Difficulty Getting an IEP/504 from School District

Editor note: Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), website: www.dredf.org is frequently recommended on BPN. DREDF is an information center funded by the US Department of Education, serving families of children and young adults from birth to age 22 with all disabilities: physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning. Provides parent training and Education Advocates to help with special education issues for parents in Alameda, Contra Costa or Yolo Counties.

Parent Q&A

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  • My daughter is in 2nd grade at an OUSD school. She was just diagnosed with Dyslexia/Dysgraphia after private testing. The school is reluctant to do an IEP.

    She is currently reading at grade level but has a hard time spelling and writing. We started tutoring over a year ago when she was struggling at the beginning of 1st grade. She meets with the tutor 1x a week because  of time and $$$ its been hard to do more sessions.

    1. I am curious about other OUSD families dealing with Dyslexia and what type of support is possible...

    2. I'm curious about tutoring and camp options. My goal is to make sure she still gets to do some of the activities and camps she enjoys in the summer so the 5 week 1/2 day camps don't really work.


    There are many Facebook groups that can be a great resource. Also understand.org...

    look up decoding dyslexics ca and many other groups. 
    Sorry to tell you that this will be a lifelong battle with the schools. It’s unfortunate but they don’t acknowledge dyslexia...

    you have to constantly keep after them. Never give up.

    bezt Tammy  

    The school legally has to do an IEP when you notify them in writing - it is federal law. Scholl districts typically resist because it costs them so much money to do the testing. My daughter did the testing in Sept at BUSD after the administration resisted it. Of course the results confirmed what we thought. She has a learning deficit (difference). It was great to have a 17 page report on how her brain works! Everyone is different. Requesting the testing now is important because you'll want to insure that accommodations are in place to insure your student's success for the next 10+ years ahead of school. The school district is under no obligation to use the results of an outside/private testing service. They have to do their OWN test and follow the results of their own test by law. The student is taken out of class for the series of tests (usually over a 3+ day period). Push hard and you will get what you need for your student, as you are your student's most important ally.

    My kids are older but are both dyslexic and both are/were OUSD students. Feel free to reach out via my username if you want to talk. 

    i Am my nephews guardian. His parents passed away but I watched my sister have to fight the Vallejo school district to get them to acknowledge his dyslexia. They would test him but not for dyslexia so they would not have to treat him. They were not able to accommodate him and eventually the school district paid for him to go to Rascob. He stayed there for a couple years and is now in Berkeley high doing great with an IEP. That time at rascob gave him skills and confidence to return to the mainstream classes. Not being effectively assisted really hurt his self esteem and love of school. I think Rascob has a summer program and some scholarships. Maureen

  • IEP Advocate for Albany student

    (5 replies)

    I am seeking advice and/or recommendation for an advocate or lawyer to help me communicate with my daughter's school regarding her IEP.  

    Her AUSD school (Cornell) has been without a resource teacher this academic year and as a result the district has not provided her with 1200 minutes of resource class education (and counting).  I would like to hire a tutor for her so that she can get the educational support that the district has failed to give her and I need help getting the district to pay for this.  The district is "working on a plan" to make up missed minutes, but the only vague information they have provided me so far is that they might be able to make up the missed minutes during winter break.  

    I have contacted DREDF and await their reply.  I would greatly appreciate any experiences, leads, or information that parents who have been in this situation or gone through this process would be comfortable sharing with me.   Thanks very much in advance.  

    Our family lives in Oakland.  Our situation is slightly different but parallel.   I'm working with Tollner Law in San Jose.  Special education is their focus.  It's been a good experience.  Get in touch and I can give you more details.  Good luck.


    Our  daughter had an IEP and we had so many challenges with our local school district. I found many helpful resources, including free access to care managers at Children’s Health Center(CHC). There website is www.chconline.com and their care managers can be reached at 650-688-3625 or caremanagers [at] chconline.org. They are noted to be the top rated education and mental health services for children, teens and young adults, with reputable resources steeped in solid research and science. I hope you find this resources as helpful as I did.

    Good Luck to you


    Jennifer Callahan 415-238-2338 .

    This is her specialty!

    DREDF is great.  Talk to Cheryl/Sheryl if you can because she's familiar with Albany IEPs. 

    If you have the means, I highly recommend education attorney Deborah Jacobson. She has a wonderful demeanor, was very responsive, and was straightforward about the likely outcomes. Her firm will do a free initial phone conversation, which can help you determine if it's worth spending the money to have her take your case.

