Special Education Information for Los Angeles Unified School District
Norma and Andy have four children.  Andres, Cui Cani and fraternal twins - Rey and Reyna.  Rey and Reyna were premature babies and required added attention and care. A Cesarean operation was performed due to Reyna being in breech position and Rey having cranial pressure due to the extreme contractions pushing him through the birth canal. 

As per California Educational Code, Norma and Andy had the twins assessed for learning abilities at age 3 at their area elementary school.  Reyna was diagnosed with speech delay and Rey with extreme developmental delays. Reyna and Rey became eligible for services at preschool age and later joined the Special Ed circus of L.A.U.S.D.  Their eligibilities were categorized as Aphasia for Reyna and Rey with organic retardation.

Rey has since been a client with Harbor Regional.  Reyna graduated from Carson High School in 2008 and is currently enrolled at Cal State Northridge.  Rey left Banning High School when he reached 21 years of age. Norma and Andy have learned to deal with the special education process for 17 years and are now dealing with Harbor Regional which is another headache.  They are hoping that any of their personal experiences can be of comfort to any parent caught up in the I.E.P. process. 

  Special Education Information / Advocacy

Hi.  I'm Norma.  I am the mother of Rey & Reyna.  I am now writing to you because I strongly feel that the only way I can truly express my concerns and  provide you with any useful support is to make sure that you feel I am one of you.  If you are reading this web page, I guess that you are also a parent of a special needs child.  I only hope that what I am sharing with you helps you understand your role as parent and the necessity of now becoming an advocate for your child.

I am expressing not only my viewpoint, but also that of my husband, Andy.  If your child is fortunate to have both parents dealing with the IEP process, that your child has a stronger chance of not slipping through the special education crack.  Unfortunately, statistic have shown that many times relationships do suffer when the stress and pressure of dealing with all the mumbo jumbo needed for a special child and only one parent or even the grandparent takes control of the process. 

Regardless of the situation, I am here to outline the experiences my husband & I have endured while dealing with the Los
Angeles Unified School District for close to two decades.  Also, check out Matthew Asner's facebook causes site.  This could be a needed link to get parents organized and vocal .  Facebook Causes
                                                 IMPORTANT - INDEPENDENT MONITOR

Before I get into any of my own personal viewpoint of the learning situation of our ( yours & mine ) children, I need to make sure you know the history of L.A.U.S.D. and its' support of students of special needs. This is the part were I get into the legal arena of this process.  This is pertaining to an important court mandate now still being enforced today.   The consent decree came in 1996 after a civil-rights lawsuit was filed three years earlier on behalf of Chandra Smith and others. The lawyer for Smith, then 17, said the LAUSD violated federal law by allowing her to fail 10th grade twice before conducting tests to determine that she had the academic skills of a second-grader.

The Office of the Independent Monitor (OIM) Is the oversight agency of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s special education program.  The Independent Monitor was appointed in May, 2003 after a modification of the original consent decree, The Independent Monitor is responsible for determining whether LAUSD meets compliance with the Modified Consent Decree and special education law, by June 30, 2006. ( The District is still working on compliance.)

The Modified Consent Decree initially established twelve agreed-upon outcomes. During the course of the 2003-2004, the OIM provided an analysis of the six outstanding outcomes, that contributed to the development of six new agreed-upon outcomes. All outcomes are designed to meet compliance with the federal special education law of IDEA.

                          Chandra Smith Modified Consent Degree is Fading out!!! 

So, what does this all mean?  It means that the District was caught not educating students with learning disabilities and now 16 years later, is is still trying to do its' job.  The Independent Monitor, Frederick Weintraub, has just passed on and I am unsure what will happen with the Parent council sinse I no longer have Rey enrolled at a district school.    The basic purpose of the Parents' Council was to advise the Independent Monitor on issues relevant to families of children with disabilities who are eligible to receive services from LAUSD.  This was one contact that was so important for parents to be able to voice their concerns, but this will no longer be available. .  At the end of each meeting, there is time for public comments.  This would be the opportunity for you to have your questions and/or comments heard by, in my opinion, the head honchos in the special education circle of LAUSD. Please visit the website of the Independent Monitor and get on the contact list. The Independent Monitors website has not been updated for a while so it can have misinformation posted.  But the new studies are always being posted and it is important to read what is being done by this office.

