School ordered to pay damages to semi-literate former pupil

A judge awarded $73,000 in damages Tuesday to a young dyslexic woman who said public schools condemned her to a life of menial jobs by failing to diagnose her condition.

The case was the first of its type in Britain.

Pamela Phelps, 23, who has never learned to read and write properly, fell behind from the start at school. When she began high school in 1985, her reading age was 6.9 years.

An educational psychologist said she had emotional problems. Her dyslexia was only discovered when her family saw a TV program about the condition. She left school at 16 with no degree.

Cherie Booth, wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, was Miss Phelps' lawyer at the High Court hearing in July. She said her client was of average intelligence and could have earned about $32,000 a year if she had received a proper education.

Judge Patrick Garland awarded the damages against Hillingdon Borough Council. Miss Phelps will use the money for special studies and hopes to become a computer programmer, her lawyer said.

"Pamela hopes that her success will mean that other children will not have to go through the trauma that she had," said Jack Rabinowicz, adding he had 50 other similar cases pending.

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