IEP/504 in the Oakland School District

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • 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

    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 Recommendation for OUSD

    (2 replies)

    Happy New Year. I'm seeking a likable but firm advocate for my daughter's upcoming IEP for OUSD. I appreciate any leads and advice in the area.


    Hi There,

    I don’t have any recs for an advocate, unfortunately, but I highly recommend attending a DREDF workshop to understand all your parental rights. could also contact them to see if they have any advocate information.

    Best of luck!

    Jennifer Callahan in Oakland.  She's a SPED parent herself!

  • We just received our son's school assignment for kindergarten and we are now trying to navigate the process. He is high functioning ASD and has an IEP, but we deferred placement until Kindergarten as he is getting services at his current private preschool through our insurance. The school assignment we received for Kindergarten through the normal enrollment process was our neighborhood school, While we are considering it, we think that it might not be the best place for him socially as most of his friends will be going to the school 1 zone over which was our #1 preferred school. Additionally the neighborhood school is not associated with the afterschool program at his current daycare which our preferred school is (we feel this would provide some continuity for him).

    I have also heard that the IEP placement for Kindergarten is totally separate from school assignment, so yet another thing to try to figure out. Does anyone have experience with trying to get into a non-neighborhood school with a child that has an IEP? If by some stroke of luck that we made it off of the waitlist and into the preferred school, would we then be rejected because they cannot offer services?

    I have heard that I need to start the appeals process early, however I don't even know where to go to find the form. Any thoughts or advice if you have been through this process?


    Is your child's current IEP through OUSD? If so, they should have assigned him separately through PEC (unless that has also changed this year, but I haven't heard that it has). I would call and ask about this, and if he hasn't yet been assessed through OUSD, this is the time to do it. There is definitely a chance that your neighborhood school may not offer the services he needs, and an equally good chance that the nearby school won't either (or that, if it does, you may not get a spot there)--but you need to know exactly which services and what setting he needs for that process to start. PEC will place you based on where the services are available; it will not necessarily be your first choice or your closest school, though they do seem to take this into consideration where possible. There is no appeals process for general OUSD assignments this year--it's all online waitlists now (happily!) But your child's assignment process will be handled separately independently of this since there are limited spots in the ASD inclusion programs. Good luck and hang in there!


    I would call/drop-in and speak to the AP or Principal directly regarding your concerns, at the school you want your child to attend. Ideally you would speak to someone in admin, the school counselor, and the possible service provider at once. They will be able to help you navigate the proper way to deal with your situation, and also give you any advice about who to talk to, and what sort of turnover/response to expect. 

    Good luck!

    Thanks so much! My son’s IEP is through OUSD but we declined the TK offer and deferred placement until Kindergarten. I will follow up with PEC (and I’m so new to this that I had to look up the acronym!).

     Thanks again!

    I’d encourage you to attend CAC for Special Ed meetings. Childcare and dinner is generally available. It would give you an opportunity to get to know Special Ed administrators and ask them questions. They post monthly meeting details on Facebook. Also, you may want to join this Facebook group and ask a broader audience specifically about IEP/Special Ed in OUSD:

  • Hello, My daughter is going to be entering OUSD for kindergarten. We think she has an issue with sensory processing particularly sound (maybe hyperacusis and phonophobia) as well as general anxiety. We are going to be taking her to an audiologist to determine hearing and tolerance levels soon, but I don't really know where to go from there. How do I start the process of letting the school know that she might need extra consideration? Is there some specific department and phone number I should call? From what I can gather, any developmental pediatrician, OT, or other is going to cost a bunch. Should I see if OUSD will provide assessments or do you think it is worth it to go through an independent resource? Would OUSD be wiling to assess for hearing processing issues?

    OUSD is required to assess in any and all areas of suspected disability. Don't let them tell you otherwise. And if you aren't satisfied with their assessment, you are entitled to an independent assessment that OUSD should pay for if theirs isn't sufficient to address your child's disability. For the independent, they will give you a list of their OTs but you can choose your own OT, which I would recommend. If you have not already put in writing your request for evaluation for special education services, you should do it asap because there are timelines and the sooner the better. They will take as much time as they can, usually. A great source for parent education on how to do all this is DREDF @ They have sample letters you can use. Best of luck and if you need any guidance feel free to contact me, I have a child with disabilities in OUSD and I believe parents shouldn't have to keep reinventing the wheel so if I can help, I will.

