Incredibly frustrated with BUSD

My daughter came to live with me this summer. She was previously out of state with her other parent. What precipitated the relocation was her being the victim of sexual assault. I am currently in the process of developing a treatment plan for her with the Center for Child Protection at Oakland Children's Hospital, who were referred to me by Bay Area Women Against Rape. The crime is currently under active investigation.

Given her current fragile psychological condition, as well as her unfamiliarity with navigating Berkeley, I believe it is crucial that she goes to school as close to home as possible; she has a pretty high level of anxiety at this point, and does suffer from trauma due to the assault. Her stepmother and myself are both teachers, and will not be able to drop her at school on the other side of the city due to our work hours, and I do not feel comfortable putting her on a bus, given her current state.

However, BUSD is telling me the school close to us is full and they cannot put her in it due to union rules and told me I just need to get on the wait list, which I've done. But surely she is not the only student in BUSD who has a critical need to attend school close to home!

Is there anyone out there who can suggest how to get around this madness?

Thanks.

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I would initiate the process of getting an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Students with "severe emotional disturbance" can be eligible for an IEP. It is a complicated process, but the excellent people at https://dredf.org/ can help you get started.

Some people register for public school, but then put their kids in private school. You might want to try keeping her home for a few days after school starts, and see if there are any openings at your preferred site. I understand the reasoning behind busing kids, but I do believe that there is value in neighborhood schools, especially in situations like this. 

Hi, I hope you might find a solution.  I don’t have an answer, but just wanted to say that likely a very high percentage of families want their child(ren) in the school closest to them, which of course BUSD can’t accommodate for everyone.  I’m not sure how old your daughter is, but there are great after school programs (or clubs, if she’s in HS) at all the schools, which accommodate parent schedules, since not all of us are lucky enough to have one parent not working outside the home.  I sincerely hope your daughter finds the support she needs, even if not at your closest Berkeley school.

Possibly contact DREDF (Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund).  Anxiety or PTSD I believe would be disabilities, and the school or I think school district would have to provide accommodations.  Maybe that could include going to the neighborhood school.  I don't know enough to say how exactly this would work, but I think someone at DREDF could tell you.  It's called a 504 plan (for kids with disabilities) when it is formalized.  My kid has a 504 plan for other issues. 

I have only dealt with OUSD, which was some time ago.  A couple of times I appealed a placement decision for my child or my child's at risk friend.  With the appeal I made it clear that the child was in therapy and attached a letter from the therapist that supported my statement of facts and needs.  I think this made administrators realize that they would have liability issues if the student was place in inappropriate and unsafe situations.  Hopefully you will receive responses from families currently dealing with BUSD.

Hello,

This is ridiculous especially since BUSD claims to be welcoming and family-friendly. Document how your daughter's anxiety manifests itself. Does she have extreme separation anxiety? Describe how a closer school location will enable your family to care for her and reduce the psychological trauma she is experiencing in writing via a BUSD Uniform Complaint.  The form is here https://www.berkeleyschools.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Uniform-Complaint-Form-11.7.17-Fillable.pdf. Have professional health providers document her needs and submit with the form and to school admin. Retain a copy of everything. Most of all do not get boxed in with BUSD options. If you can homeschool or enroll in a public school charter  just for the short term, it might be the less stressful option for your family. All the best.

I’m so sorry to hear about this. I am a social worker in special education at OUSD. I’m not familiar with exactly how things work in BUSD - and it would be hard to navigate in OUSD as well. But it does sound like your daughter might qualify for a 504 plan related to current mental heath issues that she’s experiencing due to the sexual assault. Even if she does qualify they don’t necessarily have to grant you the school you want, but they might be more willing to do so if you have a legal document like a 504 plan or IEP under your belt. The problem is it takes time to establish such a plan... I would start by contacting the district 504 coordinator and seeing if you can get a response.

I'm so sorry about what happened to your daughter. I hope she sees some relief from the treatment plan.

Is it possible for you to take FMLA leave for some time? She's gone through such a huge upheaval in the last couple months that I can imagine how much she needs you for extra support right now, especially as she's starting school. In terms of healing from trauma and adjusting to a completely new life (new primary caregiver, new home, new state, new school full of strangers), the bus ride is the least of your worries. If you do get her into the school close to your home, would she be walking herself there? And walking home to an empty house? Is she going to feel safe alone until one of you gets home? Speaking only from my own experience, I live with a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. If something activates their anxiety on the commute home (normal city commute stuff), they don't feel safe in our home, which we bought together and have lived in for years, and can't calm down until I get home from work too. I wonder if the bus ride would feel safer to her because she can sit near an adult in a more supervised environment than being alone.

As for navigating the wait list, all I can think is to try advocating for a spot higher up (that is, if you're sure that's the safest-feeling environment for her). 

Request an IEP for SED in writing. That will start the timeline. Also see what the before/after school programs are like at the school where she's currently assigned. Some of them are quite good. I agree with the recommendation to contact DREDF, you can talk with a parent advocate there who can help your family through the process.

I am so sorry that you and your daughter are having to deal with this. A few ideas: 

Until you can resolve getting her placed into your neighborhood school, maybe consider Berkeley Independent Study program or your daughter? I don't know if the timing would work for your family, but it might be a more calm, gentle way for her to transition back to school..... https://berkeleyindependentstudy.wordpress.com/

If you haven't already, pursue a 504 for your daughter. You may be able to get an IEP as well, but a 504 should be easier to establish quickly. The first step is to simply fill out a 504 request in writing. You may have to go straight to the district for this--the contact who can point you in the right direction there is:

James Wogan, LCSW

Manager, Student Services Berkeley Unified School District510.644.6316jameswogan [at] berkeley.net 

And don't be afraid to push for more than the standard "accommodations." You'll want doctors and therapists involved with diagnoses and medical recommendations. A lot of local therapists have deep insights/experience in navigating accommodations with the school district.

BUSD does a terrible job of supporting kids/families in mental health crises. I unfortunately know this from personal experience. It became a second job for me to petition for a 504 plan that would serve my child in the midst of a crisis. It was ridiculous and unnecessary and unduly stressful. This was at the high school level..... I think that if you are at the elementary school level, once you have your school assignment it would be easier to establish relationships and communication within a smaller school environment.