The Parent Council shall be meeting every other month starting October.  As specified in the Modified Consent Decree, the membership of the Parents' Council shall include up to 30 parents, yes, 30 parents of children with disabilities.   However, the Council will no longer be accepting any new parents.  This is a disservice to the children of special needs.  This recruitment process in now being changed.   There is a new independent monitor overseeing the council - Dr. David Rostetter.  His qualifications are listed on the OIM website.  I have now met him, but you should make an effort if your child is dealing with LAUSD's special education department.  Meetings are now held only four times a year.
                     If you have any question, please contact me and I can refer you to a present council member 
   NEXT MEETING..........March 4th         SIQUIENTE JUNTA...........4 de marzo



  Complaint Response Unit/Parent Resource Network   ( CRU/PRN )

In October, 1996, The Parent Resource Network ( PRN ) was established as a pilot program per the Chanda Smith Consent Decree.  In January 1997, the PRN telephone helpline was set up primarily to serve parents of children with special needs.  Now it has "changed" the way it handles complaints.  Instead of case management, the PRN has shifted to one of facilitation.  In the spring of 2001, a new computerized system electronically transmits an incoming call to any one of the special education coordinators in each of the eight districts.

In July, 2003, The Modified Consent Decree establishes the Complaint Response Unit ( CRU ) under the oversight of the Office of the Senior Deputy Superintendent, Educational Services.

What does this all mean?  It means that the purpose of the above office is to give the District an opportunity to resolve parent complaints without the need for the parents to resort to external complaints and due process mechanisms.  This doesn't mean that the District will solve the problem, but if you call this office, the individuals working here are very knowledgeable in your rights and hopefully, will provide you with information that can benefit your child's education.  This office will direct your complaint to the appropriate District office, but as I learned, the problem I have is usually with this same individuals.  This office will work their best to "respond" to your complaint within 5 working days, but they can take over 30 days to respond.  The response may not be the answer or help you were hoping for, but by calling this office, you have documented the fact that there is a problem with your child's I.E.P. and this fact will shown the Independent Monitor that all is not well in DistrictLand.

So,PLEASE, CALL THEM.  Voice your complaint!!!  Document your concern!!!  Involve this office to educate you.  Know that you are not alone and that these individuals are there to be helpful.

                                                                    333 South Beaudry Avenue, 17th Floor
                              Phone      ( 800 ) 933 - 8133       FAX  (213 ) 241 - 7550          TTY  (213 ) 241 - 2511   

For what its' worth, this office also holds monthly informational meetings every second Wednesday of each month in Los Angeles at Lanterman High School   2328 St. James Place  90007.  This school in near Adams Blvd. off of the I-110.  Unfortunately, the meetings are held in the morning - 9:30 - 12:00 PM.  If you are a working parent, it is not the best time to attend.  However, after voicing our concerns that working parents can't attend, the District has yet to offer any sessions at a later time.  Go Figure!


email me

O.k., now, I'm almost to the technical stuff.  But before I share my recommendations on dealing with advocating for your child, I want to share another important group that has helped Andy & I meet other parents in a more social setting.  We were fortunate to learn about the Exceptional Kids Parent Teacher Organization for children enrolled in the Los Angeles County of Education.  This group has helped our son, Rey, socialize and enjoy music, dancing and conversation with kids from all around the Los Angeles area.  Starting in October, this group has sponsors dances for students 14 years & older.  The teachers and parents organize this event.  The cost is minimal - $1.00 to get in.  Food is reasonable - everything is 50 cents.  And the music is  by DJ Don.  You can bring you're own music if you have a special tune you want to dance to.  The group favorites are YMCA, Macarena. Who Let the Dogs Out? and anything by Michael Jackson.   We are learning Whip Nae Nae.

This event has motivated Rey to earn this weekly reward as part of his behavioral plan.  He enjoys the hot dogs.  He finally won the dance contest!!!.  All ages attend and all levels of abilities are participating. 