    I don't know the specifics about this particular condition but I would contact OUSD right away and request an assessment for an IEP for your daughter. The person to contact before your child is actually an OUSD student is Silvia Nuno at Burbank Preschool in Oakland (510) 729-7771. She will have you write a letter stating your concerns and provide proof of residency and then they are actually required by law to do an initial intake within 15 days and then an assessment within 60 days. There's also a Nolo Press book about getting an IEP for your child in California if you want to know more about your rights. Good luck!

Parent Reviews

RE: ADHD evaluation with Kaiser ()

Our kid was diagnosed through Kaiser’s group process, and they did a very thorough evaluation.  Kaiser offers group informational sessions for parents about ADHD and medication options.  Both sessions were worthwhile.  ADHD medication is very expensive without a healthcare plan, so unless you have an alternate health plan it is worth going through the Kaiser process.

You don’t have to wait to get a diagnosis to get started on the school support system (504 or IEP).  DREDF offers free informational courses and has sample letters to write to your school to begin the evaluation process.  The school has a separate formal process to evaluate whether your kid qualifies for a 504 plan or IEP. 

We are in OUSD, and we had to go through an appeals process just to get a 504 plan.  The process was very slow, but we did finally get some support for our kid.  

Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews


OUSD turned down IEP request - now what?

Feb 2013

I feel like a sucker... our son has had a 504 since 5th grade. He's now in middle school, diagnosed with Aspberger;s, and the 504 is just not enough. I've requested an IEP but OUSD has turned us down. Do I now sue? Everyday is crap shoot with my son - some days he's the model student, but most days it's a nightmare - he'll refuse/forget to do work (including tests!), homework is lied about (not done, or if done, not handed in). argues with the teachers, doesn't listen to instructions. All his teachers acknowledge that he's very intelligent, capable of more challenging work, clearly absorbs info ''somehow'' and often scores 90% or above work he decides to do. But he's never been on the Honor Roll, gets Fs regularly in all subjects for all the things not done. I've always convinced myself that if I just communicate more with the teachers and be the ''nice'' parent, things would work out. Ha! High school is looming, and I hear nothing but awful stories about trying to get IEP during high school... Help! So Exhausted

DDo 2 things: Immediately contact DREDF-The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and then get yourself a copy of the Disability Rights Handbook. If you need a great lawyer for this kind of stuff, we successfully used Miller, Washington and Kim. OUSD will do their best to give you nothing unless they see you are knowledgeable and serious. Shouldn't be that way, but it is. Been there.

Contact Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund -- and speak to a parent advocate. The difference between a 504 and an IEP is the first provides accommodations, the second means the school needs to provide services -- that's why they are fighting with you about this. However if your son needs more support with advocacy you can get him what he needs. The DREDF parent training and information number is: 800-348-4232 anon

Your child has a disability and he is entitled to receive a FAPE (free appropriate public education), under the IDEA and Section 504, either through an IEP or Section 504. If you've requested an IEP for your child and the school refuses, you should be given a reason. You can always file for due process, but it's costly. I recommend that you call the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in San Francisco, which enforces federal laws prohibiting disability discrimination. OCR has someone answering calls from the public during regular business hours, and you can get some advice and/or referral. (415) 486-5555. anon


HELP w/ Oakland Middle Schools and IEP (OUSD)

Feb 2011


I could really use some recommendations and guidance with finding an appropriate middle school for a child with many challenges. This child is behind academically, and has an IEP. He is struggling particularly in math and writing, however, his biggest challenges are behavioral. He is very disruptive in class and has an extremely difficult time keeping focused and completing tasks. He has been assessed and an IEP has been developed, but he will be switching to a middle school next year, likely within OUSD. I would love to hear other parents' opinions and experiences with middle schools in OUSD. What school/s do you think can best assist a child with these needs? What environment? Teachers? Class size? etc.

