RELEASE DATE: July 28, 2021 CONTACT: Trish McDermott, firstname.lastname@example.org, (510) 644-6320
Berkeley, CA – On July 8, 2021, the federal district court for Northern California granted preliminary approval to a class action settlement detailing the commitment of the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) to improving reading and literacy for students with reading disabilities. The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve a Literacy Improvement Action Plan in November 2020, reinforcing the District’s commitment to improve general and special education reading instruction and close the achievement gap for struggling readers. The plan is part of an agreement negotiated between BUSD and the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF) and other advocates.
The agreement resolves a federal lawsuit filed in May 2017 by four current and former BUSD students and their parents. While still in the early stages of the litigation, the parties worked collaboratively to outline the comprehensive Literacy Improvement Action Plan, which is designed to increase reading proficiency for students, with a focus on early identification of students at risk of reading difficulties. Features of the Action Plan include implementation of tools and instruction aimed at early identification of struggling readers; additional professional development for BUSD teachers and staff around the science of reading and reading instruction; and expanded policies and procedures around Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goal setting and progress monitoring for students with reading disabilities, including dyslexia.
Deborah Jacobson of Jacobson Education Law, Claudia Center, Legal Director of Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, and King & Spalding partner, Shane Brun, are co-lead counsel for the Plaintiffs. BUSD was represented by Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP.
Rubén Aurelio, BUSD Associate Superintendent Educational Services, stated “The Literacy Improvement Action Plan reflects the collaborative spirit that is shared by BUSD teachers, administration, and the School Board to promote early and successful reading District-wide. The district is committed to ensuring that struggling readers rise to the life opportunities ahead of them and improving reading literacy for these students is an important step in that process.
“I have represented individual students in BUSD who struggled to learn to read and came to believe there were systemic issues within BUSD’s existing programs that could not be solved on a case-by-case basis,” said Jacobson. “Once implemented, the Literacy Improvement Program promises a more sustainable, accessible, and equitable solution for all students who struggle to learn to read in the BUSD.”
“This settlement is the result of three years of collaboration with BUSD’s administration to further our common goal of preparing disabled students to live full and independent lives,” said Center. “Reading is the gateway to higher education, meaningful employment, and full participation in our democracy.”
*“The improvement of BUSD’s child find process and reading programs for reading disabled students will happen over the next three years, with the involvement and oversight by nationally recognized reading and literacy experts and close monitoring by our legal teams,” said Brun. “Our team has been inspired by the commitment of Ms. Jacobson and DREDF seeing this case through to this point, but we all know the most critical and important work for these students lies ahead.”
For more information about the Berkeley Unified School District’s Literacy Improvement Action Plan, see https://dredf.net/student-a-settlement/.