                                              Please check out their website www.ekpto.org and try to make this fun dance!! 
                                                                    or contact them at mail@ekpto.net        

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                                  Norma's & Andy's Recommendations

Now, let's get down to business........Remember, everything I am writing is coming straight from my own experiences and these are recommendations that I personally feel have helped make dealing with the bureaucracy of LAUSD for IEP services somewhat less stressful.  Nothing can ever remove all the stress we parents face to advocate for our children, but we at least can be organized and go into an IEP meeting taking control of the agenda and documenting our concerns.


You have a suspicion, you kinda think - maybe- your child is a little different.  You put it aside.  You kinda figure s/he will outgrow it.  It is only developmental...........QUIT IT!!!!!!!!

Don't second guess yourself.  State law allows for a parent to request an educational evaluation of your child when s/he turns 3 years old or older. What should you do?
  • Go to your home ( neighborhood ) school and give the school principal a letter requesting an assessment. The District has 15 days to provide you with a written response to your request for assessment. If the District declines your request, the district must give you a reason.  If the District agrees to your request, it will provide you with a proposed assessment plan containing a copy of the notice of parent rights.
  • You have 15 days to approve the assessment plan.
  • Upon  the the district's receipt of your written approval, the district has 60 - yes - 60 school days to complete the assessment, determine if your child is eligible for services and conduct an IEP team meeting.  This time frame does not include summer, weekends and holidays.  So, the sooner you get this process rolling, the sooner you will have a concrete answer to your concerns. 

Then, TALK TO YOUR PEDIATRICIAN. We knew that Rey was developing very slowly.  He did not begin to stand up until 2 years of age.  He was able to speak about 10 words.  His fine motor ability was weak.  We knew Reyna was having issues with pronunciation because of her tongue placement.  We requested an infancy evaluation of progress with our pediatrician at Kaiser.  He had already voiced concerns.  He referred us to Harbor Regional.  You will find a Regional Center in your home area.    We had the twins assessed at Harbor Regional, Torrance ( www.harborrc.org )   when they were 2.  If you are very concerned about your child, go to a Regional Center and request an assessment.  The more input you can receive about your child, the more information you will have to make solid decisions.  Rey was evaluated and became a client with Harbor Regional in 1991.  He was enrolled at Adams Preschool in Torrance. Reyna was assessed with Aphasia at 3 years old at our neighborhood school and attended a Special Ed class with Rey at Van Deene Elementary.

Once an assessment is completed, you will know what path lies ahead of you.  Our path with the twins was "Get Set and Go."
Andy and I had our concerns confirmed.  Reyna had a speech articulation delay and Rey had severe developmental delays.  Our path was now set to take the advocacy road. 


Now that you know that your child will require an Individual Educational Plan ( IEP ) for his/her learning style.  What is the first thing you do?.....ORGANIZE!!!!!!!!

A) Get a notebook with plastic sleeves and color-coded file folders.  KEEP EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!. FILE EVERYTHING AWAY!!!!!!! 
  • Know what it is.
  • Put assessments in a green folder. 
  • Keep IEPs in a red folder.
  • Put other important documentation in another,  Report cards, handwritten notes, child's classwork, etc............

Make sure there is a date.  Put a post-it on it to summarize what the key points are that you want to remember about that paperwork.  We had two plastic tubs.  One for Reyna and one for Rey.  Every time we got any paperwork, we put it in the appropriate tub and filed it away later that week or month.  We had over twenty 4 & 5  inch notebooks with all the documentation for Rey and Reyna.  We always had a current and updated notebook with the recent IEP and letters from District.


C )  LOG ALL PHONE CALLS.  Make a sheet to log all calls to anyone regarding your child's learning. Log all calls even if the person you need to speak to is not in.  Get the name of the person you are speaking to.  Your log needs to document:
  • Date & Time call was made
  • To whom you spoke
  • What did you discuss

D )  Start a TIMELINE &/or journal to keep a historical lay-out of your child's educational dilemma for each school year.  Start this NOW!!!!  I sat down and went through all of Rey's papers and documented his IEP process six years after the fact and ended up with twenty pages of facts and events.  It will lay out all facts with dates and phone numbers:
  • District,  Superintendent,  Special Education Director, 
  • Local District Special Education Office, Special Education Personel
  • School -District Principal ( who is the person responsible for your child's education ), Vice Principal - Special Education (APE IS), Special Education Teacher, General Education Teachee, Teacher Assistants and Adult Assistant, Resource Teacher
  • School Services Personel - Psychologist, Speech, Adaptive P.E., Occupational Therapists
  • Regional Case worker ( if applicable )
  • Assessments and so on and so on

The IEP road is long and winding and the best way to not get lost in it is to have a solid map in front of you.  This timeline will be your map and provide you with easy access to all individuals who have a responsibility to educate your child.

