second to third grade levels (between the 3rd and 9th percentiles). She noted that: "His knowledge of the basics of writing, such as letter forms, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and word usage was measured at the 4th percentile on the WJ-R. He could neither produce correctly nor identify and then correct the basics of writing. "

Fortunately, we learned that James also had strengths. His overall knowledge score on the Broad Knowledge cluster of the Woodcock-Johnson was at the 65th percentile. His understanding of science was at the level of a ninth grader (81st percentile).

Dr. van Hover determined that James had dyslexia:

"James' weaknesses in two areas not previously assessed, phonics and oral expression, point to the probable role of language development problems in James' learning disabilities and to the importance of language therapy and a phonics based approach to reading and spelling mastery."
Because we were terribly concerned about Mr. Bateman's findings when he tested our son, I asked Dr. van Hover to re-administer the intelligence test to James. Although we hoped for good news, when Dr. van Hover re-tested James, his IQ scores had plummeted even further. His Verbal IQ was 99 (down from 118), his Performance IQ was 106 (down from 108), and his Full Scale IQ was 102 (down from 114). Dr. van Hover also screened James' personality and found that his self concept was at the 7th percentile, while his happiness and satisfaction level was at the 1st percentile. Noting that he was depressed and had admitted to thoughts of killing himself, she concluded that:
"It is very likely that the changes observed in James’ IQ scores within the last six months are related to the significant degree of anxiety and depression that James is currently experiencing."
Dr. van Hover also recommended that James have a speech and language evaluation to assess the factors that were contributing to his phonological decoding problems and difficulties with oral expressive language.

Believing that we now had information that Dare County could use to develop an appropriate educational program for James, we provided your staff with Dr. van Hover's report and recommendations.

Seventh Grade: Cape Hatteras Middle School
School Year 1994-1995

Things did not improve for James in seventh grade. After I understood that learning to use a computer would help James in his weakest area -- written language-- I asked that he be taught keyboarding. The school agreed to do this but, in order to teach him keyboarding, they took him out of the English class where he was supposed to be getting individualized instruction. Not surprisingly, James made little or no progress in his weakest areas of reading and written language during seventh grade.

As advised by Dr. van Hover at the Lab School, we requested a speech and language evaluation for James. It was administered at Cape Hatteras School by Mrs. Candy Evans. These tests resulted in no conclusions. Mrs. Evans then referred us to the Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders and Dyslexia Clinic of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at East Carolina University. We contacted them and were put on a waiting list for testing.

By seventh grade, we felt like we were in a Catch-22 situation. In order for our son to keep up in his regular classes, he spent time with the exceptional teacher who helped him do assignments in these classes. This left her with little or no time to help him actually learn how to read and write on his own. His inability to read and write independently kept him dependent on the teacher to help him complete school assignments.Feeling absolutely helpless, I continued to request books on tape -- to no avail. At one IEP meeting, we were told to contact you, Mr. Jones, since you were Director of Exceptional Children's Programs, and ask you for textbooks on tape. We wrote to you but did not receive any response back from you and of course, received no textbooks on tape. In retrospect, rather than having books read to him, I now know that James needs to learn how to read books on his own.

Interestingly, at one point James was made a "peer tutor," the "reader" for a younger student. Obviously, being illiterate posed a problem. Eventually, the classroom assistant told James "You don’t belong in this class" as a peer tutor. She was absolutely right but this was a very disheartening experience for our son who continued to feel depressed and worthless.

James missed eighteen days of school during seventh grade.

Frankly, at this point, we were losing confidence in Dare County Schools' ability to help our son. We felt that there must be someplace that could help James so we began to look around for summer programs. During our search, we contacted our state senator and the local mental health organization. Neither could tell us of an appropriate program.

We also contacted you, Mr. Jones, since you were coordinator for Exceptional Children's Programs for Dare County. You suggested that we send James to summer school. We felt that this would simply continue the problems of the previous school years -- there was still no plan to teach our son to read or write.

We continued to look for programs that focused on actually teaching children how to read and write. We heard about a summer program at Landmark School that was specifically developed to teach students with dyslexia. We visited the school, and after much family discussion, we decided that James deserved the opportunity to experience this program.

Summer Program, Landmark School
Summer, 1995

Although James was very apprehensive about attending Landmark School and suffered from some homesickness during the first week, he quickly acclimated himself to the program. By the end of the first week, James was very excited about the progress he was making. When we went up for Parents Weekend, his teachers told us how hard he worked and how much he enjoyed learning.

At Landmark, James was tested when he entered and tested when he left. During six weeks of intensive educational remediation in his areas of weaknesses, he made more progress than he had during three years of special education in Cape Hatteras School. The charts on the next page contain the test scores.

Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-R
July 6, 1995 -- August 14, 1995
Word Identification
Word Attack
Standard Score
Grade Equivalent
Percentile Rank

James had no problems with illness or attendance while at Landmark. In fact, in the tutorial (report card) from Landmark, his language arts teacher commented on this newly confident, competent young man:  

"James is always prepared and on time, ready to work. Although tasks such as copying from the board and entering written work into the computer are sometimes frustrating for James, his sense of humor has become a useful tool in overcoming his frustration . . . James responds well to the structure and demands of the language arts class. He is able to stay on task with a minimum of teacher redirection. James responds well to immediate feedback and reassurance. He has experienced very positive interactions with his classmates and has been an active participant in all classroom activities."
When James came home from Landmark School, the difference in his personality was like night and day. He could recite the months in sequence, something he had never been able to do. He willingly read to me when I asked him to.

His self esteem and confidence were at an all-time high. Neighbors and friends remarked at the change in James. They saw him as happier and more confident. He initiated conversations with others and wanted to share his excitement about his experiences at Landmark.

James desperately wanted to return to Landmark for the coming school year and we knew that he needed the program they provided. But the summer program alone had cost over five thousand dollars and had depleted our resources.

Language Evaluation: September, 1995
Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders and Dyslexia Clinic

James was evaluated at the Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders and Dyslexia Clinic on September 26, 1995,. The Clinic is part of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at East Carolina University.

Again, James went through more testing. On the Test of Written Language -2, all of his test results were below average. His highest score was on Vocabulary (37th percentile); his lowest scores were on Contextual Vocabulary and Syntactic Maturity (9th percentile), Spelling (5th percentile), and Contextual Spelling (1st percentile).

In reading, James continued to demonstrate the problems that have followed him throughout his academic career:

"James exhibited a dysphonic reading pattern with deficits in the auditory analytic function and a strength in the visual gestalt function . . . he has difficulty in the integration of symbols with sounds and so is unable to develop phonic decoding skills without remediation."
On the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test_Revised, James' subtest scores ranged from a high in Word Identification (SS=99; PR=47) to a low in Word Attack (SS=85; PR=16). On the Learning Efficiency Test - II, he had significant weaknesses in Short Term Visual Recall (SS=4; PR=2) and Long Term Visual Recall (SS=5; PR=5) and similar problems with Auditory Ordered Short Term Recall and Long Term Recall (SS=6; PR=9).

On Woodcock-Johnson Cognitive Ability, his scores on Memory for Sentences (SS=121; PR=92; GE=16.9) were more than ten years higher than his score on Memory for Words (SS=97; PR=43; GE=6.6). On Writing Fluency, he scored about 3 years behind his actual grade placement (SS=87; PR=19; GE=5.1).

Eighth Grade: Cape Hatteras Middle School
School Year 1995-1996

James returned to Cape Hatteras Middle School for the eighth grade. The IEP developed by Dare County did not include remediation of his weaknesses in reading and writing. Instead, this IEP proposed to help him "demonstrate higher level thinking skills, improve his assertion skills, and effectively organize notes and turn in 90% of his assignments."

James was not happy in the eighth grade and that has been reflected in his grades and his health. Academically, he has been under a great deal of stress. We believe that some of his unhappiness is because of his wonderful experience at Landmark and his awareness that he can learn and that learning can be an enjoyable and friendly experience. Last summer, he learned that he can make friends and that there are schools where people don’t make him feel like his is "academically retarded" because he has dyslexia.

As his unhappiness deepened, he became ill repeatedly. He is now taking Zantac for a stomach disorder caused by stress. I'm sorry to say that many of his teachers have not been cooperative about giving him makeup work and some have actually been hostile and disgruntled when we went to the school to pick up his makeup work. Finally, we requested that his exceptional teacher intervene with these teachers and ask them to be supportive of James, instead of humiliating and embarrassing him.

In eighth grade, James missed thirty four days of school due to illness.

Mr. Jones, although we wish our son did not have to leave us to continue his education, we know that he needs to attend a school that can teach him how to read, write, and do mathematics. As we’ve watched James move through the grades, we have been saddened by the awful plummet his self-concept has taken with each year. We know that by attending a school that has a curriculum specifically designed for learning disabled students, our son can learn. As he learns, he will again feel good about himself and his abilities.

Educational Remediation and Compensatory Education

In our discussions with the experts who evaluated James, we've learned many things. First, we've learned that dyslexia is a learning disability that is neurologically based. Dyslexia affects the individual's ability to acquire language skills, especially in reading and written language. Dyslexia isn't caused by laziness nor is it a term for a slow learner.

