Larry P. ruling and specific learning disabilities: analysis of school psychology practice using a case study

The Larry P. v. Riles court case of 1979 prohibited the use of intelligence tests in the state of California for the purposes of determining special education eligibility with African American students enrolled in public education. This legislation resulted in a dramatic shift in the service provision of school psychology practitioners who have traditionally relied on the use of intelligence tests for special education determination. Despite the legally mandated changes, the question remains as to how special education eligibility is determined for students whose learning disabilities call for the use of intelligence tests, as in the case of Specific Learning Disability. This study examined how consistently practitioners in California determined SLD eligibility for a case impacted by the Larry P. mandate, what information the participants found most pertinent to their decision, and how school’s assessment models (Discrepancy; Response to Intervention) interacted with eligibility determinations. Overall, results indicated that the lack of information from intelligence tests appears to have drastic implications for African American students’ overrepresentation in special education. Furthermore, practitioners’ practice under the various assessment models suggested that there is a lack of initiative and comfort level in moving towards assessment practices that rely less on intelligence scores and more on data of students’ progress to interventions.