Special Education in the Albany School District

Parent Q&A

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  • We are searching for a skilled attorney to help our family navigate the quagmire that is the Albany Unified School District's special education process.  We have done a ton of research, connected to DREDF, written the letters we were supposed to write, and filled out all forms.  We need a lawyer familiar with the Albany district who can efficiently clear a couple of logjams - it would appear that the administration is waiting for us to file suit.  It's hard to find any education attorneys with availability this time of year, so we are casting a wide net.  Thanks for any leads!

    Try Tollner Law Offices. They are in the San Jose area but have represented cases all over the Bay Area and are very good. We used Sarah Fairchild at Tollner and our district is in Contra Costa County.

    I have used Roberta Savage in Sacramento multiple times relating to issues with my kids’ IEPs in BUSD and WCCUSD school districts. I don’t know if she’s specifically familiar with Albany, but she had no problem navigating different districts because they’re all ostensibly following state law. I highly recommend her. Caring but no nonsense and reasonably priced for the quality of service.

    Deborah Jacobsen was a godsend for us in a similar situation. She is based in Berkeley and knows the various east bay districts well. She is highly competent and very nice. 

  • 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.

    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: https://www.ausdk12.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=218780&type=d&pREC_ID=1337653.

    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 www.disabilityrightsca.org 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. 

  • 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.

    Hi 

    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

    Jackie

    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: 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.

Parent Reviews

It's so challenging finding the right school for any child as they grow. Education unfortunately does not cater to diverse populations but rather one or two types of learners. My child is not dyslexic nor is my child bilingual, but they did have challenges at Albany and we pulled them out. The school district is notoriously bad at catering to neuro-atypical students across the board and it gets more challenging in the upper grades. Albany is fantastic if your child is an A+ student who needs very little intervention, but anything else is a struggle. Berkeley Unified (if you're looking at public schools) is more supportive of SPED needs and I know STAR academy in Marin is also a fantastic school for SPED. Hope this helps in some way!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Oct 2015

RE: AUSD, SFUSD, and special needs

My kids go to school in Albany. I think it has a terrific program for special needs, with an emphasis on inclusion to the extent possible. My kids have had at least one kid with an aide in their class most years. They also have the special day class and all the supports but they really try to have as much inclusion as the kid can handle, which is great for all the kids. Anon


What is your opinion of special ed in Albany?

April 2011

I have a 6 year old daughter with significant language and cognitive delays. She is currently in a SH class in WCCUSD. The only time she is with ''regular ed'' children is during recess. I am considering moving to Albany because I believe that AUSD would provide her with a program where she would be more integrated with ''regular ed'' kids while providing her with all the support she needs.

If you have or had a child with special needs (and an IEP) in Albany Unified, please let me know your overall opinion of his/her education there. Did your child receive enough support? Was s/he significantly integrated in the school? How did the other children treat your child?

Thank you for taking the time to respond! -Mother-of-Special Needs Child



I have a daughter who is 13 and currently attending AMS. She is a gifted child who has severe learning dis. and emotional, and social issues.

I moved her from Raskob school in Oakland into Ocean view at the end of 4th grade, and she stayed there for all of 5th grade before moving to Albany middle school.She did not do well emotionally at Raskob and I was holding my breath when she started Ocean view, but it turned out to be the best experience to date for her.

She had SE classes for reading and math, but was in a regular classroom as well, where her teacher was great and was able to focus on her abilities and work with her strengths. Middle school, came and that all went out the window .

They put her in the ''resourse room'', which is a class room of 12-14 1 teacher and 1 aid, for all kids that are struggling.There was definitely no specific education plan to address her learning dis.in the ''resource room''.

After obtaining an advocate form DREDF, and going to metting after meeting she now has a modified schedule that is working better for her. my experience is that the folks are really nice at AMS but didnt listen to me as a parent until I brought in an Advocate to back me up.My daughter now has one on one with the reading specialists , small math class and likes her GE teacher for English and History. I cant say she's doing great but much better after a 2-year fight.Good luck and hang in there! -jackie


I have a child in special education at Cornell. He is in the general ed classroom with full-time paraprofessional assistance, and he has pull-outs for other services. Without seeing your daughter's assessment or IEP I can't begin to speculate about what her placement would be. However, I can tell you that the school is very inclusive of children with special needs. They are members of a wonderful school community. The principal talks about what a privilege it is to have a special day class at Cornell and cultivates an environment of respect. We also think very highly of the SDC teacher. Our experience with special education in Albany has been very good overall. If you have any more specific questions, you can ask the moderator for my email address. Special Ed Mom


Attorney for IEP disagreement with Albany school

March 2010

I have a child in Special Education with ADD and some language processing issues. We have been in an ongoing disagreement with our school district (Albany USD) over his IEP and are at the point that I think we need an attorney to help us, as we are heading toward filing a suit (due process complaint) against the district for failing to provide appropriate services, and several other issues. Any suggestions? Unhappy Albany parent


Catherine Doble is a great attorney from what I have heard. Unfortunately I do not have her number. I am also an Albany parent and unhappy. Would be interested to know which school your child attends and what grade he/she is in. Also are you a member of the Yahoo groups put on by an Albany Parent for families who have children with special needs? My child has processing issues and I would have to agree that I don't think they are addressing the issues appropriately. Frankly, I don't think they know what to do. Good luck. anonymous


DREDF will be able to provide some legal advice. They may also be able to refer you to an attorney. http://www.dredf.org/ Good Luck