We're at Claremont and our child has a 504, so similar issues. It's been okay, but mostly thanks to his house teachers. They've been really on board and communicative and accommodating. Literally, from the first day of school we've had feedback and understanding. The OUSD psychologist is, well, overstretched (also works at Oakland Tech) and there are a LOT of kids with serious issues (not only at Claremont but all OUSD middle schools). She does what she can. You do have to be on top of things, be the advocate, establish communication, work as a team. All the things I assume you're doing anyway.

Middle school is a difficult transition for all, as I'm sure you've been told and know yourself, but for kids like ours - it is indeed more so. Claremont's other plus is that it is smaller, and some class sizes have been unusually SMALL this year (nice for those lucky kids!)That's going to change, I'm told. But all the OUSD schools face the same budget issues and hit and miss on teachers, staff, etc.

No school will be perfect, but keep working with the teachers directly. They have tough jobs, but if you prove that you are on their side and want to work with them as best you can, you'll have a better experience. Elena


IEP process at OUSD

Jan 2008


Anyone out there who has gone through an IEP with Oakland? Our child really needs help with stimming and other social skills (he is probably high functioning autism/asperger's - and will be starting Kindergarten in the fall), but they are saying they don't do this sort of thing, but this will interrupt his and classmates' ability to learn. He received these services in another state last year. Anyone have luck getting this type of therapy through the district? Would also love to talk to someone who could help us with the IEP language and goals. Any suggestions for novice or professionals on this front would be great. anon

Call the OUSD Diagnostic Center at 879-3070 and request an evaluation. Mention your concerns about stimming, socialization, and language. anon

I am sorry you are already getting the run around from the OUSD and your child has not even started Kindergarten.

Perhaps the District is telling you this since your child is not yet enrolled. Not sure. However, you can request that your child be assessed by the school district by a psychologists and an Occupational Therapist. The psychologist could diagnose your child with Aspergers if warranted since you suspect it and an OT can address the sensory/stimming issues.

Another alternative is to have your child assessed privately or through the Regional Center of the East Bay (510) 383-1200. You can also check out their website,

Based on what you said, an occupational therapist sounds like what you need. the therapist can address the stimming issues and provide you with strategies that will help curb the stimming or at least reduce it so that your child can learn. The therapist would write goals for and consult with the classroom teacher.

There are many pediatric OT's in the area. Also, you can pick up this book at Nolo Press in Berkeley, A Parents Guide to an IEP. Good luck. anonymous

Hi my Asperger son has been in the OUSD system since age 3.5 yrs so I have some familiarity with the system. It sounds like you want to send your child to your local school in a general ed Kindergarten (with support) which should be possible. Is this what you want? What has the district offered as a placement? I ended up sending my son to an integrated Kindergarten at Tilden elementary and then to the inclusion program at Carl B Munck (where he is currently in 2nd grade). The thing is that Munck is our neighborhood school anyway. I think it is always considered a valid position to want your child to attend your local school but the district would prefer to group kids at schools so there is more support staff available. I suspect you will get many responses to your post. Laura

I've cut this message to the bone to make the 2000 char limit. OUSD relevant website resources (not much) are at .....

  Brief summary of the process:  1. You request an assessment, through the assessment team at  Programs for Exceptional Children - call 879.3070 to ask for a  diagnostic assessment.  2. The assessment intake person will do a phone screening with  you to hear what's going on.  3. Assuming that they agree there are issues - and it does help  to have a referral from a doctor, a preschool teacher, or  someone else - they will schedule a meeting with you for more  detail to figure out what kind of testing to do. You have to  sign to test permission form in order for them to do anything.  4. They test your child in the areas agreed.  5. They set up an IEP meeting to review the test results with  you. Based on the results, they will recommend a school  placement and course of action. It may be your local school  with support, or it may be a specialized placement depending on  what they think your child needs to be able to learn the  curriculum successfully.  

Confusing? Sure. Horrible? No. Once you learn the process, it's no worse than open enrollment when you want to change health plans.

