Special Education in the Berkeley School District
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.
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.
We moved from Oakland to Berkeley for the schools. My son is partially deaf and qualifies for an IEP but has no learning issues associated with it. The IEP process at our Oakland elementary school was kinda non-existent the first year, but when a new principal came in, it was just ok.
I have to say that the quality of the IEP process and follow-up at Berkeley is incredible, but again, my kid does not have learning disabilities so I can't speak to that. But the organization and teamwork has been amazing. That said, the school is huge!!!!! 1,300 kids!!! Lots of room to get into trouble, but lots of great kids, too. Also, parent involvement really steps down in middle school, there is so much more responsibility given to the teen and it was a rough transition for my son.
Berkeley is crazy expensive to buy a home in. We were lucky to get in before it got really bad. But you don't have to buy- our friends from OUSD are renting out their Oakland home (to cover their mortgage) and then are renting an apartment in Albany to send their girls to school there. They plan on renting in Albany until their youngest graduates high school, and then moving back to their Oakland home for the rest of their days- they love their home and could not afford to buy it again.
But the Oakland schools...well, out of 63 5th graders in our elementary class only 3 of them enrolled in the local public middle school. Oakland still has a terrible problem with the schools, and I admire the amazing teachers who stay despite the lack of pay and resources. None of us should have to make this agonizing choice about educating our kids- shouldn't our local schools be able to support all kids in a safe and nurturing environment??? Yeah, we can dream. But in the meantime, good luck to you guys. Just please don't move to a crappy, homophobic place where you are gonna be unhappy for 6 years or more. You didn't mention jobs... but if there is any way that you could live an hour from SF, have you checked out Petaluma? It is so great!!! I have heard that their schools are awesome. Our in-laws moved there and we have been spending time there and I really like it. Best to you guys!
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Our 15-year old daughter has dropped out of Berkeley High School due to anxiety, severe depression, suicidal ideation and other related issues. After two years of seeking local (excellent) therapeutic solutions for our daughter and family, we are finally sending her to a therapeutic boarding school. It has been chosen for it's humane approach and targeted therapeutic offerings. Our daughter was relieved when her neuropsych evaluation recommended that she spend a year in treatment away from home, so please do not reply if your opinion is that a teen should never be sent to therapeutic boarding school--with all due respect, I have already read those posts.
Our question is: Has anyone in a similar situation ever had any success in getting BUSD to help pay for therapeutic boarding school? Or tried and failed? We know that school districts are under a mandate to provide access to education. Given her issues, our daughter would not be an appropriate candidate for BUSD independent study program--at least until she has been in treatment for awhile. I should add that unfortunately, we do not yet have an IEP for our daughter yet. We have the name of a good educational advocate and a lawyer (based in the Walnut Creek area) and are already working with an excellent educational consultant. We are also members of Willows in the Wind (support group). However, before we seriously consider approaching the district, we would like to hear about other parents' experience with BUSD. Also, if you were successful in working with BUSD and would be willing to share the name of your educational advocate/lawyer, that would be great. I tried to research this issue on BPN but couldn't find anything (search error?) Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.
Seeking access to education
Mike Zatopa is the attorney we (successfully) used with BUSD. We had a very complicated case. He would be able to give you an idea of whether you had a case. Typically, the school district likes to use their own resources before recommending residential care. If you have already decided upon that path it may be harder but I would still go ahead and ask. anon
Dear parent looking for therapeutic boarding school. I was able to get BUSD to pay for what is called a ''Non-public school''. These are schools/therapeutic treatment centers that partner with school districts to provide services of just the sort you describe: Helping children who cannot otherwise attend school for psychological, addiction, or other related issues.
You will need to get an IEP and will need to get a recommendation that she attend such a school. The process can be tedious. You MUST ask for an IEP in writing and you must do everything in writing. You must advocate strongly that she needs this (not the silly independent study or other options they will recommend).
You are unlikely to be able to send her to an out of state private boarding school -- and you might be glad of that. Some of those are quite abusive and hardly regulated. I would be very careful about sending a child to any of those. Check it out first.
The IEP process will take time - so start immediately and follow up at every turn. make sure they follow guidelines about when they will complete assessments, hold meetings etc. but each time they usually get 50 business days so it can really add up.
