My name is James. I have a learning disability called dyslexia. I go to Landmark School in Pride’s Crossing, Massachusetts. Landmark School specializes in educating kids like me. Before I started going to Landmark, I was in a special education class at my public school. The teachers didn’t know how to teach kids with dyslexia so they didn’t know how to teach me to read or write.
After I started at Landmark, everything changed. My parents asked our school system to pay for my tuition at Landmark School but they refused. After they refused, my parents filed for a special education Due Process Hearing. This is my story about what it was like to go through a Due Process Hearing.
I had many thoughts going through my mind before the trial, such as “Oh No! I’m going to have to dress up in uncomfortable clothes.” Then I thought, “Well, I’d better start reading the testimony of my teachers to see what they said about me.” My mother and I spent the rest of the evening reading over their testimony and discussing what we read. (Note: Prior to the due process hearing, telephone discovery depositions of James’ teachers at Landmark School were taken by the school board attorneys.)
After I read the testimony, I thought that it was going to be pretty easy to testify. I also felt that the phone conferences stunk because of the time delay caused by the speaker phones and because there was a lot of repeating the same information that was in the transcript.
The morning of the trial arrived. Of course, since I have a nocturnal nature, I was extremely tired, as usual. My father, mother and I were all nervous about what was going to happen on the first day of trial.
The courtroom was actually a conference room in a small building in the village where I live. There was one table in the front at which the Judge sat. Ten feet from the Judge’s table there were two other tables. The school board attorneys and the director of special education sat at one table and my family and our attorneys sat at the other.
There were extreme temperature rises and drops in the room because the air conditioner was not set at a constant temperature and also was not working properly. This effected everybody in the courtroom by either making them sleepy and on edge or laid back and nonchalant.
During the actual trial I thought it was pretty weird that two total strangers were counted as expert witnesses for the other side and were allowed to sit in on the whole trial. I was confused since our two expert witnesses didn’t sit in and listen to the trial.
The expert witnesses for the other side said what they thought should have been done for me. I felt like they should have been removed from the courtroom and only allowed to come in when it was their turn to testify. I wondered who were these people who were making judgments about me when they didn’t even know me and had only read reports written by other people who didn’t really know me. This made me extremely angry and frustrated.
When I was called to testify, it was fairly easy because my lawyer is a Pro at court and preparing witnesses to take the stand. He told me little secrets or strategies, whichever you would like to call it, to help me improve my concentration while on the stand. For example, he said “Look at a spot on the wall when the lawyer is asking a question, even if it is your own lawyer. When the lawyer is done, look the judge in the eye and answer the question.” He also gave me other little hints to help me through the trial.
While I was on the stand, I got pretty hot and had a dry throat. So, if you ever have to testify, you should have a glass of water and hope that the courtroom has a working air conditioner.
As the trial went on, I started getting used to hearing my name being mentioned every five minutes and hearing about reports about me. In all, I felt pretty proud of myself that I was able to make it through the last year at my public school, considering the amount of stress I was experiencing.
Even though it was extremely stressful, I felt that I did very well through the entire process. I was able to take the stand and answer all the questions to the best of my ability. I was very happy that my family filed for Due Process against my school district so I could go to a school that specializes in helping kids with dyslexia.
From the author:
My name is James Alexander Brody and I was 14 years old when the “Big Court Case” took place. I am now 15 years old and attend a residential school specifically for Dyslexia called Landmark in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts; which is great.
I like art; I draw, design and invert things. I also like playing paintball.
My plans are to go to college and afterwards have a successful career relating to designing and inventing.
Editor’s Note: The Brody case decision is available on-line at www.wrightslaw.com .