Special Education

2020 Bonar Street, Suite 301, Berkeley, CA 94702
Tel: 510.644.6210 | Fax: 510.644.6211
Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Lisa Graham, Director of Special Education

New: Special Education Director Search Survey

Our District is currently in the process of searching for a new Executive Director for Special Education. As part of that process, we have held a community forum for parents, and directly engaged staff members. In an effort to broaden our channels for input we are making available a brief but useful survey to collect perspectives from the broader community. Please take a few moments to share your thoughts and opinions which will be shared directly with our recruiting and hiring team.
For the English survey, click here!
For Spanish, click here!
The survey opened Wednesday, March 14, 2018 and will close on April 18, 2018.

Table of Contents

What is Special Education?

Per California Education Code 56031 (paraphrased):
Special education means specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of the student with a disability and may include speech-language pathology (SLP) &/or other related service. Individuals with special needs shall be grouped for instructional purposes according to their instructional needs.

Top of Page

What is Inclusion?

“Inclusion is a way of thinking – a deeply held belief that all children, regardless of ability or disability, are valued members of the school and classroom community.”
– Causton-Theoharis & Theoharis, 2008

Inclusive education is about developing and designing schools, classrooms, programs and activities so that all students learn and participate together. Inclusive schools are characterized by a sense of community, high standards, collaboration, cooperation and flexible staff roles and responsibilities.

Legal support for inclusion is a cornerstone of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which provides that children with disabilities are entitled to receive special education services and that children are placed, to the maximum extent appropriate, in classes with typically developing peers, also known as the least restrictive environment (LRE), in order for them to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Benefits of Inclusion:

For Students with Special Needs

  • Establishes higher expectations for academic, social and vocational outcomes
  • Increases confidence and independence
  • Expands range of friendships
  • Promotes pro-social behaviors
  • Provides greater integration into the community

For Educators

  • Inspires a collaborative team model and encourages innovative and creative instructional strategies
  • Models acceptance of the full range of human experience
  • Encourages self-reflection and expansion of teacher skill-sets
  • Fosters differentiated instruction benefiting all learners

For Peers, Families and the Community

  • Advances District-wide Welcoming Schools philosophy
  • Cultivates appreciation for students’ gifts instead of their challenges
  • Demonstrates respect for diversity allowing all students to feel welcomed and celebrated for their unique qualities

Research-based support for inclusive education:

Time spent engaged in the general education curriculum is strongly and positively correlated with math and reading achievement for students with disabilities (Cole, Waldron, & Majd., 2004; Cosier, Causton-Thoeharis & Theoharis, 2013)

Students without disabilities made significantly greater progress in reading and math when served in inclusive settings (Cole, et.al., 2004)

Students with autism in inclusive settings scored significantly higher on academic achievement tests when compared to students with autism in self-contained settings (Kurth & Mastergeorge, 2010)

Students with intellectual disabilities that were fully included in general education classrooms made more progress in literacy skills when compared to students served in special schools (Dessemontet, Bless, & Morin, 2012)

How to be an Ability Ally and support Inclusive Education
Starring BUSD student Kaya Howell-Cohen
Having trouble playing this video? Click here.

Top of Page

History of Inclusion in BUSD

In 1993 the District formed the Inclusive Education Taskforce to develop the implementation of inclusive education. In 1996 the task force became the Inclusive Education Advisory Committee.

In 2003 Dr. Kathleen Gee & Dr. Diane Ketelle conducted a comprehensive Special Education study.

The findings and recommendations from this report were presented to the BUSD Board to assist in the strategic development and planning for the District.

A handbook was developed as a resource to support parents, teachers, administrators and support staff involved with the inclusion of students with disabilities.

In 2009 The Civil Rights Project, in association with the University of California Berkeley Law School published a report titled, “Integration Defined: Berkeley Unified’s Strategy to Maintain School Diversity” that reviewed the history of desegregation efforts in BUSD and analyzed the current school based assignment procedures.