Start  A - B - C - D NOW!!!!!  


Welcome to the IEP Circus.  What can you expect?  (www.rcocdd.com )
  • You can expect to take a couple of hours off of work for the meeting.  State law requires that your employer needs to let you attend a conference pertaining to your child's education.  Your employer, however, does not need to pay you for this time. 
  • You can expect to "reconvene".  For every single IEP meeting we have had for Rey and Reyna, we were never able to go over every single goal, assessment, discussion, services and comments in the two hours allotted.  We had to meet again and sometimes, a third time.  The more thorough you are with the meeting, the more understanding you will have of your child's progress and educational needs. 
  • You can expect the meeting to be one-sided. The IEP team is suppose to consist of a "Team".  This team is suppose to work together for the education of your child.  However, it has been our experience that LAUSD officials are not team players and are not looking out for our children. But, work with the team in a calm and respectful manner no matter how frustrated you may become.  Keep communication open with the team.
  • You can expect a surprise.  The District always has some surprise for us.  Maybe it is someone they forgot to tell us would be at the meeting.  All members who attend should be written on the IEP notification.  Maybe they have the evaluation or assessment in their hand that they want to review with us.  You need to make sure that when you reply to confirm the IEP meeting date that you request on paperwork  three days before the meeting so you will have time to review before the meeting.
  • You can expect an offer of FAPE ( free and appropriate public education ) to already be developed before your input.  The District already has a pre-determined offer of services for your child.  I don't care what the District says, LAUSD representatives have already got together and figured out what crumbs they can throw your way so that you leave somewhat happy.  Don't buy it.  If you feel the offer of FAPE is inappropriate, DON'T SIGN THE IEP.

This is what we recommend:
  • Record the meeting.  When you receive the IEP notification, write on it " This meeting will be recorded."  and take a recorder to the meeting.  Keep these recordings to review if you have any questions as to what was said.  The team needs to be notified 24 hours in advance.  A note or verbal comment to the teacher should do.  If the District wants to record the meeting, the parent has the right to say no and can refuse to attend the meeting.
  • Write out your own agenda before the meeting as to what you want to review and cover during the IEP.  Make sure you do not leave the meeting before you have covered all your points.  List the services your child is receiving.  Make a list of what services you would like your child to receive. 
  • Write down everything that is said and who said it. 
  • NEVER GO ALONE!!!!!!!!!  Always, always take someone with you.  A spouse, a friend, an advocate, a neighbor, a relative.  List your person as an educational advocate which s/he is.  S/he is there to help you support your child's learning.  I was at the point that I wanted to hire someone off the street just to make sure I had someone who was on my side.  The IEP teams that Andy and I always meet with already had  an "us against them" disposition.  Having someone who was there at my side for support helped alleviate the anxiety and stress felt at the IEP meeting.  Also, District officials act differently when there is a "witness" present.
  • When you receive the IEP notification request any logs from any providers giving your child services and any documents &/or assessments that will be presented at the meeting.  Read through the paperwork and highlight your concerns and jot down questions.
  • Get everybody's business card who is there.  Jot down on the back of the card what they present at the meeting and what they do in the District.  Ask them why they are there.  Ask them questions.  Make them work for their pay check.

You will now be having an IEP every year until you child graduates high school or ages out ( 22 years old ).
  • Always be prepared for the IEP meeting.
  • If at anytime you feel your child is not learning or the classroom is inappropriate or  there is a behavioral issue that needs to be addressed, you may request another IEP meeting.
  • Make this request in writing.
  • If the school has implemented an emergency intervention due to behavior, the school must notify you in writing and the team must meet to address this issue.
  • The IEP is never set in stone.  Any member of the team may call a meeting at any time to edit the IEP.
  • Any behavioral modification should be a POSITIVE reinforcement.  Suspensions for students with IEPs should be a last resort.  If your child has been suspended and you feel this situation was a punishment, come speak at the Parent Council meeting to let the Independent Monitor know.