  • Hello,

    Have you worked with education attorneys Natashe Washington or Roberta Savage?  If anyone has worked with either of them, I'd love to speak with you, especially if you had a child within BUSD.  We are not being appropriately served in the school environment, there are compliance issues, and we are being stonewalled. 

    I'd prefer not to leave my name here but if you'd be able to share your contact, I'd be so appreciative.

    At the end of my rope. 

    Although I did not hire Natashe Washington, I had a very positive experience talking with her, which led to a decision not to file a lawsuit. Our son had an IEP and needed residential treatment, which the school district (not BUSD) did not agree to. In our case, she would not require an up front fee to take our case, but would be paid out of the legal fees, if we first followed the process she recommended and she thought we could win. Her advice was very valuable and put us in a good position to have most of our costs for residential treatment covered by insurance, the Adoption Assistance Program, and the school district, without a lawsuit.

  • Due process hearing with school district

    (5 replies)

      I am a parent and I am going to a due process hearing for my child with the school district because they have not provided FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education.)  I wanted to know what type of questions do lawyers ask parents?  How should I prepare for this?  What is the judge looking for?  Anything else I need to know?  Thank you 

    You might want to contact DREDF (Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund) for help https://dredf.org/ You can call them at (510) 644-2555 and leave a message and an advocate with specific expertise will call you back. DREDF also has trainings for parents to learn about their rights and the special education process (see specifically https://dredf.org/special-education/special-education-trainings/

    Good luck!

    The Education Advocacy Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center may be able to help!

    Wrights Law has a dvd entitled "Surviving Due Process" or something like that. You might go to their website and check out their resources.

    You don't say if you have an attorney who will be representing your child/you.  Whether or not you do, DO NOT sign anything at the administrative hearing unless you are certain it completely represents the terms to which you have agreed.  My experience with the process was about 8 years ago.  I found an attorney who would represent us pro bono, which I came to see was a serious mistake.  Since the firm wasn't going to make any money, they were motivated to wrap things up at the administrative hearing.  My daughter's school district played hardball and the agreement didn't provide any penalties for its noncompliance.  I did not read the agreement as closely as I should have, because I was pressured by my lawyer to sign it and that it was the best I could hope for.  I don't think BPN rules permit me to identify the law firm that was so unhelpful to me.  Maybe if you contact me directly.

    hi there,

    Not sure how much research you've already done, if you've already gotten your child's complete school file, or if you already have a lawyer, but you want to be very. prepared. Contact dredf.org (their parent training nights are great, their advocates talented but in demand), FRN.org, CASE in SF, and research DP on wrightslaw.com and understood.org. 

    Good luck!

  • Hello: I am an AUSD parent.  My child has an IEP for a significant math impairment.  She would not be able to keep up in even the most basic math class offered in her grade.  She has been talking math privately.    It's very expensive and it occurred to me (yes, silly that it took so long) that we should petition the school district to pay for it.  Has anyone been successful with this, and willing to talk to me about how they went about it?  Thank you in advance. 

    I also have a child at AUSD who is on an IEP and is taking math privately.  Your post did not indicate what grade your daughter is in, which I actually think is important in terms of strategy.  Firstly, I would suggest you look at your child's most recent testing for math aptitude and see what your daughter's scores indicate.  In our case, even though our kid scored in an average range, they placed him in Resource Math class once he got to Middle School.  By the time we got to AHS, they were again recommending Resource Math, even though by this time, we had figured out he was capable of more than that.  They said we could place him in a general education classroom for math, but he would only have Support Lab class to get extra help with the material.  We knew he would fail in that setting.  Here's the rub.  We consulted with an attorney who told us that if we wanted to have the district pay for private math, we'd have to prove that the district had not offered us FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education, I think).  But to do this, we'd have to put him back in the general education class, and let him fail first.  I wish we had forced this issue in Middle School, when grades don't really count.  We chose to just enroll him at Tilden Prep for math, where he has now successfully completed Algebra I and Geometry, working one-on-one with an instructor. 

    Bottom line is you could put your daughter into a Resource Math class at AUSD for free, but if you think she could learn significantly more with intensive instruction and her testing supports that, push for inclusion in a general education math class before high school.  You have to be willing to let her experience the humiliation of that failure, though.  It's also worth mentioning that my kid found Resource Math to be humiliating because it was so basic. 

    Other posters are going to tell you to call DREDF.  By all means do that, but I think the attorney we spoke with was a bit more of a realist than the folks I talked to at DREDF.  Contact me through my username below, if you like.  I would be happy to talk to you further.  Good luck to you.  This stuff is hard!!