Please come to the Oakland CAC meetings. The Community Advisory Council is the Oakland Unified's special ed parent group. There you will have direct access to staff, including the Director, from the special ed dept. You will also meet many parents from the district who have become proficient in advocating for their children. It's held the 1st Monday of every month at 314 E 10th St. from 7 to 9pm. You can also join the CAC mailing list by emailing cacoakland[at] Nancy

OUSD is required to assess your child within 60 days of a written request. It looks like you have an excellent case for an OT assessment for possible sensory integration issues that will impact your child's ability to learn based on his stimming. If Oakland does not honor your request for an assessment it becomes a due process issue. For more information, you can contact parent advocacy groups like the Community Advisory Council (cacoakland [at] which meets with the director of spec. ed. the first Monday of every month, DREDF( or the Family Resource Network ( Good luck! anon

We have been through the IEP process with the OUSD--it's an uphill battle. Please don't give up, document everything, follow up phone conversations with e-mails (so you have it in writing). I can't speak to your specific issues, but for the IEP process here are two great resources: (book) ''Nolo's IEP Guide: Learning Disabilities'', and (online) for their ''Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR)'' manual. If your child qualifies for an IEP or a 504 plan, the kinds of services provided should match the needs of the child. Good luck! anon


District says daughter doesn't qualify for IEP (OUSD)

April 1999


We just met with the representatives from the Oakland school district to get the results of my 11 year old daughter's IEP testing. We were told that she does not qualify for services, although her test scores range from 3% to 55% with most below 25%. They don't see the "point spread" that would qualify her for services as a learning disabled student. They offered to do assessment to qualify her for services as a Severely Emotionally Disturbed child, which would qualify her for counseling as well as educational support. They said it was an educational diagnosis, not a psychological one. Understandably, we do not want to go this route, because it is not true in her case and we do not want her to be stigmatized this way. She does have social problems with other kids because she does not read social cues, which we feel is part of her nonverbal learning disability, and she does get frustrated and angry when dealing with homework, but she is not severely emotionally disturbed. Her teacher, who also attended the meeting, afterward said to us, "This is bull...." She is in a private school now, which is really hurting us financially, but to receive any services from the district, she would have to transfer to a public middle school. With all the learning and social problems she has, I am very dubious about her ability to adjust and cope in a large, public school. We are in the process of deciding on our response and course of action. We have an appointment with CASE, an advocacy organization for special ed., we are contacting the psychologist who led her social skills group, and the tutor she has been working with for the last two months. Does anyone have any other ideas or successful strategies they have used with the school district?

There is a company called "The Regional Center of the East Bay" located in Oakland on Hegenberger Rd. This center is devoted to helping people who have disabilities ranging from ADHD to extreme behavior disorders or physically challenging disabilities. Call them and tell them of your daughter's diagnosis and see if she qualifies to have a case worker assigned to her from their company. They have a trememdous amount of resources available and are even able to pay for services (if you qualify). They work in tandem with the school district and your case worker should then be able to coordinate services for your child.

As I'm sure you have already noticed, you must do a great deal of advocating for your child. The services are available but you must seek them out even when you are dealing with someone who is supposedly providing the service to you. You can e-mail me personally if you have further questions, I work at a center for people with disabilities and can hopefully help you find some shortcuts in the system. Mike and Linda

In response to the parents who were having difficulty securing services for their child, please contact the Learning Disabilities Association, located in San Leandro, California. They can most likely hook you up with the support you might be seeking. In addition, you might want to ask them about how to join their organization and can visit their website as well at

i have a son in berkeley unified who recieves special ed assistance. he is learning disabled, but has another (very real) diagnosis as well, and we've been able to get him what he needs because of that other diagnosis. it's an absolute disgrace that parents so often have to fight for what is rightfully theirs, but at times we do. CASE is a great resourse. another might be dr. brad berman. he's been very helpful to our son as far as treatment, as he's been a tremendous support to me as i've worked my way through the various challenges that present themselves to me. he's a developmental/behavioral pediatrician, previously associated with children's hospital, currently in private practice in walnut creek - 925-279-3480. he attended our kindergarten iep and was impressive as hell. not a guy most school personnel want to take on. hope he can help.