Top of Page

Special Education Eligibility – a two-prong determination:

Per California Education Code 56026 (paraphrased):
A student is considered an “individual with exceptional needs” if they satisfy all of the following:

  • Identified by an individual education program (IEP) team as a child with a disability in one or more of the 13 federal categories


  • Their impairment requires instruction and services which cannot be provided with modification of the regular school program in order to ensure that the individual is provided a free appropriate public education (FAPE)

A medical diagnosis of a specific condition may inform the IEP team about which category may be considered as the area of suspected disability. However, a comprehensive evaluation must be conducted to determine if the student meets both prongs of the eligibility criteria for Special Education and related services.

The 13 Federal categories of eligibility for Special Education include:

  • Characteristics associated with Autism (AUT)
  • Deaf (Deaf)
  • Deaf-Blind (DB)
  • Emotional Disturbance (ED)
  • Hard of Hearing (HH)
  • Intellectual Disability (ID)
  • Multiple Disabilities (MD)
  • Other Health Impaired (OHI)
  • Orthopedic Impairment (OI)
  • Specific Learning Disability (SLD)
  • Speech or Language Impaired (SLI)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Visual Impairment including Blindness (VI)

Students whose educational needs are due primarily to:

  • Limited English proficiency
  • Lack of instruction in reading or math (“per NCLB”)
  • Temporary physical disabilities
  • Social maladjustment
  • Environmental, cultural, or economic factors are not individuals with exceptional needs.

What if my child has a medical diagnosis of dyslexia?

Per California Education Code 56337.5 (a-c) (paraphrased):

A student who is assessed as having dyslexia and who meets both prongs of the eligibility criteria listed above may be considered a student with a specific learning disability (SLD) and may receive special education and related services.

If a student exhibits characteristics of dyslexia or another related reading function is not found to be eligible for special education and related services, the student’s instructional program shall be provided in the regular education program.

It is the intent of California Legislation that program guidelines be developed for specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia and other related disorders, to be available for use by teachers and parents in order for them to have knowledge of the strategies that can be utilized with pupils for the remediation of the various types of specific learning disabilities.

What if my child has a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD?

Per California Education Code 56339 (a-d) (paraphrased):

A student who is adversely affected by a suspected or diagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and who meets both prongs of the eligibility criteria listed above may be considered a student with an other health impairment (OHI) and may receive special education and related services.

If a student with ADD &/or ADHD is not found to be eligible for special education and related services, the student’s instructional program shall be provided in the regular education program.

It is the intent of California Legislation that Districts promote coordination between special education and regular education programs to ensure that all students, including those with ADD &/or ADHD, receive appropriate instructional intervention.

It is also the intent of California Legislation that regular education teachers and other personnel be trained to develop an awareness about ADD &/or ADHD and the manifestation of those disorders, and that adaptations that can be implemented in regular education programs to address the instructional needs of pupils having these disorders.

Top of Page

Special Education Services

Special Education Related Services are determined by an IEP team based on a student’s individualized needs. BUSD has a variety of specialists on staff to help support student learning needs including in the fields of:

  • Adapted Physical Education (APE)
  • Assistive Technology (AT)
  • Behavior Specialists (Bx)
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH)
  • Education Specialists [SpEd Mild/Moderate (M/M) & Moderate/Severe (M/S)]
  • Instructional Aide / Para Professional (IAPP)
  • Occupational Therapists (OTs)
  • Physical Therapists (PTs)
  • School Psychologists (Psych)
  • Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs)
  • Vision Impairment Specialists (VI)

Top of Page

How to make a referral for Special Education

If you suspect that your child, or student, may have a disability that requires Special Education services please complete the attached Referral for Special Education and Related Services Assessment Form and submit it to any of the following:

  • School Site Principal, Vice Principal or Counselor
  • Special Education Teacher on site
  • Special Education Administrator / Fax: 510.644.6211

North Region SELPA Referral Form
A pupil shall be referred for special education instruction and services only after the resources of the general education program have been considered and, where appropriate, utilized. EC 56303
Form: English | Español

Intake Referral Procedures
For families of children who are not enrolled in a BUSD school please download the Intake Referral Procedures form and bring all documentation to the Special Education Department to request consideration for an evaluation.
Form: English | Español