    I assume AUSD, is Albany USD.  It is possible to get the district to pay for outside classes.  However, you would probably need to hire an attorney to do that and have outside evaluations done to show that it is necessary.  Whether it is worth it or not depends on how old your child is now.  If she is young, it will help you get services for many years.  If she is in high school, it might not be worth the up front costs for an attorney and private evaluations, depending on what you are spending now.  You could also just ask for an IEP meeting, and request that the district provide services for math education.  If you disagree with what they offer, then document that by writing an addendum to the IEP.  DREDF in Berkeley can help you with advice and doesn't charge for their services.  (Disability Rights organization).  Unfortunately the services provided by the district are generally inadequate.  So you can go with inadequate services,  pay for an attorney, (sometimes those costs can be recouped, but no guarantee) or pay out of pocket for the services that will benefit your child.  Not great choices.  You can contact me if you like.  

  • Hello,

    I am a single parent with a teenager at Albany High School (AHS) who has a special education plan. I have had a world of problems interacting with the counselors and the administration at AHS. I feel like they are constantly withholding information from me--everything from programs and classes my child is eligible for, to school policies. It is like pulling teeth to get them to offer information. 

    Has anyone else had this issue with AHS before? Either in regards to 504/IEP plans, or just in general?

     I could have wrote this post years ago. I thought the same way as my son was going through high school; he had an IEP his entire school career. In the schools defense often times teachers are not aware of the programs and services that are available for students. Depending on what track your son is on ( graduation versus certificate of completion )  they may just focus on the programs and services that are going to benefit him the most in achieving his goals and academic requirements. I would highly encourage you to attend the Adult Transition Fair that is held yearly in the spring. It will help you get a greater perspective of what is out there and make informed decisions on your sons individual  transition plan.  Are you a client of the Regional Center of the East Bay? If so I would encourage you to have your case manager attend every IEP meeting going forward. 

     Having a clear idea of your  sons hopes and dreams for his future is the most important thing. My son just graduated from Alameda High School this month and there are many things I wish I would have done differently in regards to IEP goals in high school to set him up for success in the future. 

    Good luck! It sounds like you are an awesome Mom and advocate for your child!!

    You might consider/attempt a transfer to Berkeley High School. Their Special Education Department is responsive, compassionate, professional and very intelligent. What an awesome staff! 

     I feel your pain. This has been a constant battle for me also since elementary school and we are doing the same battle in Albany Middle School. They are definitely not forthcoming with the information of what's available but what I found helpful is some groups on Facebook. Many of these people have gone through or are going through the same Issues  and I find they are quite helpful . 

    One of the groups that is local is called decoding dyslexia CA. When she start searching you can find many other groups.

    I would definitely like to stay in touch if possible as we will be heading up to high school in another year. 

     The Best of luck 

    I have a difficult child who has been defiant at school.  I feel AMS, the teachers,  and especially the VP David Haupert have been very compassionate in response to my son's issues.  They are very reluctant to suspend and prefer to work with the child and parents to resolve things and keep the child in school.  My son has attended their for two years and has received great support from the staff.  I have been shocked that they didn't suspend him a few of the times.  Toward the end of this school year my son was repeatedly disrespectful and defiant and he was suspended which I felt he deserved.  IT'S IMPORTANT TO REALIZE that the school is dealing with many children who are interested in learning and being at school and those children have a right to their education also and you can't expect the school staff  to continue to put up with disrespect and defiance.  It's disruptive for all the other children.  My child is in counseling.  I hope you seek counseling for your child and stop blaming the school for your child's behavior.  It's not productive for the school but especially not for  your child.

  • My nephew, who lives near Pleasanton with his family, was recently diagnosed with a learning disability.  His family is now trying to navigate the educational bureaucracy and to ensure that his learning needs are being fully met.  The school district has dragged its feet and has not been very cooperative in making sure that his needs are met - it took years just for the school to agree to get him tested.  Since educational requirements and education policy are so complex and it's very difficult knowing how to navigate the system, his family is looking to retain the services of an education advocate.  My understanding is that this is the beginning of a very long road.  Does anyone have any advice for the family?  Perhaps even more importantly, do you have recommendations for an education advocate who serves the Pleasanton area?  Are there resources that the family should be connected to?  Any and all advice would be very, very welcome.

