IEP & 504 process in Oakland Public Schools

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.