NR SELPA Authorization for Use and/or Disclosure of Information
Signed to provide written consent for exchange of information between District staff and other agencies or individuals with knowledge of the child or student.
Form: English | Español

California Department of Education (CDE) Parent Rights and Procedural Safeguards
This information provides you as parents, legal guardians, and surrogate parents of children with disabilities from three (3) years of age through age twenty-one (21) and students who have reached age eighteen (18), the age of majority, with an overview of your educational rights or procedural safeguards.
Form: English | Español

Procedural Safeguards document is also available in the following languages: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Chinese (Simplified), and Chinese (Traditional)

Top of Page

IEP Process Overview

IEP process flowchart

Top of Page

Special Education Staff Directory

Lisa Graham, Director of Special Education
Office Hours:
1st Tuesday of the month (8-10 am) at Westside Bakery Cafe on the corner of 9th & Parker
3rd Tuesday of the month (8-10 am) by appointment – please call Janet Lopez 644-8913

Click here to download the full Special Education Directory 2017-18
All email addresses are: firstnamelastname@berkeley.net

District Office Personnel:

Position Site Name Phone
SpEd Dept 2020 Bonar Street, Suite #301, Berkeley, CA 94702 644-6210
Director Fax: 644-6211 Lisa Graham 644-7733
Program Manager & Program Supervisor (.50 FTE) BUSD sites:

  • Berkeley High School
  • Berkeley Tech Academy
BUSD program responsibilities:

  • AlaCosta Adult Transition (ACAT)
  • Counseling Enriched (CEC) 9-12
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) 9-12
  • Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) 9-12
  • Visual Impairment (VI) / Orientation & Mobility (O&M)
Susannah Bell Fishman

Lena Sweeney



Program Supervisor BUSD sites:

  • Cragmont Elementary
  • King Middle
  • Longfellow Middle
  • Willard Middle
BUSD program responsibilities:

  • Behavior Specialists
  • Counseling Enriched (CEC) K-8
  • Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) K-8
  • School Psychologists
Melody Royal 883-6988
Program Supervisor BUSD sites:

  • Berkeley Arts Magnet
  • Emerson
  • Jefferson
  • Malcolm X
  • Oxford
  • Thousand Oaks
  • Washington
BUSD program responsibilities:

  • Adapted PE (APE)
  • Extended School Year (ESY)
  • Occupational Therapists (OT)
  • Transportation
Flor Anne Palma 644-4546
Program Supervisor BUSD sites:

  • Preschools
  • John Muir
  • Le Conte
  • Rosa Parks
BUSD program responsibilities:

  • Assistive & Augmentative Communication (AAC)
  • Assistive Technology (AT)
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) K-8
  • RCEB (Regional Center)
  • Speech-Language Pathologists
Stephanie Dictado 486-9359
Accounting Technician Cathie Stillman 644-6212
Administrative Assistant III Janet Lopez 644-8913
Clerical Assistant III Monique Jordan-Araujo 644-6210
Senior Budget Analyst Alva Leung 644-8918
Senior Records Assistant Hermelinda Guerrero 486-9358
Special Education Data Technician Ly Vo 644-4589
Education Specialist TSA – Private School Sara Castille 883-6152

Top of Page

WeCare Survey

Because We Care please feel free to share with us about your customer service experience in Special Education by clicking on this link: WeCare Survey

Top of Page

504 Plan Information

Students with disabilities, either temporary or permanent, that substantially limit their ability to succeed in school may be eligible for accommodations under Section 504. Please note that the consideration and development of a 504 Plan is a General Education function and is not managed by the Special Education department or staff. For further information, please contact your school site administrator, counselor or contact the District’s 504 coordinator, Dr. Susan Craig.

Susan Craig, Ed.D.
Director, Student Services
District 504 Plan Coordinator
2020 Bonar Street, Room 112
Berkeley, CA 94702
510.644.6316 (phone)
510.644.7712 (fax)
Student Services Department

Top of Page

Special Education Discipline

The grounds for suspension or recommendation for expulsion are the same for children with and without disabilities. It is recommended that school districts should use alternatives to suspension or expulsion to address problems of truancy, tardiness and other absences from school activities. Students with disabilities are subject to the same suspension rules as nondisabled students, except that suspensions of students with disabilities cannot exceed 10 consecutive days without a manifestation determination.

