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Reader to Help Dyslexic Cop Take Promotional Exam

September 26, 1989

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) _ A highly decorated police officer who has difficulty reading because of a learning disability has won his battle to have someone read him the test he must pass to be promoted to sergeant.

Officer Curt Spanos’ first request for a reader was rejected last week. P. William Herndon, Howard County’s assistant personnel administrator, noted that Spanos had passed the written test without a reader two years ago and would be given ample time to complete it this time.

But Monday, after Spanos challenged the decision with help from an advocate for the disabled, Herndon said a reader would be made available for the test Sunday.

″I feel relieved,″ Spanos said. ″I don’t know why they made me jump through the hoops. If I hadn’t enlisted the help of an advocate, I wonder where I would be.″

He said the fact that he had passed the test without a reader should not have been used as grounds to deny him one now.

Spanos, 41, a 17-year police veteran and the county’s most decorated officer, has dyslexia, a disability that makes it difficult for him to read and write some words. That did not stop him from graduating from college.

Because of dyslexia, he was held back a grade in school, and a police department supervisor once sent him to class with elementary children to improve his reading and writing, he said.

″I have to memorize words,″ he said. ″There are times when I simply don’t recall a word and I try to put it in context and sometimes I get it wrong. Also, there are times I read a word and the letters run together or when I write, I leave a letter out.″

Four years ago, he said, he narrowly flunked the written part of the sergeant’s test, disqualifying him from the promotional list.

Two years later, he passed the test and other requirements to be placed on the qualifying list. But the county decided not to fill all of the sergeant vacancies because there were no minorities on the list. The list expires every two years.

″I felt disappointed, extremely frustrated and angry,″ Spanos said. ″I think it is worth taking a chance. I am not a rookie any more. If this comes back to haunt me, so be it. Maybe someone else will benefit in the future.″

Spanos enlisted the help of Robert Ardinger, an instructor of U.S. government at Howard Community College who is a member of the county’s Commission on Disability Issues and a co-founder of the advocacy group Disabled in Action.

Ardinger said he was ″taken aback″ by the original denial. ″It was such a reasonable request for this kind of disability. There is no question Officer Spanos is entitled to this accommodation,″ he said.

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