In my little corner of the world, there have been a few interesting emails lately. I’ll change the names (except for Robin Miller). In case you’ve never heard of DREDF…I’ve been to their seminars. They’re the ones looking out for parents and kids like me and mine. Our Berkeley special-needs parent listserve got this email yesterday:

DREDF has been looking at a number Berkeley parent concerns /frustration/ complaint about inadequate educational support for our children with disabilities, eg  504 or IEP eligibility, dyslexia, aide support, behavior support and more.   If you have experienced difficulties with these or other issues that you want us to look into, please contact us at  510-644-2555 or iephelp@dredf.org.  Please mention you are a Berkeley parent and provide your phone number.  Feel free to state best times to reach you.

Robin E. Miller

Education Advocate, DREDF

Foster Youth Resources for Education (FYRE)

and Parent Information Training Center (PTI)

Response 1:

Years of B.S. from BUSD, from not having an occupational therapist for our 3-4 year-old for 5 months one year and never telling us (we only found out when it was time for the IEP and the new OT comes and says he has never met my kid and that the prior OT left 6 months earlier. Presumably,they were never going to tell us.) Telling us our kid would have “staff supervision” during unstructured times like recess and lunch (as part of his IEP), then showing up and finding out they meant that there was a playground monitor for all the kids (just a regular staffer, not assigned in any way to my son’s case or individualized to his case or familiar with his autism issues or his IEP.) The latest charming move, telling me that my second son only has a medical diagnosis of autism, not an educational diagnosis. He is 5, BTW. Making us hire a lawyer just to get our insurance funded ABA providers, who are also finger-printed licensed employees of and NPAs who contract with BUSD, and who come on BUSD campuses  for other children, to be allowed to observe our older son at school, since they might “fall and break their ankle” and sue the school. Even when we offered to sign a liability waiver. Then, two years and $1500 later, claiming that this was never an issue and “of course” they were welcome to observe at school. To my face Elaine Eger said that one. I was floored. I’m like, Elaine, do you not remember the two special IEP extension meetings we had, when I had to bring a lawyer, etc, just to resolve this single issue alone? The fact that they made a big deal of my 5 year-olds hyperlexia, but totally failed to mention that, while sitting there cooperatively describing three dimensional shapes, he simply peed all over the floor because,” “I didn’t know they had a bathroom.” (We were in a pre-school for the testing). Or giving him an ADOS score of 1, when everyone else gives him a 12. And only testing him on shapes, letters, numbers, and holding a pencil, not on social inference, pragmatic speech, of any of the actual defects in autism.

At least our older son’s resource teacher is great, and kind of just works with him regardless of the B.S. IEPs that the district Special Ed managers create.
Tina – if you are still on this listserv, please write to them about your experiences. Our friend with an autistic daughter with many issues, whom BUSD insisted just had math learning disability. She changed districts and the differences in attitude and services was apparently amazing.
I have talked to parents in several other districts who are just floored at the B.S. that BUSD has pulled or attempted. They seem to be entirely focused on cutting services. Our resource teacher is clearly working way hours more than she is getting paid for, none of them included in the IEP.
Nicole Walter and Penny Schafer are the biggest criminals. They should both be fired.
That’s my opinion.
Molly

 Response 2:

I’m still here Molly and will be a complaint in any class action against BUSD. I’m sorry you’re still struggling with Kay and Elaine and all the BUSD SpEd department bullshit. Don’t forget Lisa Graham in all this. It’s systematic and now that we are at a new district it’s so oblivious. Everything we fought for in Berkeley for nearly 5 years – we got in the first 30 days in our new district.
My daughter was in Busd since age 3. When we left she was 8yrs old and still a none reader. 3 months away from Busd she’s regaining self esteem, feeling confident, and proudly starting to read and write. BUSD’s treatment of our special needs kids is criminal. Watching my autistic daughter in an appropriate sdc placement, with an Aba trained well educated 1:1 aide makes me happy cry. She comes home telling me she thinks she can learn now, that’s she’s not stupid like she used to think- etc etc.
If your kids situation stinks- fight it. You ‘re not crazy- they are.
There are some parents that are happy with SpEd- good for you, your kids must be able to access their education within the few options BUSD offers. For the rest of our kids they also have a right to FAPE and BUSD is grossly out of compliance.
Tina
Response 3:
From my elementary school experience I can also state unequivocally BUSD Special Ed office was out of compliance. I have always wondered why DREDF and lawyers have not led a class action suit. I was once told that there are not enough similarities between our kids or they have different diagnoses. Frankly, I  have a hard time believing that — the failure to not do enough for most of our kids is a similarity  –no matter what the diagnosis.  I understand some people are scared to speak out but I believe the more people speak out the better our chances of changing things not only for our own children but all the children in this district who deserve better. Document everything, tape all meetings with 24 hour prior notice, write letters, check your child’s special education files, write down comments that are said to you and when they were said. It is a sad state. The special ed teachers need more and ongoing training. What can we learn from other districts? Why can they do it and we can’t?
Does anyone know the new director of services, Daphne?
Michelle
Response 4:
We were finally sick of the whole thing and finally left BUSD for private school in 12th grade. Hopefully the self-esteem damage and stress are behind us.  It’s deplorable how “liberal” Berkeley treats kids and families. As many have mentioned, some of their practices are illegal and/or immoral.

Jill

Response 5:

We have had many similar issues, also all documented. Please feel free to contact me and I wi send you a separate message, Emily

Response 6:

Daphne is cut from the same cloth as Nicole and Penny. Deny, change the subject, lose documents, forget to send documents, deny everything and of course never receive your letters, messages or emails.  They must all be trained how to give as little as possible to kids while basically covering their asses. 

Tina

…Hmmm…and now here I am with my little snowflake two weeks in and I’m already seeing red flags. Jinkies. Wifey and I have very seriously discussed moving (within the East Bay) and these emails are what we might call further evidence. To be continued.

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