    Hi-we recently moved from the East Coast where special needs were addressed impressively well and now I too am trying to navigate a difficult process. In our previous area it was about partnering with the parents to create the best possible learning environment for the child. Here it is adversarial. And there was a ton of money in NJ for this and none here. I have learned that the lack of responsiveness isn't about not caring - it's about lack of capacity. This isn't an excuse but it helped me put it into perspective.

    i went to a good lecture by a special needs advocate sponsored by the special needs Pta in Pleasanton (I highly recommend joining). There were several special ed teachers in the lecture to hear about parents concerns. One came up to me and highly recommended the speaker as an advocate. I haven't used him, yet...but this may help.

    Todd Cary  Special education advocacy group 

    It's so sad that every parent with a newly diagnosed/assessed child has to reinvent the wheel unless someone they know has experience they can share or they happen to be pointed in the right direction by another agency. This all too often doesn't happen. I would be happy to share everything I know. I am in Oakland, but I have quite a bit of experience navigating and success in getting my son services and helping other parents. You can pass along my email address and if your family wants to talk, I can give them my number. In the meantime, there is the Regional Center (RCEB) http://www.rceb.org/ and DREDF https://dredf.org/ and a good website called Wright's Law http://wrightslaw.com/.


Archived Q&A and Reviews


Difficulty getting assessment for kid with an IEP

Jan 2014

Hello parents, I'm looking for information/ advice from parents who have been able to secure an educational assessment from the Diagnostic Center in Fremont. My son has an IEP and continues to be academically behind (3 years). I believe the assessment will be helpful to all involved- especially the school district -to find the best way my child learns and to get him what he needs to succeed.

I've asked the school district for this assessment but they have denied my request. I will be having another IEP meeting and will bring this up again. I know some districts rather do their own assessments, but my experience with these is that they are not very thorough and are biased. I know I could pay a private practitioner to do one, but I strongly feel that the school district should provide this since they have not been successful in figuring out the best way to reach/teach him.

I'd like to hear from parents who have succeeded in gaining an assessment from the Center via the school district. What did you have to do to get the assessment approved? What happened when completed and did the school district follow the recommendation? I'd also like to hear from parents who have gone the private route and paid for an assessment. How did you present the results to your school district and what was the result? Did the district provide the services recommended by the private assessment?

Thanks Frustrated with school district

I'm sorry to hear you're having trouble with the school district. I'm surprised that they are denying it since it is no cost to them. We were able to secure an assessment through the Diagnostic Center in Fremont (whom I thought was top-notch and incredibly thorough). Although I may not have much sage advice for you, but here's my experience: We did this immediately following the school district's assessment before we had an IEP in place (I don't know if that made a difference or not). I followed up on the school district assessment with a letter that highlighted some specific portions of the assessment that I questioned (e.g., a little bit of sloppy - or maybe just not well trained?-things were done) that I felt put a few of the assessment's conclusions into question. It helped to do some research here to back up what I was saying, like using research from sources familiar with the disability. The assessment didn't jibe with the issues that we had been describing that were of concern and so we made a strong case for why the district's assessment was not adequate. We didn't want to be adversarial and tried to present it as needing some of the questions left by the assessment further resolved and requested CDE (Diagnostic Center) as the third party - since that is a right! The school did accept the Center's diagnosis and some of the recommendations although it was my understanding that they were not obligated to. Good luck! anon


Special education IDEA violation?

Oct 2009

My 5 year old son has been seen by 2 mental health professionals who feel he meets the threshold for Asperger's, and will have another evaluation by the ASD Center to confirm. I put in writing my request for an evaluation of my son by the school district and was told by the principal that I would get a letter from the district saying they would not evaluate him until he was in second grade. Is this a violation of IDEA regulation? How do I go about getting him evaluated while creating the minimal amount of animosity at his school? My son will be there a long time! I am already feeling patronized by the principal, as she has said to me 3 times now that kindergarten is all new for me and my son but they have seen it all, and Asperger's is a ''popular'' diagnosis, much the same as ADD/ADHD was a few years ago. I am just trying to find the right tools to help my child. advocate

YES! This is a violation of IDEA. They're hoping to take advantage of your ''newness'' and not provide your child with the services that he's entitled to by Federal law, and if you don't know enough to make a stink about it, they'll be safe from a lawsuit. Good for you for being an advocate for your child, you are all he has and the system is designed to let our kids slip through the cracks unless they have somebody to fight for them. Special Ed services for an ASD diagnosis will need to start with your district's Special Ed department, but it also won't hurt to continually bug your principal about it. It's not okay for her to patronize you. Does your school have any inclusion support services staff?