You are now at the crucial part of all your hard work - the signing of the IEP.  Before the we get to that part, let's make sure you have every item documented regarding your concerns.  How do you make sure of this - read everything!!!!

If you have a meeting that is using a laptop and a screen, make sure the person typing  the minutes of the meeting has this page projected on the screen for you to read as s/he types.  The font of the typing can be made larger so it can be read.  This is very important because many IEPs sometimes have parent comments disappear or the numbers for minutes of services can somehow be mistyped. 

On this page, make sure you document your concerns and comments regarding your child's learning and services.  If you are told this is not the place to write that down, DON'T BELIEVE THEM!!!!!!!  You can have it written down.  Make sure what they write and how they write it.  They will tell you that you can add an additional page to the IEP document which will be attached to the IEP, but this may get misplaced.  They will tell you that you have a space in the IEP document to document your concerns.  This is page 10 - Section Q - Parent Participation and Consent. This is true and I always personally type in my own comments.  I take over the laptop and type.  Don't be bashful.  Don't be afraid.  The paperwork is overwhelming, but the more involved you are in contributing, the more experience you will gain for the next IEP and the next and the next and the next.

The district official will now end the meeting with "their offer of FAPE"  (rhymes with ape).  This offer should have every service discussed and agreed upon.  This offer will state:
  • Time Period   Remainder of school year - Extended School Year ( ESY ) and beginning of the next school year
  • School  - Neighborhood school,- Non-public school or out of neighborhood.  You can request an out of neighborhood school because you are placing your child in an environment that places your child in the least restrictive environment and a hostile free environment.
  • Program - Special Day Class - Full Inclusion - ESY.  This will also include DIS (District Instructed Services ) such as Speech and the total times your child will receive the service and for how many minutes per month.
  • Any Non-Public Agency services ( NPA ).
  • Continuation of other services mentioned during meeting.
  • Accommodations - Curriculum - Adult Assistance ( AA ) - Transportation - Seating - Testing.

And anything else you have all agreed upon or have come to consensus.  Coming to consensus is not an easy task with people who are receiving a paycheck from the District.  Employment affects consensus.
  • A middle school teacher told me at an IEP meeting he could not agree with me because the District might fire him.
  • A middle school counselor who wrote a letter of recommendation for Reyna to transistion to an out-of-area high school refused to back her recommendation because she was the "administrative designee" at the IEP meeting and the District wanted Reyna to go to her home school.
  • An elementary school teacher motioned Andy and I to the back of her classroom to discuss the IEP because the principal at the school was known to eavesdrop over the classroom intercoms.

Hopefully, you will never need to deal with any intimidation tactics.  Hopefully, your IEP meeting was repectful and thorough.  Hopefully, the team worked as a team and now have the IEP Contract - and this is important - for you to agree to and sign.  REMEMBER, THE COMPLETED IEP FORM IS A CONTRACT AND SHOULD BE IMPLEMENTED AS SOON AS IT IS AGREED UPON.  If any part of this contract is not implemented, it is grounds for due process.  Due process, in my viewpoint, means it is your right to complaint and be heard.

If all is great.  Everything in the offer of FAPE is what you and the team discussed and agreed upon, sign it and pat yourself on the back.  Thank the team for their effort and support.  However, I have never signed an IEP until I have taken it home and sat down to review all pages and notes.  If it is accurate, it is signed and returned.  There have been a few occasions when items were not worded as we agreed and I had to call the district program specialist.  Any concerns should be cleaned up immediately.  Once the IEP is signed, it is CLOSED.  No one can go in a change anything unless there is an amendment.  This is an acceptable means of tweeking the IEP, however the team does have to meet to amend the IEP.

We once had a teacher at Park Western approach us in the parking lot of the school to sign an amendment because she did not want to lose one of her classroom aides.  She explained that Rey was working very well on his own, so she wanted his Adult Assistant to be removed.  She adamantly explained that if Rey ever had any behavioral issues arise, we would be able to meet and re-instate his A.A.  So, like trusting lambs, we signed the amendment in the parking lot.  Well, when Rey started up with his behaviors, she refused to cooperate in re-instating his A.A.  Again, our child's learning was not a priority. We filed a complaint with the State Department of Education and the teacher became much more cooperative.

