IEP/504 in the Berkeley School District

Parent Q&A

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  • We have reached out to the Special Education Department at BUSD to request our 2nd grader get assessed for special ed services—and wanted to thank everyone at BPN who encouraged us to pursue this. It was a big step for our family. 

    Naturally, the District isn’t doing assessments (!) and hasn’t been since March 12, 2020.

    We are feeling the need to do something because our kid is not doing well with distance learning and the school is providing no additional supports to help our kid access instruction. We want to explore having our child assessed privately and are wondering if any BPNers can share any referrals in the Berkeley/Oakland area.

    Thank you in advance.

    Dr Marianna Eraklis, a developmental pediatrician, assessed our child several years ago and has managed the case since.  Very skilled and warm, and insurance even paid for part of it!

    Hi, this community organization is made up of families in Alameda County who have similar experiences I think. I have heard they are a great resource for families. Someone or families there might have a good sense where to look.

    I can't recommend Alan Siegel highly enough -- he gave us an enormous amount of detailed information about our child, and he did it in the gentlest and most encouraging way possible.  We saw him when my child was seven, and again at 14, and at both stages he helped us think through how to prioritize addressing the multiple issues, and gave me very specific advice about how best to support and advocate for my child.  My child is now twenty, and thriving at a very challenging college.  There is no way this would have happened without the guidance Alan gave us.  His website is  

    Hi there, 

    The BUSD just sent out communication regarding assessments, among other things. See his email from 9/8.  However, it seems like it will be a while before assessments are put in place and I know there a number of families with assessment plans overdue who will likely be served first.  

    We had an Independent Ed Evalution (IEE) in 2019 by Dr. Maya Guendleman and I recommend her strongly.  She is extremely thorough, a fierce advocate for the child, very caring and professional.  


    We are in OUSD and have been told the same thing about assessments (which is a little confusing to me since by law they are required to provide an assessment if you request one). We already have an IEP for our child so are in a slightly different situation. If you have insurance you might want to check if Stanford or UCSF are in-network for your plan. Both of these can provide a comprehensive assessment at a greatly reduced cost if you have coverage. Stanford does assessments and recommendations only, UCSF does assessments and can provide services. If money isn't a concern we have friends who have worked with Dr Eraklis in Orinda and really loved her. Keep in mind all of these will probably have some sort of waitlist and I'm not sure what assessments look like with covid precautions in place.

    You might also want to contact DREDF and see if they have any tips for how to handle the schools at present since really, every child has the right to an assessment by law.

    Good luck!

    I know you don’t want to hear this, but I would wait. Doing testing is about finding out what is going on with your kid. Getting the information needs to be as close to standardized conditions as possible in order to have confidence in the test results. Telehealth is the safest route.  Unfortunately, there is zero validation for doing testing via Zoom. You would be paying thousands of dollars for a form of testing that has never been validated. And done stuff simply does not translate to the virtual world.

    There might be someone willing to do in -person testing, but it would be a weird experience. It’s a face to face experience, By necessity less than 6 feet apart and sharing testing materials, so both kid and examiner would have to wear gloves, masks and face shields for 6-12 hours spread over a few sessions.

    iIt would be hot, awkward and physically uncomfortable, which would have an impact on BB test results.

     Better to delay and get good data than do it now and get skewed  results and have to forever wonder if the results are valid.  Best of luck!

    You can ask your school to contract out and pay for a private specialist who is willing to do in person assessment.  There are many neuropsychologists and psychologists doing in person but covid safe assessments.  If you put in a request for assessment, schools are still bound by the legal timeline to finish the assessment and have an IEP meeting within 60 days.  This NPR segment on the pandemic and special education is very informative:

    Hi everyone, I work in special education and wanted to give some input and direction here.  SB 117 is the law that said that school districts did not have to provide initial assessment plans during school closures for COVID-19.  That law has expired. SB 820 was passed in September, which says SB 117 was no longer in effect as of July 1, 2020, see  Also, the California Department of Education just released guidance on 9/30/20 stating that school districts must conduct in-person assessments unless parents agree to wait, see students.  All Bay Area counties have cleared districts to conduct in-person assessments, including Contra Costa County, Alameda County, and San Francisco City and County.

