Albany School District is stonewalling IEP request

We have had our kids in the Albany schools since Kindergarten, and have been reasonably happy with their experience until they entered Albany High School.  After a year and a half of incessant bullying at Albany High, our daughter made a serious suicide attempt and is now in a therapeutic boarding school which combines clinical treatment with special education.  We requested an IEP evaluation shortly after she started treatment, and we have experienced nothing but foot-dragging, stonewalling, and non-communication ever since.  They are now using the Covid-19 shut down as a blanket excuse to not complete the IEP evaluation, even though we signed and returned the evaluation plan on February 13, a full month before the shutdown.  We are in shock that a district we have been a part of for 11 years is washing their hands of our daughter's special education needs.  We are being told that IEP evaluations will not happen until the kids return to school physically, whenever that happens.  So they expect us to send our daughter back into the same environment with no support services in place, and then they will think about evaluating her.  I never thought I would be in a position where I would be contemplating suing my previously beloved AUSD.  My questions (finally) are:   Has anyone had success with working with Albany High to address targeted bullying?  Has anyone successfully negotiated an IEP placement in an outside therapeutic school for mental health issues (like Hogan) with AUSD?  Did it require getting a lawyer?  Does the county play a role in special education when districts fail to provide FAPE?    Would Berkeley High provide better special education services (if we could get a transfer?)  Thank you for any and all input.

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I am so sorry to hear about your difficulties.  Our situation was different but  involved dealing with AHS around getting a 504 plan in place.  My child had a medical diagnosis requiring special accommodations. I consulted with this local non-profit DREDF who have advocates with very useful information.  I realize you are not dealing with a disability, yet they may still provide some information.  Once I knew what language to use, AHS completely changed their tune and we had a meeting in place quickly as well as the 504.  It really pays to be informed and parents do have rights.  I hope you can get this worked out.  Best of luck with it!  Albany parent.

I am so sorry this is happening. Perhaps consider joining local Facebook groups specifically for parents of children with IEP-related needs.  They are an incredible resource as they have so much combined experience. I've seen them pool ideas on issues just like the one you are facing. Thanks also for going public. It's very important that we all know.

While I realize this doesn't answer your questions directly, I wanted to let you know that I am a special education teacher is a different district.  Our district is not conducting initial evaluations either during the school closure as there does not (yet?) seem to be a good way to assess students from a distance.

First I want to say that I am so sorry for your struggles. I have a young teen who has been through several short term residential programs and is now about to enter RTC so I get it. 

am in BUSD but I highly suggest you contact DREDF. They support families in this process. They can tell you all of your rights, how to best communicate and what the District is required to do. They give tons of resources. There are also Educational Lawyers, some that work on contingency that can help you. Call Deborah Jacobson and have a consult. 
good luck

I meant also to say that the Federal Law does not allow them to do nothing during COVID. They must address your issues and your child’s needs. DREDF will help! 

Hi, We are also battling with our district (not Albany) for a very similar situation with our daughter. One suggestion:  Get a free 30 minute consultation with a special Education Attorney. There are several in the Bay Area. It is easy to make an appointment right now because they are not super busy. We did and it was hugely helpful in how to communicate with the district.  Good Luck!!

Albany schools are great, but how they deal with bullying is another issue, & not unique to our district. A bullied child has few rights, & I found in my research that many victims opt to just change schools.  If the bully has a diagnosis, or is thought to be in need of one, there are laws protecting him/her & organizations to help fight disciplinary actions. Teachers can do little other than request up to a 5 day suspension. It’s on the principal and they’re afraid of lawsuits.

My daughter’s empathy towards a very odd boy in class is probably what set her up to be one of his primary targets.  The boy was new & soon terrorized everyone. He grew increasingly violent, & any change in routine or over stimulation would cause violent racist rants & aggression (for ex trying to stab a classmate with scissors when upset by a sub).  It culminated with the boy violently attacking my daughter on the playground without provocation, she simply walked past him. When we took her to Kaiser for a resulting injury they called the police, &  the teacher pulled in the union to support her request for a 5 day suspension. We were preparing to home school until she could transfer to another school. We were fortunate that the boy’s family ended up keeping him home and he didn’t return.

Up to attack the only “help” we were offered was for my daughter, the victim, to transfer to another classroom. We were asked to understand that they were trying to get the boy evaluated and some help. In the meantime my daughter’s anxiety was so severe she often wouldn’t get out of bed for days and we had started the process for her to start seeing a therapist.  Another parent was looking into a group of us hiring a lawyer. This is when we found out that California school districts are required to have a system, called “Uniform Complaint,”  to lodge a complaint if a child’s right to an education is being violated. Most teachers don’t even know about, &  the principal and district won’t bring it u;  just having it on their website and parent handbook meets their legal requirement:

Once you file a Uniform Complaint the school district is required by law to conduct an investigation within a certain time frame. To prove that our daughter’s right to an education was violated by bullying, we submitted details on his physical aggressions & violent and racist comments, information on her injury from the assault & her therapist was interviewed. They also interviewed us, my daughter, the teacher, principal, boy & his parents.  The Uniform Complaint was found in our favor and one of the things we were awarded was a tutor paid for by the district to help her catch up from all the days she had missed. I don’t know what would’ve happened if the boy stayed in school.

Don’t rely on the school to provide a diagnosis, instead start with a mental health professional or someone who can diagnosis her for special ed. Contact the police if your child is bullied and keep a record. Once she has a diagnosis contact to get help fighting for the IEP. My daughter now has a 504 for ADD & anxiety which helps when dealing with bully issues.

Feel free to contact me.

 Hi -  I can speak to obtaining an IEP for my son from the Berkeley Unified School District after he was placed in a residential treatment program (that had a school component.) The law, and it's a FEDERAL law, requires that the school district send someone to evaluate your child if they're not local, which is what BUSD did for my son. Also, you probably know, but the law requires that the school respond within a certain amount of time to your request. In the end, the IEP was granted and from that date on, BUSD picked up the cost of the program. I can't speak to COVID issues, but under normal circumstances, it isn't necessary that your daughter be in Albany. I was warned about this tactic, and others in the stonewalling and footdragging department, but BUSD did us a solid. We didn't end up using a lawyer but I spoke with several and got a lot of good information. I'd be happy to talk to you about this if that would be helpful. 

I don’t have experience with the Albany school district, but I do have a good friend who has dealt with IEP’s for her daughter from 1st grade through high school. She has had to sue the Berkeley school district 3 times to get her daughter an adequate IEP. We’ve had many discussions about it because my daughters went through the Orinda school systems where IEP’s are virtually non-existent. She told me that the schools districts are just set up that way; you have to sue in order to get one that actually works. Each time she’s sued she has won, which means the school district had to pay not only their attorneys but had to pay for hers as well. Each time she’s told them that if they just give her what she’s asking for instead of dragging their feet and making it difficult at every turn, they would save so much money, because all she’s ever asked for is what the school district is supposed to provide anyway. 

Her attorney was willing to wait to get paid in fill until after the suit was settled, after the initial fee which is generally $5000.

i hope this helps.