We've learned about the two main ways to approach educating learning disabled children --- remediation and compensation.

If the child receives remediation, specially trained teachers instruct the child in his areas of weakness. The goal is to close the gap between the child's ability and his academic achievement. If a dyslexic child like James receives a remedial education, teachers work intensively with him to teach him how to read and write.

If a learning disabled or dyslexic child receives a compensatory education, no real effort is made to improve or increase the deficient skills. Instead, you try to make things easier for the child. With compensation, instead of teaching the child how to read, people read to the child or provide the child with tapes or talking books. With compensation, a teacher or peer scribe might write for the child who has trouble writing, so he doesn't have to learn how to do it himself.

We have learned that the only appropriate treatment for dyslexia is educational remediation, a type of teaching that uses specific educational techniques to strengthen the weak areas of the brain so that eventually, the child can learn to read and write normally. Educational remediation is similar to using physical therapy to strengthen a child who is born with a physical condition or disorder that is neurologically-based.

With remediation, everyone works harder -- the teachers and the child-- because this is what it takes for the child to learn how to read, write and do arithmetic. With compensatory education, expectations and standards are lowered until the child can get by. Eventually, the child either graduates, gets a certificate of attendance, or drops out of school but is still unable to read or write.

During his six years in Dare County Public Schools, James did not receive remediation. The evaluations conducted on him through the years show that the gap between his abilities and his achievement has grown wider through these years.

After failing to remediate him when he was younger, Dare County now tells us that it is too late to remediate him.

Psychological Evaluations
April 20 and July 25, 1996

On April 20 and July 25, 1996, Dr. Rick Ellis completed full psychological evaluations of James. On the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale: IV, Dr. Ellis found that:

"In terms of overall intellectual ability, James was found to be functioning within the superior range of intellectual development. James' Verbal Reasoning skills fall in the upper end of the high average range. James' Abstract/Visual Reasoning skills fall within the superior range. James' Quantitative Reasoning skills fall within the very superior range and were found to be a relative strength for James."
Dr. Ellis also found that in all academic areas -- reading, math and written language -- James was functioning significantly below the range that would be expected given his ability. After testing James on the Test of Variables of Attention, Dr. Ellis concluded that he has an attention deficit disorder.

Given the mixed test results on intelligence testing over the years, we asked that Dr. Ellis reevaluate James, using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. On the WISC-III, James’ Verbal IQ was 106, his Performance IQ was 99, and his Full Scale IQ was 103. If you look at these scores, James seems like an average child.Dr. Ellis showed us that James' Wechsler subtest scores ranged from highs on Picture Completion (SS = 15, PR = 95), Similarities and Comprehension (SS = 12, PR = 75) to extremely low scores on Coding (SS = 4; PR = 2) and Digit Span (SS = 5, PR = 5). On another subtest, Symbol Search, James earned a Scaled Score of 17 which placed him at the 99th percentile of all children tested. On the most recent intelligence testing, this average appearing boy has scores that ranged from the 99th percentile to the 2nd percentile. James is a gifted, learning disabled child.

Diagnostic Reading Assessment by Dr. Rebecca Felton
April 12, 1996

As you know, James was also evaluate by Dr. Felton. In addition to formal testing, Dr. Felton reviewed all of the previous testing and the IEPs developed on James through the years. She noted that:

"The IEP developed for James for seventh grade (8-26-94 to 6-9-95) indicated 8 hours of direct service in reading and written language . . . No specific goals or objectives were included that relate to the deficits in basic reading and writing skills identified by the school psychological or the LSW evaluation."
In her report, Dr. Felton summarized James' educational problems as follows:

"I conclude that James is a student correctly identified as having specific reading and written language disabilities or dyslexia . . . School and test records indicate that James continued to demonstrate significant deficits particularly in basic reading and writing skills in spite of special services for over five years in the public schools. Analysis of the Individual Education Plans indicates that much of this time was spent on teaching James higher level skills without adequately preparing him in the basic skills (word identification, decoding, and spelling)."

Dr. Felton made several recommendations as to what James requires in order to receive an appropriate education including the following:

"James requires direct, remedial instruction in basic skills of reading and spelling . . . A second major component of instruction must be to continue to develop James’ knowledge of letter-sound associations and spelling patterns . . . the goal must be not only of accuracy but of automaticity in this area. This goal can only be accomplished through direct instruction in reading and writing . . . remedial instruction must be on a regular basis (daily or several times weekly) with James either individually or in a small group where the other students are working on the same level (so the teacher can provide the direct instruction necessary) . . . in an overall language arts curriculum designed to meet the needs of students with specific language based learning disabilities. The teacher must be well trained in the linguistic aspects of reading and spelling as well as the specific methods being used."

