State Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd

State Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd is a Republican legislator from Oxford.

JACKSON • The Mississippi Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd, a Republican from Oxford, that would ensure students diagnosed with dyslexia receive interventions and support required by federal law.

The intent of Senate Bill 2307, according to Boyd, is to eliminate confusion among school districts regarding what accommodations students with dyslexia are entitled to under state law.

Conversations with the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) assisted in the crafting of legislation to clarify how children with dyslexia and other related disorders can receive assistance through Individualized Education Programs (IEP), which provide a student with extra instruction and educational interventions, and 504 Plans, which provide general accommodations like extra time on testing or assistance with note-taking.

Boyd said her goal is to help children with dyslexia receive the instruction and accommodations they need and to which they are entitled.

“We know that children with dyslexia are very bright, highly intelligent, and with just a little bit of assistance, we can make sure that these children are successful in the classroom,” Boyd said. “We want to make sure that families are not having to fight for that assistance and make sure that those resources are readily available for those children because we know that their outcomes can be incredibly impactful.”

A committee substitute version of Boyd’s original bill passed the Senate Education Committee, nixing a provision that would require local school districts to “conduct two hours of in-service training in dyslexia and related disorder training every three years for all licensed educators and paraprofessionals responsible for instruction in each district.” The bill was then approved by the full Senate on Thursday and transmitted to the House on Friday for consideration.

A similar bill, House Bill 754, was authored by Rep. Clay Deweese, a Republican lawmaker from Lafayette County. It was approved by the House Education Committee on Jan. 28 with no alterations, so it still includes the two-hour mandatory training provision that was removed from the Senate bill.

It’s unclear whether the bills will go to a conference committee if the House approves HB 754.

“The good news is, we now have both chambers who have signified that they are really interested in making sure that we service children with dyslexia and make sure that those children get the assistance that they need,” Boyd said.

Regardless of whether a bill ultimately passes with the training provision, MDE has agreed to provide the training for school districts, according to Boyd.

“Rep. Deweese and I have talked to a number of our teachers and school administration and they’re great with the training,” Boyd said. “They say the more training, the better. The important thing is it’s going to be available from the State Department of Education.”

Boyd said she and Deweese worked on the legislation together with hope both will go forward to either chamber and ensure one passes.

“We had a number of people in our district who approached us who have children with dyslexia,” Boyd said. “I’ve been a special needs advocate for families with disabilities, and this has kind of been an ongoing and recurring issue, trying to make sure that children with dyslexia were afforded the opportunities that the federal law allows them to get.”

If either SB 2307 or HB 754 becomes law, it will take effect on July 1, 2021.

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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