    Bottom line, if your child has a suspected disability, and you have requested an assessment, your school district must assess your child.  Many school psychologists are in labor unions, and unions are pushing back on conducting assessments right now.  For that reason, some districts are trying to not assess, but they are legally required to do so.  If they can't get their staff to do assessments, they have to contract them out.  Many private assessors who contract with school districts have resumed in-person assessment.  Also, if your district refuses to assess, it is tantamount to not doing an appropriate assessment, and you are entitled to request an IEE. Keep pushing, file a CDE complaint, or get an attorney if needed.  Good luck to all of you!  

    We used Carina Grandison in Berkeley about 3 years ago and thought she was compassionate and knowledgeable.  Our child enjoyed working with her.  She gave us insights into our child's issues, strengths, etc.

  • Hello fellow parents out there,

    We have two kids (K and 3rd) currently in a small private school, where we are not happy.  The school claims to support differentiated learning, yet lacks basic structure or learning standards, and a sense of community.  So we're looking to move to a BUSD school in the Central Zone (Malcolm X, Washington, Cragmont, Oxford, BAM).

    We are super stressed about the whole transition although excited to re-allocate the tuition money toward more family time together.

    Our older child has a host of learning differences (challenges and strengths) and we will need (I'm sure) to establish an IEP for him.  Can anyone shed any light on which (if any) of the schools in our zone might be especially supportive for our family?  Any advice on navigating the lottery/school assignment if we don't get one of our top choices?  What do you IEP families wish you knew before you started the process?  Is there any learning/social-emotional support for gifted kids anywhere at the elementary level in BUSD?

    SO many questions.  Thank you so much for any words of wisdom!!

    My experience with the lottery is that we have not been able to move to a different school and we have been trying all year (we are currently at Malcom X). I think this is highly dependent on what school you are trying to get into and if there happens to be a spot or not. I think any special social-emotional support for kids (gifted or not) is going to be teacher specific. Our highly sensitive daughter is in a classroom that is not a good fit for her and while the school has done some work with us trying to help her they were not willing to try a different classroom. The only option they gave us was to change schools completely. All students in BUSD use the Toolbox program for social emotional development (

    I'm not in that zone and can't speak to the schools, but wanted to speak to the IEP process - one thing BUSD throws in as a requirement is that the child have a vision and hearing screening that was done within the past year. Kaiser regularly does these at check-ups, but you need to make sure you've got paperwork that says they had the screening. The Special Ed Department has a very long list of documents they want before they start looking it over, I think it's on the website. If you can, start the process NOW before everything closes up for the summer.

    We moved here over the summer and didn't find out the school we'd be at until August 15th, didn't have an IEP, and had to rush to get a 504 and some basic accommodations in place prior to the start of school by contacting the principal. I believe you can actually get the whole thing started now because of a provision of the IDEA law called "Child Find" - DREDF is a good resource if you have technical questions. Good luck!

    Hi, sorry to hear your school isn’t very supportive of your children. I would suggest looking up Family Resource Navigators and give them a call! They are a good resource on how you can start the process on getting evaluated. They will most likely send a referal to East Bay Regional Center to start the assessmens/evaluations. Based on the results if your kids need services, they’ll direct you to the public school and then they’ll do their own assessments. The school will then call for an IEP meeting and set goals for your kids. As far as schools, it depends which school you’re closest to and if there’s an opening. I highly suggest calling a DREDF advocate to help with the IEP. They can also come to your IEP meeting. Hope that helps! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Entering King Middle School with 504 plan (BUSD)

Aug 2012

My son is about to enter King Middle School. At the end of 5th grade his insightful teacher recognized that his spelling scores were way below all his other subjects. Historically, he always excelled in math, but he was a late reader. His reading improved after third grade and he is now above grade level in everything but spelling. His teacher initiated testing and that confirmed her suspicions that my son has a learning disability. We squeezed a 504 plan into place right at the very end of 5th grade. Now that he is about to start middle school, I am unclear what is the most helpful way to approach my son's disability with King. Should I talk to the administration? Wait until he has classes and discuss it with his teachers? What have other parents done? He is an all around above grade level kid with this one glaring issue, although his reading was probably impaired in his earlier years. Thanks for any help. I am interested in what has and has not worked. Mom of Middle Schooler

Are you familiar with BSPED? You can find our information at the bottom of the page here: but you can also contact me for more information. We're a group of parents who have children with IEPs and 504s enrolled in BUSD schools and I'm sure there's somebody in our group who can help you. Jill H


IEP meeting - district may deny request for aide (BUSD)

Sept 2010

I just left from my son's iep meeting at King Middle School. He is an 11 year old twin, with cerebral palsy. Because Berkeley Unified only has inclusion programs for special ed. students, it's clear that he needs an i.a. to assist him throughout the day. I've been informed that the district will probably deny the request, even though it is his right, due to budget constraints; however they can do it if I ''fight'' for it. Any suggestions/recommendations? Thanks.