Second IEP Meeting: June 11, 1996

On June 11, 1996, my husband and I met with you and your staff again in an effort to develop an IEP for our son James. As you may recall, I taped the meeting so that my recollections of our conversations would be accurate. Since that meeting, I have given a great deal of thought to the suggestions made by you and the staff of Dare County Schools and would like to share them with you.

As James' parents, it has always been our position that our son needs to learn how to read and write. For years, we thought that the Dare County special educators shared this goal with us. For five and a half years, James received a special education in which he did not receive remediation of his learning disabilities and he has not learned to read or write. At the most recent IEP meetings, Dare County proposes another IEP in which no effort is made to teach our son how to read or write.

During the June 11 IEP meeting, Stephanie Hinton Gray told us that in middle school and high school, you have to chose between compensation and remediation. Instead of teaching James how to read and write, you propose to teach him how to be successful in school without learning how to read and write. You even proposed to have a teacher float into his class from time to time to help James when he didn't understand things -- if she has time in her schedule. During this meeting, you expressed the belief that James' high cognitive skills had enabled him to be a successful learner without being able to read. You also mentioned a program called Reading Academy which actually does teach children how to read (remediation) but said you didn't have it yet and didn't know when you would. Your comments about the Reading Academy lead to us believe that you know James really needs remediation but that at present, you do not have a program or staff that can do this.

As James' parents, you are asking us to agree to an IEP which makes no effort to help our son acquire reading and writing skills. As Dr. Rebecca Felton told your staff: "James must learn how to read and write." After he learns these skills, he can learn other things. As we look toward James' future, we must ask ourselves how can our son be successful in the real world of work or higher education, without knowing how to read and write.

In the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in the Shannon Carter case, the South Carolina school district proposed an IEP in which Shannon would make a half year of progress in reading after a year of special education. Shannon's parents withdrew Shannon from public school and placed her into Trident Academy, saying they wanted their daughter to be reading at the 12th grade level when she graduated from high school. It strikes me that in Shannon's case, the school district at least proposed to do something to improve Shannon's reading, inadequate as it was. In James' case, you simply propose to ignore his reading problems altogether.

As conscientious parents, we cannot agree to this plan. We know that Landmark School can and did provide our son with an appropriate education. We know that Dare County has not provided our son with an appropriate education in the past. Following these most recent IEP meetings, we now know that Dare County cannot provide our son with an appropriate education in the future. On July 23, 1996, Dr. Felton wrote to us about Dare County's IEP:

"After reviewing the currently proposed IEP, it remains clear that the Cape Hatteras School is not prepared, nor do they consider it necessary, to make any attempt to directly remediate James' reading and written language deficits. While the goals of the IEP are appropriate, they simply do not represent an adequate program for him."

Dr. Jones, we want to thank you for your time and patience in reading this long letter. I know that in your position, you are responsible for the education of many children. As parents, we are responsible for seeing that our son gets an appropriate education. It is our hope that by providing you with adequate information about James, you will be able to make an informed decision about our request that he attend Landmark School.

If you are willing to grant our request, please let us know immediately so we can begin to make arrangements with Landmark School.

If you are unwilling to place James at Landmark, please consider this letter our first step in the process of requesting a special education Due Process Hearing. We will be represented by Peter W. D. Wright, Esq. You have his address and telephone number. You or your counsel are authorized to communicate with him. Please send him a complete copy of James' file.

Hopefully this can be resolved quickly without the intervention of attorneys. We would like James to enroll immediately into Landmark. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you.


Linda Brody

Zander Brody

Enclosures: Rebecca Felton Ph.D Letter to Mr/Mrs Brody July 23,1996
            Rebecca Felton Ph.D Diagnostic reading report July 23,1996
            C. Rick Ellis, Ed.D Confidential Pyschological April 20,1996

Note to the Reader: This letter was sent to the school district. The case was not settled. Instead, a lengthy special education due process hearing was held. The parents prevailed at the due process hearing. Dare County appealed. The Review Officer upheld the administrative law judge's decison. You can read that decision at:

The school district did not appeal the Review Decision.

James Brody continued to attend Landmark School until he graduated.

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Letter-Word ID
Broad Written
Broad Reading
Standard Score
Grade Equivalent
Percentile Rank
Regressed: 1.5 years of progress after 3 years of special ed.  

Percentile Rank  

declined 12%

Regressed: 2 months of progress after 3 years special ed. 

Percentile rank declined 34%

Regressed: 6 months of progress after 3 years of special ed.  

Percentile rank declined 42%

Stagnant: Made 2.6 years of progress after 3 years of special ed. 

Percentile rank increased 2%.