So, don't sign the IEP unless you are absolutely, positively sure this is exactly what everyone agreed to.  But all is great, sign Page 10.  And fill out the evaluation form regarding the IEP so your experience is documented.  Fill it out right away and you can send it through school mail in the main office or regular mail, if you chooose to.....JUST FILL IT OUT.  The district uses this info to present the information to the Parent Council every year. 


The IEP Team should have the following members and what they are responsible for:

1.  Parents/ Guardian - Representing the educational rights of your child.
2.  Special Education Teacher -  A credentialed teacher who knows your child.
3.  Regular/General Education Teacher - A credentialed teacher who has worked with your child through mainstreaming ( your 
    child is sent to this classroom to have instruction in a regular classroom with regular students.)
4.  A  representative or some representatives of the school or district who are knowledgeable about the availability of school resources.  They very rarely have worked with your child nor may not even know him. This is usually:
  • A  Program Specialist   
  • A  Least Restrictive Environment person or/and
  • Vice Principal of  Special Education.   Principals rarely are in an IEP since the District has hired  "trained" vice principal to do this job.  
5.  Professionals who are qualified to explain the results of the testing - Usually:
  • A school psychologist &/or     
  • speech specialist.
6.  Usually a school nurse is present if there are any health issues or health assessments.
The notification you receive for the IEP meeting should have the names of whomever is attending with their title.  If someone shows up at the IEP meeting unannounced, you will need to ask why s/he is there.  That person may stay if you feel comfortable with their participation.  The district does have the right to send an expert to a meeting, but you should be told first.

No one should be participating via phone unless you have agreed to it.  I have attended an IEP at Stephen White Middle School were a District official called in over the vice principal's cell phone and wanted to make sure we cut back on Reyna's speech hours.  I quickly nipped that situation in the butt by informing the IEP team that the district official was not on the agenda and if she had an evaluation to show justification to cut back services, she should bring it to the next IEP meeting.  I then instructed the vice principal to hang up the phone so we could get to the agenda.  That never happened again. 

          Now here is our honest and upfront help for you......

Part Six - Not Agreeing with the IEP

This is the most stressful situation of all when dealing with your child's learning - feeling as if no one on the team heard your concerns and they are only worried about the cost of the services your child needs.

I get very emotional when I need to deal with professionals who have no sense of compassion for my child.  I tend to go beyond the limited resources provided through the district.  I'll get to those resources in a while, but first, if there is any part of the IEP you do agree to. you can still sign the IEP so the other services will begin.  You will then need to document your concerns on Page 10 Section Q.    On this page that you will fill out the information about what part of the IEP you do not agree to:
  • Assessment                                       and then your reason
  • Eligibility                                            and a reason
  • Instructional Setting                            with a reason
  • Specific Instruction & Services             with a reason.

Then on the next box space,  you will need to choose how  you want to resolve the complaint:
  • With LAUSD's Informal Dispute Resolution Process ( fastest process, but usually one sided )
  • State Mediation Only ( State steps in.  Process takes a few more weeks and is scarier and more time consuming because the meeting will be help in Downtown Beautry Office.  Expect to take a full day off of work. The State Mediator that we meet with stressed very hard to make us come to a midpoint and agree.  Our state mediation meeting took three days.  The three district officials - Program Specialist, Special Ed coordinator and district's contracted lawyer - kept leaving and calling someone somewhere or were trying to wear us down.  At the end, we settled.  The worse part is settling in this manner means the district claims no fault and we, the complaintees cannot publish any form of our complaint nor what we settled for.
  • 'Formal Due Process Proceedings -  This was always with just one or two district officials. This was always just a sit down and try to come to some resolution.  If you do not resolve the situation here, then you will have to go to  State Mediation. 
  • Last box - check it to consent to everything else being started.  Our experience has been that the above dispute meetings usually take between a week to 30 days.  



                                 I wrote an article to express my concerns regarding the lack of teacher support during an IEP meeting.  I                                         have always felt teachers'  shun away from their duty of advocating for our children.   Please share my                                              viewpoint with anyone you feel needs a tug on their integrity.

  Rey as Prom King 2013 with Marilyn Monroe
  Click here to see video of prom by tv station

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