Best of luck to you and your daughter.... Been there
My kindergartener has a mild speech impediment that has always been the source of gentle teasing but is not correcting as he approaches 6. I would like to have him evaluated for therapy but have no idea where to start and can't find any info on the BUSD site. Any help appreciated. Thanks! tongue tied mom
A very good friend works as a speech pathologist at BUSD. I relayed your question to her and she wrote this back: It depends on what sounds your child is having difficulty producing. Some sounds are later-developing (i.e. not expected to be perfected at age 6), such as ''r, sh, ch, j, s, z, v and th''. If it's one or more of these sounds, you can ask the school Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) to observe your child. What she/he will likely do is see if your child is able to produce the sound when given cues (e.g. ''put your tongue behind your teeth like this, when you say an 's' sound''). If the child is able to produce the sounds when given cues, the SLP can send home worksheets for the child to practice (that way your child won't miss class in order to go to the speech room, but will still get the practice he/she needs). Or the SLP might see your child through a program called Response to Intervention (RtI), which is a way to work with kids who don't have a ''disorder''. If your child is producing more sounds incorrectly than the ones stated above, or if your child is unintelligible much of the time AS WELL AS having these problems negatively impact his/her ability to meet educational goals, the SLP would then evaluate the child. The evaluation will determine if your child has a speech disorder or not. Summary: Start by asking your school's SLP for an observation, and see what she/he says. Hope this helps!
My son received speech therapy from BUSD for a couple of years. For that to happen, he had to get an IEP (individual education plan). You can request IEP on your own (google IEP letter request and a bunch of examples come up). Your school can also recommend getting an IEP. The thing with the school district is that they would only provide therapy or accommodation or whatever else they decide is needed for the child to be able to perform at school and do school work at the appropriate level. So, I would word your IEP request around that, rather than saying your child's speech defect is a source of mild teasing. Teasing is bad, but doesn't interfere with school work, or at least it's a stretch to argue that it does. You can also get your child evaluated at her health provider. I did that at Kaiser, in addition to getting an IEP from the school district. It was good to have both, and it gave me confidence in the assessment done by the district, and helped me as a parent work with my child on my own. Speaking of which, speech therapy is great, but it happens once or twice a week, or whatever the frequency, but then we parents are able to help our children the rest of the time. It was very helpful to me to watch how the therapist worked with my child, and then apply her technique on my own. By the way, the speech therapist at BUSD was phenomenally great, but she's retired since. I am sure the new one is good, too. good luck!
Hello, I need any personal recommendations or experiences if you've had a special need's child and has dealt with BUSD. I'm new to the area and I'm curious what programs are out there and I've done some research but it seems like it's difficult to find information on PreSchool or programs headed by BUSD for special need's kids. My son is about to transition to IEP. He's bilaterally CI'd (cochlear implanted) and was diagnosed early with PDD-NOS and is getting treatment that is home based. I know of CEID but there's a long wait list. I'm a worried mom not knowing what programs are out there that I can look into so I have my questions prepared for the programs they present. I also want to arrange tours if that's even possible. Thanks in advance for help with this. Also, any advice through the IEP process would be extremely beneficial and helpful! Thanks again! mamatoadeafboy
Have you read the Nolo Press book on special education and IEPs? It would be a good place to start, And focus your energy on the educational effects of his disability. http://www.nolo.com/lawyers/attorney/neil-allan-rones-4934.html -neil rones neilrones [at] mac.com
Contact the Berkeley Special Education Parents Network (BSPED) http://www.bsped.org/ We are a group of families of students in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) who have special educational needs. -Jill
hello there BPN ers,
my sweet almost 5 year old is entering K in the fall of '11; which school in the central zone, in your opinion, is the best for her needs of partial hearing impairment/fine motor impairments?
She is in private speech and OT programs. Her hearing problems are not correctable, and I am struggling with BUSD to have her issues evaluated (and wow, they are not real helpful).
My little one is cheerful and motivated to learn despite her hearing loss and motor issues, and we are hopeful that there is a school in the central zone that would welcome her and her involved parents. We will happily take her to which ever school serves her needs best, and she is really excited to be going to K!