Top of Page

Upcoming Events

For more information on any of the events listed below please contact Janet Lopez, Special Education Administrative Coordinator at 510.644.8913 or JanetLopez@berkeley.net

Save the Date

Past Events
Fully Accessible Family and Friends Fun Field Day
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Time: 10am – 2pm
King Middle School track field & gym
1781 Rose Street
Sponsored in Partnership with BORP
Save the Date Flier

Presentation to the PTA Council
Monday, February 29, 2016
Time: 630-8 pm
2020 Bonar Street Room #126
Special Education Overview by Lisa Graham
504 Plan Overview by Dr. Susan Craig

Special Education Input Meeting
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Time: 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Rosa Parks Multipurpose Room
920 Allston Way
Individual Feedback Summary
Table Groups Summary

Special Education Director Meet-&-Greet
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Time: 9am -12 noon
Longfellow Middle School
1500 Derby Street
Invitation: English | Español
Presentation: PDF

Top of Page

BUSD Special Education Support Networks

F.O.U.N.D. – Family Outreach: Understanding the Need for Diversity
If you are interested in joining F.O.U.N.D., a network of Special Education Families Supporting Families, please contact Janet Lopez, Special Education Administrative Assistant III at 510.644.8913 or JanetLopez@berkeley.net.

T.T.F.N. – Technology Task Force Network
If you are interested in joining T.T.F.N. to provide input and make recommendations regarding the content of the Special Education page of the BUSD website, please contact Janet Lopez, Special Education Administrative Assistant III at 510.644.8913 or JanetLopez@berkeley.net.

Special Education School Messenger
If you are interested in being added to the BUSD Special Education School Messenger list to receive updates and information directly, or if you would like to change your contact information to receive these updates, please contact Janet Lopez, Special Education Administrative Assistant III at 510.644.8913 or JanetLopez@berkeley.net.

BSPED – Berkeley Special Education Parents Network
The Berkeley Special Education Parents Network (BSPED) represents families of students in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) who have special educational needs.

BSPED goals are to:

  • Advocate for disabled students in the district
  • Share information and resources
  • Provide support for families of disabled students by helping to ensure that all eligible students receive appropriate services

This listserve is only available to parents/guardians of students with a disability, not to District staff or administrators.


Verification Review conducted by CDE
In April, 2015 the California Department of Education (CDE) conducted a District-wide Verification Review (VR). The purpose of the Verification Review is:

  • To ensure that the local educational agencies (LEAs), districts, and county offices of education (COE), are providing appropriate supervision and monitoring of their special education programs and services.
  • To provide information to the California Department of Education (CDE) regarding key compliance questions based on the use of CDE-specified tools and assessment methodologies.
  • To provide effective general supervision to LEAs, districts and COE, in accordance with the State Performance Plan (SPP).

Results from the BUSD VR report were provided to the District on March 8, 2016.

If you would like to know more about the Verification Review process and next-steps please check out this video of an informational meeting presented by Ruby Smith from California Department of Education at the BUSD on April 4, 2016

Top of Page

District Resources

The BUSD Admissions Department oversees the student registration and school assignment process.
Email: admissions@berkeley.net

For more information regarding the Immunization Law (SB 277) impacting enrollment for students after January 1, 2016, click here.

SB 277 Flier: English | Español
SB 277 FAQ: English | Español

Francisco Martinez
Manager, Admissions Department
2020 Bonar Street, Room
Berkeley, CA 94702
510.644.6504 (phone)
510.644.7753 (fax)

Office of Family Engagement and Equity (OFEE)
The BUSD OFEE department is a District resource dedicated to supporting students and families through education, advocacy, collaboration and community partnerships.