The Regional Center of the East Bay was recommended for assistance with obtaining special education services, but regional centers only serve people with developmental disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and autism. (A system of private nonprofit regional centers serves the whole state of California, in case anyone outsisde the East Bay is interested.) I recommend contacting a special education lawyer. There are several in the area, because they are so badly needed. One of the best is Sarah Clarke, who has an office in San Francisco. Susan

Do not allow your daughter to be put in the SED program (severely emotionally disturbed). I had a grandson who we put into that program simply because we thought it would give him better assistance as the classes are very small and since he had come from a group home prior to living with us they could use that to get him to qualify even though they said he was not SED. Once labeled SED it is on their record for all the rest of school. They are sent to special schools which cost the district $120.00 per day and they do nothing but simply baby sit these students who are SED and can't make it in regular classes. We did home schooling with him in which they reviewed the work and gave him his grades. They did nothing. Our grandson also does not get social cues - his problem is from auto-ped brain injury accident. Did your therapist/counselor seem to have any success in the area of teaching them any social cues. If so would you please let me know specifically who it is so I might contact them. I realize that a private school is very expensive in some cases. We subsequently put our grandson in a private school which has full day classes as well as a home school program which they supervise etc. The full day school runs around $350.00 per month I believe, and the home school (where they go two days a week) is about half of that. They each work at their own speed and the classroom setting is very quiet which really seemed to help. The teachers are very caring to children with special problems.

Thank you to all who responded to my request for advice on Special Ed and the SED label. We have been following up on all the leads, but are still stymied. CASE has told us we do not have a case with the school district based on learning disabilities, Although her deficits are significant, they do not meet the state standard for services. According to CASE, our only avenue for services would be a 504 plan, which I am sure would not provide her enough assistance to cope in a public middle school. We meet next week with the district about the SED qualification, which we still do not want, nor does it seem to come with appropriate services. Most schools now have the learning specialists go into the class rooms, but because of her ADHD she is very distractible and needs to be in a quieter setting, especially when acquiring new information. Only one middle school in our area of Oakland has the pull out classes she needs, and that is Edna Brewer. We are very leery of sending her there, but wanted to know if anyone has any information about the school. We will probably have to keep her in the private school she currently attends and borrow against our retirement to get her the counseling and supplemental tutoring she requires. One person mentioned sending a grandchild to a private day school that also has a home school component. I would be very interested in knowing which school that is and where it is.

This is for the person who said CASE advised her that her daughter would not qualify for special ed. Although CASE does great things for many parents with special ed issues with school districts, in my personal experience I have found them to be quite conservative and unnecessarily pesimistic. They told me I did not have a chance of winning a dispute with my school district, but I went ahead with a due process hearing and won everything I asked for. I think that two organizations that take a more assertive approach are Parents Helping Parents (the San Jose office) and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. in Oakland (PAI generally only helps developmentally delayed clients, but they have *great* literature that anyone can buy about special ed rights). So don't give up yet- contact these two organizations. You also might try Family Resource Network at Bananas in Oakland. Finally, you can get *a lot* under section 504. I recently attended a seminar put on by the San Jose Parents Helping Parents on section 504 (I forget the speaker's name), but he told us all kinds of things you can get under that statute. He has a website and answers questions from parents. Call them to get his name. Good luck.

The private school which also has a home schooling program is Calvary Christian Center, 4892 San Pablo Dam Road, El Sobrante, Calif., 510-222-1700. Each child works at their own speed. Each subject has workbooks which are at the appropriate level for the student (which has been determined by testing). If the child is behind their grade level in any subject they are given the workbooks which go back and fill in any gaps they might have and bring them up to appropriate grade level. The classes are small and QUIET which many students need in order to concentrate and do their best. My other grandson is attending this year as a full time student (he was a home schooling student at first) and he lives in Vallejo and commutes as do many of the other students. He was near failing at the middle school in Vallejo but since he has transferred to this school is making A's and B's and just loves the school. His sister is insisting that she be allowed to go there next year as she does not want to go to the middle school in Vallejo. We have seen this grandchild's self-esteem boosted back up since he is so happy in school.

For the person requesting special education. This is a very difficult thing to get. Our youngest son is autistic and we had to have a hearing to get him special education. We used a lawyer named Katherine Doble (sp?) who is famous for working with special education cases and we got what we wanted, but it was very difficult and when our other son was diagnosed with a learning disability we just created a program ourselves and paid for it ourselves. It is tax deductible. It sounds like the advice you got is probably right, but you might want to check with Katherine because she has a very good sense of what it is possible to get from the district so that you don't waste your time. I am sorry that I can't be more optimistic.