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Larry P.

Hear Darryl Lester’s (Larry P.) Podcast:

A Landmark Lawsuit Aimed to Fix Special Ed for California’s Black Students. It Didn’t.” by Lee Romney (October 18, 2019), KQED


IDA NorCal and Decoding Dyslexia CA (DDCA) have teamed up to create a Larry P. Student Scholarship Fund (Larry P. Fund) with the purpose of awarding scholarships to African American students in public school in Northern CA who are struggling with reading and spelling skills.  Fundraising has begun, and once complete, the funds will be used to secure private tutoring, including tuition and other expenses necessary to provide evidence-based Structured Literacy interventions to scholarship award recipients.  

Details on the scholarship award guidelines and application process will be announced once the fundraising phase has been completed.

Northern California Branch of The International Dyslexia Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Donations made to Northern California Branch of The International Dyslexia Association designated for the Larry P. Fund are deductible to the extent allowable by law for income tax purposes.  

Donate by Mail

PO Box 487
Brentwood, CA 94513

For payments via check, please indicate the following in the check memo:  Larry P. Student Scholarship Fund.

Background History of Larry P.

Larry P. was the pseudonym given to the main plaintiff in the landmark 1970’s case which was filed against the state of California on behalf of African American students.  The parents of these students successfully argued that disproportionate numbers of African American children were being identified and inappropriately placed in dead-end special education classes for the “Educable Mentally Retarded” (EMR) based solely on IQ scores, rather than comprehensive assessments. Once placed in these dead-end special education classes, the children did not have access to the core curriculum taught in regular classes. The focus of these classes was learning basic living skills with little emphasis on academics.

Mr. Darryl Lester (shown in photo) is the real name of the lead plaintiff (known as Larry P. in the court filings in order to protect his privacy).  Mr. Lester was a young student within San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). He was one of six African American students labeled EMR, a special education eligibility category name that was used at the time, who filed suit in federal court against the district and the state. Enrollment in the special education category of EMR peaked statewide in CA in 1968 — at nearly 60,000 students. More than a quarter of students in this EMR category were African American, even though black students made up less than ten percent of the student body. SFUSD’s ratio was even more extreme: half the kids in that category were African American.

The category of “Educable Mentally Retarded” went away by the mid-1980s and after some legal wrangling the court lifted the testing ban, but state education officials didn’t. Because of the Larry P. case, California is the only state in the nation that still prohibits the use of intelligence testing with Black students — for any kind of special education placement.

Sadly, Mr. Lester was never taught to read. On behalf of Mr. Lester and all other African American students who were negatively impacted by this legacy of mistreatment in our California public schools, it is our collective hope that creating a Larry P. Student Scholarship Fund will help future African American scholarship recipients receive access to evidence-based Structured Literacy™ interventions that will improve their reading outcomes.

[Note: Although the case was originally filed against the Board of Education of the San Francisco Public Schools, the defendants grew to eventually include the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.  For ease of discussion, these cases will all be referred to as “Larry P.”]

 Additional Information:

Want to learn more about Mr. Lester’s (“Larry P.’s”) story?

A legacy of mistreatment for San Francisco’s black special ed students” by Lee Romney (January 15, 2019), KALW Local Public Radio

A Landmark Lawsuit Aimed to Fix Special Ed for California’s Black Students. It Didn’t.” by Lee Romney (October 18, 2019), KQED

Want to learn more about Larry P. case history and how it impacts California African American students today? Refer to CA Association of School Psychologists’ website.


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