Ann Marie Callegari
Supervisor, OFEE Department
2020 Bonar Street, Room 111
Berkeley, CA 94702
510.644.8991 (phone)

Student Services
The BUSD Student Services department provides a variety of resources and support services to students and families served in the District. See the Menu of Student Services here.

The Director of Student Services is also the District 504 Plan Coordinator. For more information please go to the “What is a 504 Plan?” section of this website.

The Director of Student Services is also the District Complaint Officer. The BUSD takes all concerns and complaints seriously and values the concerns of our parents, staff, students and community.

For more information regarding the District Complaint Procedures, click here.

Susan Craig, Ed.D.
Director, Student Services
2020 Bonar Street, Room 112
Berkeley, CA 94702
510.644.6316 (phone)
510.644.7712 (fax)

For more information regarding filing a Title IX (Sexual and Gender-based Harassment) Complaint, click here.
Susan Craig, Coordinator, Title IX
Office of Student Services
2020 Bonar Street, Room 112
Berkeley, CA 94702
510.486.9338 (phone)

Top of Page

Community Resources

North Region Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA)
The North Region SELPA is a multi-district SELPA located in Northern Alameda County which includes Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emery and Piedmont Unified School Districts. It provides resources to districts and parents, including updates on parent and educator workshops, committee news and items of interest to teachers and parents.

North Region SELPA – Parent Support Resources

The North Region SELPA is also available to provide support to families and Districts via Facilitated IEP meetings and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) sessions. For more information regarding these options please contact:

Martha Shultz, Director
Mailing address: 1051 Monroe Street, Albany, CA 94706
Location: 1275 61st Street, Emeryville, CA 94608
510.525.9800 (phone)
510.601.4955 (fax)

Katy Babcock, Program Specialist
Mailing address: 1051 Monroe Street, Albany, CA 94706
Location: 1275 61st Street, Emeryville, CA 94608
510.525.9805 (phone)
510.601.4955 (fax)

Regional Center of the East Bay (RCEB)
The Regional Center of the East Bay (RCEB) is a private, non-profit corporation providing services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities under contract with the California Department of Developmental Services.
RCEB Staff Directory

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)
The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) is a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) funded by the US Department of Education. PTIs serve families of children and young adults from birth to age 26 with all disabilities: physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning.

3075 Adeline Street, Suite 210
Berkeley, CA 94703
510.644.2555 (phone)
510.841.8645 (fax/tty)

Family Resource Network (FRN)
The Family Resource Network (FRN) supports and encourages the positive development of families of children 0-5 with medical, developmental or social-emotional concerns as well as individuals 0-21 with special health care needs.

291 Estudillo Avenue
San Leandro, CA 94577
510.547.7322 (phone)
510.296.5768 (fax)

Top of Page

Special Education Resources

Statewide Task Force on Special Education
Examines California’s complex systems for serving students with disabilities and forward recommendations to the State Board of Education, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and the California Department of Education.

Common Core Resources for Special Education
Resources and guidelines on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for the Special Education Community.

Teach California
Learn more about the career opportunities in special education.

California Department of Education Special Education Division
Provides information and resources to serve the unique needs of individuals with disabilities so that each person will meet or exceed high standards of achievement in academic and non-academic skills.
Fred Balcom, Director
Phone: 916-445-4613
Fax: 916-327-3706

California Department of Education – Special Education Family Involvement & Partnerships
This page will highlight the topics and links from other sections of this Web site, which are of particular interest and will provide information, resources and support to parents, guardians and families of children with disabilities.

Resources on IEPs for Children with Disabilities
Resources to improve instruction, assessment, and accountability for students with disabilities.

California Department of Education – Special Education
Information and resources to serve the unique needs of persons with disabilities so that each person will meet or exceed high standards of achievement in academic and nonacademic skills.

California Department of Education – Special Education Services & Resources
Links to programs and services available to students with disabilities, publications, training and technical assistance opportunities, and recruitment resources and materials.

California Department of Education – Secondary Transition Planning
Resources and guidelines to assist youth with disabilities as they transition from school to adult life, including education and training, employment and independent living.

California Department of Education – Special Education Resources
Links to sites related to Special Education national and state laws, regulations.

Top of Page