Any suggestions? gratefully, G's mom
Welcome to Kindergarten!! I think the quality and availability of services is going to be the same at all the schools, for the most part, because they're in the same district and the district determines services for an IEP. That said, my son has an IEP and goes to BAM and I have been VERY happy there. The staff has been very available and willing to work with us, we have a new Inclusion Coordinator this year who is great, and he has a district aide, actually two of them switch off working with him, and they are absolutely fantastic. Come by when we have our Kindergarten tours, you can chat with our principal and a parent volunteer, or contact me directly for more information.
If you're struggling with the district to get an evaluation, you might consider hiring an advocate or contacting DREDF at www.dredf.org. Also, join BSPED; more info here: http://www.berkeley.net/index.php?page=bsped Hope this helps! Jill
Definitely be persistent, yet respectful, with the school to get an evaluation. (as a heads up to other parents reading this, you can get an evaluation while your child is in preschool, and it is a good idea, since the waiting periods for getting the student an IEP assigned to speech therapist or other specialists can take some time. AND, they can get services even before they enter elementary school. Start ASAP with your district to avoid the kindergarten bottle neck.) For your little girl going into kindergarten in 2011, have you checked out John Muir Elementary in the south zone? and would it meet her needs? I recall that John Muir is where many of the children with hearing impairments go. If that would work for you, ask the district for her to be placed there. It may be way easier to get services on a regular basis there.
If you are still interested in central zone schools, each of them have great programs and access to special assistance. Schools are very good at keeping the kindergartners in their own area away from the big kids as needed. Some of the on site specialists change from year to year, as do the teachers, as do the principals. If you are intending to use an after school program, you can look into what is offered at each site. If you want something within walking distance, you may want to pick a closer school. Other than that, set up school visits - including John Muir, keep on the IEP folks and ask them about access to John Muir. Anon
We live in the central zone. It is a good idea to look at all the schools and rank your choices but you should be aware that you will not be able to pick which school your daughter goes to. The district will assign her to one of the schools. You can appeal the assignment after that but you can't count on getting into your top choice or even 2nd or 3rd choice. We were assigned to a school in the central zone that we did not even list as one of our choices. Also you should ask the district how special needs kids are assigned, because we found in our school a very high proportion of special needs kids compared to other schools in the zone. This may work in your favor or not, depending, but it is something you might want to know about ahead of time. anon
I would like to hear from parents with recent experiences with King MS in Berkeley for students with Learning Disabilities. I have a son with several LDs including ADHD, dysgraphia, slower processing speed and verbal fluency issues. He is super bright but getting words on a page is super difficult without loads of one-on-one help. Has anyone had recent experiences with King and accomodations for LD kids? I know that BUSD and King have a Special Ed team and that support staff / resources are supposed to be available for identified LD kids. How does this translate into real accomodations in the classroom and other learning support? Would love to hear recent experiences as I am needing to decide between keeping my child where he is and paying private tuition and extra tutoring support or moving him to King and eventually to Berkeley High. Am recently divorced so money is a real issue but do not want to make the move if the services required are not going to concretely be there for him when dealing with actual teachers, classroom situations and homework. Single Mom of 2 kids with LDs
Hi! You should consider joining BSPED, The Berkeley Special Education Parents Network, which represents families of students in the Berkeley Unified School District who have special educational needs. More info at www.berkeley.net/index.php?page=bsped Jill
I'm looking for information on special ed inclusion programs in Berkeley. My child with special needs will be entering the district next fall and we'd love feedback on other parents' experiences with the various inclusion specialists and programs in Berkeley. Our gut feeling is that we need a small school with a really supportive inclusion program where special ed teachers, regular ed teachers, parent and kids are supportive and accepting of kids with learning, physical, and speech differences. Our child will be in a regular classroom but will need a lot of support in many areas. Thanks! anon
My son is in Kindergarten at Berkeley Arts Magnet with his own 1:1 and I absolutely couldn't be happier. He's thriving there, his teachers are great, the other kids are great, I love the environment there, the other parents (for the most part) have been supportive. I like the principal, I like the Inclusion Support Teacher, and the best part is that he's actually learning. Feel free to contact me directly for more info. Jill
We have a child in inclusion at Le Conte. The inclusion specialist there is very dedicated, and the staff, especially the principle, are very supportive. It rubs off on the kids, too - my child has lots of friends who engage him on the playground or just yell hi when they see him passing, even though part of his disability is that he is nonverbal and has difficulty with eye contact, etc. I could write a book about our experience if I had the time. Please email me if you'd like to talk more on the phone. Jessica