The importance of research…

Dear Dawg: My child is making fantastic progress in reading, thanks to the S2C letterboard we are using.  S2C is Spelling to Communicate, aka Rapid Prompting Method.  I hold the board with the alphabet on it and my child signals to me letter by letter.  The school district refuses to use it.  They say that there is no “peer-reviewed research” to support it.  How can that be?  My child’s neuropsychologist and speech pathologist both recommend it. I think the real reason the school won’t use it is that they think I am cheating with the letterboard—hinting or helping my child to find the right letter.  What can I do about this?  DISTRAUGHT.

DEAR DISTRAUGHT:  That sounds a lot like what happened in a Pennsylvania school district last year.  The school’s concern over supportive research is legit.  In the Pennsylvania case the court noted that there was “no peer-reviewed research supporting the legitimacy of S2C as an evidence based methodology.”  Your speech path may have liked it, but the national organization of speech paths, ASHA, stated that the use of RPM “is not recommended because of prompt dependency and the lack of scientific validity.”  Moreover, the State of Virginia’s Speech and Audiology Licensing Board  assessed an $8,000 fine against the creator of S2C for practicing without a license from 2004 to 2017.  I hope your child’s district carefully considers your request and looks into it seriously, rather than dismissing it without investigation. That kind of careful consideration is important.  Here’s how the court summarized how the Pennsylvania district handled the situation:

Although the District ultimately did not agree to use S2C in the academic setting, the record reflects the District’s teachers and staff seriously researched and evaluated whether it could be used.  The record also shows that the District’s teachers and staff had A.L.’s best interests at heart. Unfortunately, the District could not overlook the lack of evidence supporting the method and the District’s own observations calling the method’s reliability into doubt….It is not the Court’s role to second guess the District’s decision not to implement S2C. 

I suggest you ask a lawyer to help you out, but the lawyer should start out by reading J.L. v. Lower Merion School District, which was decided by the federal court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on September 15, 2022.  It can be found in Special Ed Connection at 81 IDELR 251.


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Tomorrow: the MAGA hat case….