Contact DREDF at http://www.dredf.org/ call and ask to speak with an advocate. They will inform you of the details of what your son's rights are and help you navigate your way through. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions. Jill

The short answer is that refusing to evaluate is most likely a violation of the district's obligation under ''child find'', but it would help to have the letter to decide how to respond. In any case, you do have recourse.  Dana

Yes it is a violation. If you request an assessment the District MUST assess. However, you should put it in writing. Once you submit your request the District has 15 days to develop an assessment plan. However, as a parent you should be specific about what you want the District to assess. For example, Speech, Occupational Therapy, reading, math, etc. The child's disability has to impact his/her education.

Nolo Press in Berkeley publishes a book called ''A Parents Guide to an IEP'' and Community Alliance for Special Education (CASE) publishes a handbook titled ''Parents Special Education Rights and Responsibilities.'' Both of these resources are great for parents. Both have websites. CASE also provides educational advocacy for families.

Good luck - and remember keep copies of all your documents and keep track of the timelines. Anonymous

What your principal said is not true. School districts must evaluate if asked (called ''self-referring'') starting at age 3 (before that, the Regional Center does the evals). Instead of giving the letter to your principal, mail it straight to the head of special education of your district. For Oakland, that's Lisa Cole, 2850 West St., Oakland 94608. OUSD Mom

Battling the school district on son's IEP

June 2007

Our 5-year-old son has gross and fine motor skill delays. He has been receiving OT and speech through our school district. In addition, he attends the district's special day preschool 2 days/week, and a mainstream preschool 3 days/wk. Last week we held an IEP meeting to discuss kindergarten. The district seems to have 2 possible options - 1)mainstream him in a regular kindergarten, with no accommodation for his motor skill problems, or 2) keep him in special ed, and try to mainstream him over the course of the year. Neither seem like good options to us - he needs something in between. What do other district do/offer, or how do I find out? I have no idea what is really out there, but I do know that our district is not great at innovative solutions! Also, is there some kind of a forum like BPN for parents of special needs kids? Thanks! E

You don't say what district your child is in, so it's difficult to answer your questions appropriately.

There is a solution in Oakland for kids with speech/language issues, and if the child also needs OT for fine motor delays, he will receive it on a ''pull out'' basis.

Perhaps the district is considering that kindergarten is not really a time of intense fine motor work. There's writing, and art, and fine motor play. But it may be that they think your child will do well socially and will be motivated to work himself on his fine motor projects.

If he's not very motivated in this area, you need to press on the issue and request additional OT, if that's what you think he needs. I'd be more concerned about whether he needs support in the speech area myself; depending on your district and school, kindergarten can be a highly verbal year. You don't want him to get frustrated because he doesn't understand what's expected of him and everyone else ''gets it''. That's where behavior starts to crop up as a problem.

Go back to the IEP table and ask for additional services if that's what you want. If he's more capable than the most capable child in the special day class, you will not want to place him there. Most important - visit each class so you can observe, take notes and visualize how you think he would fit in. hope that's a little help. - Nancy

It isn't legal for the district to refuse needed support services if your child is in a regular classroom. The law regulating special education states that a child should be in the ''least restrictive environment'' that meets his needs. Our child is in special ed in BUSD and, like most special ed elementary school students in this district, is in a regular classroom with supports. Different districts have different programs available, but if your child can function well in a regular classroom but needs therapy services, the district can't deny you that option. You can contact Disability Rights Education Foundation (DREDF) for help with IEPs, they're in the phonebook. A yahoo group you might want to look into is specialneedsnetwork. Good luck to you! Jessica

How to get school to comply with 504 plan?

March 2002

I am wondering if other parents in the Oakland Public Schools have suggestions for how to gain compliance with a 504 plan. I have a third grader who has been diagnosed with a mild learning disability called dysgraphia. We had a meeting with the school (his teacher, the resource specialist, the principal and the occupational therapist) and came up with a plan back in December. Part of the plan was for the child to receive OT through the district which he is, but other parts of the plan are not being met. What is the procedure for gaining compliance? I've talked briefly with the Resource Specialist, and she seemed surprised that it wasn't getting taken more seriously. Does anyone know of a good approach to take? Thanks.

I hate to say it, but after working in several school districts as a support professional, I know that the ''squeaky wheel'' gets the grease. The biggest fear that a school district has is having to go to court over a non-compliance issue. First of all, they know that they will lose; secondly, it costs the district more to even PREPARE to go to court than it does to appease a parent who is trying to enforce their child's IEP plan. You don't have to be ugly about it, but just letting them know that court is not your first choice in order to get things implemented will get your message across loud and clear -- good luck! anonymous