School refusal to do real assessment for special education

I requested a special education assessment for my 2nd grader from Alameda Unified and they set up a student study team meeting. We explained all of his many complicated challenges including several specific learning disabilities, and how they impacted his learning in school last year and now are worse with zoom. They kept asking if we had tried X Y Z to help, which we had, and then at the end didn’t even offer to actually assess him. When I insisted, citing IDEA, they responded that during COVID they are doing “robust record review” and “academic tests” instead of actually assessing children. They would not even agree to let my child miss more than 5 minute breaks of the 3 hour long large group zoom sessions, even when we told them he was screaming and crying and biting his own wrists when we tried to get him to participate. I was prepared to advocate for him and for push back, but this is beyond awful. Has anyone had success in getting meaningful assessment done during COVID or any other wisdom to share? I am consulting DREDF’s website and have the DRC guide as well. Thank you. 

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

You obviously know that what they are doing is illegal, as you cited IDEA. The LAW HAS NOT CHANGED. You are 100% within your rights to get a thorough assessment of ANY ans ALL suspected disabilities. If the district refuses, you can get one and they will be required to pay for it. I'm glad you have DREDF and DRC information. As an additional resource, go to We all know Covid 19 and distancing is hard on everyone, but your child deserves appropriate accommodations to access their education. Like I said, the laws have not changed!

I recommend calling education lawyer Deborah Jacobson ( I paid for a couple of hours of her time, and it was the best money I spent throughout the entire saga of trying to get appropriate treatment and education services for my daughter. Her staff may be able to give you some pointers during an initial phone call, and would likely give you an honest assessment of whether it would be worth your while to hire the firm. Can't recommend her enough.

No advice but replying as I'd like to get other responses too. I have a second grader who we were trying to get assessed via OUSD last year, first his first grade teacher had a heart attack (now recovered, thankfully, but we had 3 months of subs) then the pandemic. We keep getting punted back to SSTs but insisted on at least a 504 this year. The school has done the 504 but says they can't do Special Ed assessment during COVID. I've heard rumors (including on an NPR story) that some EB districts *are* doing assessments but can't figure out how to make this happen nor how pushy to be. Luckily or unluckily we aren't in the same situation in OUSD with the level of requirements you seem to have in AUSD in that my son can dip in and out as he needs to to attendance hasn't been a problem. Happy to connect offline directly as well.


I'm sorry that you're having such a tough time.  Having to do distance learning with a struggling 2nd grades does sound very challenging.

I work at a different district is special ed. We are not assessing students right now for initials because we, like Alameda, are not able to assess students in person.  The assessments we use are normed for in person assessment, so doing anything at a distance would be invalid.  I'm hoping you are able to get some advice from DREDF to make things more manageable for you.

I think you should get a special ed lawyer involved. I know a great one. She’s in Seattle but is licensed in CA and helps CA families all the time: Lara Hruska at Cedar Law, PLLC. Tell her Hilary referred you. 

First, I'm sorry that you are having such a difficult time.  I work in special education in a local public school, and my colleagues were discussing assessments today.  In most cases, we do not feel we are capable of accurately assessing students over a computer connection, and at present we do not have permission to assess face-to-face.  

That said, I would advise giving breaks regardless of whether the school gives permission.  If my child were biting their wrists, it is irrelevant what anyone else says, I would reduce the stress on my child.  I have worked with self-injurious children, and I advise offering breaks BEFORE the child gets to that point.  The goal is then to gradually increase the child's tolerance for longer periods of work.

Because of the pandemic, schools are not able to follow IDEA and otherwise-established laws.  Unfortunately it is likely that there will be years of litigation, instead of a political compromise that clearly legislates special rules for times that schools cannot open.  I advise that you talk again to the school, about at least getting some accommodations in place (maybe by using a "504 plan".)  I wish you & your child the best.

I was wondering about this too, but apparently at the beginning of shelter-in-place California passed a bill that allows schools to not do an assessment because of the coronavirus. Obviously this was meant to be temporary and now we're more than 6 months into virtual school. I'm not sure what to do but legally things have changed. It seems that this bill should get adjusted/updated because I don't think it was intended to last this long. 

I found this article but my daughter's school (OUSD) has stated they won't be doing any assessments virtually, and they won't start in-person assessments until in-person school starts...