School districts cannot deny necessary support to a child with an IEP due to budget reasons! Contact us at Berkeley Special Education Parents Network, we are a support group for parents who have kids at BUSD with IEPs. Here are also some good articles to help you learn your rights in this area: 



Starting kindergarten in BUSD - how to get 504 plan?

Feb 2009

My child will be starting kindergarten in BUSD and will need a 504 plan due to a physical disability that requires some accommodations. I don't really know where to start and how to actually obtain the 504 and then ensure that the accommodations are in place...anyone who has been through the process -- can you give me some info? thanks so much...

Call the BUSD 504 Coordinator or go to the office at 1835 Allston Way. You will need to file a request for special education assessment to start the process. After the assessment, BUSD will meet with you to discuss the findings and determine what kind of plan is necessary for your student. Getting started now will ensure that you have a plan in place before your student starts kindergarten.

After you receive the plan, I highly recommend that you provide a copy to each of your student's teachers, every year. I copy my daughter's plan on brightly colored, 3-hole punched paper, and include a cover memo highlighting the most important accommodations. Good luck. anon

I'm not in the Berkeley district, but I can tell you what I did for my child. I wasn't sure where to start, so I asked for an IEP meeting from the special ed department in our district. It was determined (after all of the evaluations)that my daughter didn't qualify for an IEP, but she did qualify for a 504 plan. It was pretty much the same people involved in both. I would imagine that you could call the special ed office at BUSD and ask for a 504 evaluaton. Chances are that they will require your son to have an ''official'' diagnosis from whatever professional he sees before they will consider a meeting.

Unfortunately, I have had 2 friends in Berkeley with children who desperately need these services, and both were denied. One family wasn't even given the evaluation. I have a feeling that BUSD denies most people, and then you have to fight them. It might help to send them documentation from any other professionals or even to have one of them make the request for you. Good luck. dawn

Sorry my message is late, I am just catching up on reading some newsletters as I am quite busy with my special needs child too, although it's getting better, but NOT thanks to BUSD...You have to be extremely proactive with BUSD, and I've found I've had to pay for the needed services myself. Busy Parent


Preparing for an IEP for 3-y-o with ADS (BUSD)

March 2008

My son is 28 months old and diagnosed with ASD. He is mid - high functioning, but is just beginning to use words. Although it hasnt seem like I've had long to appreciate the pre 3 services he's had, I am looking into being informed for his IEP in the fall. I asked the OT about it today and she informed me that they will also do a transition meeting..What I thought to myself, even 9 months away seemed soon! It really stinks to be in an uninformed place after all the research I did for pre 3..I really need to gain more knowledge about this process and also would love advice as to a good parent advocate, if I should get an independent developmental assessment etc. as I would have to get on a list now to get in before his transition meeting in June. We are in the Berkeley School District. I would really appreciate hearing what others have done to prepare for this. I really don't want my son to just be given whatever because I havent done the proper leg work.

Hi - Good for you for doing your research, at my first IEP I was given whatever because I hadn't done the proper leg work ;)

There aren't a whole lot of options here in Berkeley, so my advice is to just know your son and know what will work for him. Here are some things for you to ponder:

1. What kind of classroom setting will work for him? You'll have a choice of entirely special ed, mixed (some percentage) special ed and head start kids or a ''full inclusion'' model where he's the only, or one of the only special ed kids in a room full of regular ed kids.

2. Depending on what kind of classroom placement you get, will he need an aide?

3. What other services does he need? Speech therapy? Does he have sensory issues? Does he have physical issues? If so, should he see the therapist 1:1 or in a group?

4. Do you want a home program in addition to his classroom? Are you doing ABA? Do you have an agency you want to work with?

Lots of questions, I know, but just some things to keep in mind. Jill