Students with disabilities bring complaint against the Oakland Unified School District and California Department of Education

Press Release

Oakland, CA – On March 16, 2015, Disability Rights California filed a Compliance Complaint with the California Department of Education (CDE) on behalf of ten named students with disabilities and a class of all special education students in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). 

The complaint alleges that OUSD’s policies and practices result in system-wide violations of the rights of children with disabilities under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The systemic problems identified in the complaint include:

  • Failure to provide qualified staff;
  • Lack of staff to provide interpretation and translation services resulting in non-English language proficient parents receiving documents and notices in English rather than their primary language;
  • Failure to offer special education programs and services based on disability related needs;
  • Failure to provide or even budget funds to provide individualized accommodation such as curriculum modifications and behavioral supports to students with disabilities in general education classrooms;
  • Failure to provide students with mental health or behavioral needs services in the required least restrictive setting and instead placing them in segregated environments.

The complaint also alleges that OUSD’s systemic noncompliance with IDEA has a disparate impact on students of color, particularly on Latino students whose families are not proficient in English.  A copy of the complaint is available here: Administrative Complaint

One of the named complainants TA, is a nine-year old boy in the third grade with a developmental disability.  Because OUSD did not provide TA with any services for the first seven weeks of this school year, and did not implement his IEP during the last school year, TA’s mother requested a hearing.  As a result, OUSD agreed to provide the needed services. Four months later it still has not provided TA with agreed upon services, including behavior support services, individual speech therapy, or a one-to-one aide in his classroom.  Instead, OUSD wants to move TA from his school and place him in a segregated nonpublic school, which would be his eighth placement since preschool.

TA’s mother is understandably frustrated by the District’s failure to assist her son.  “My son has fallen far behind in school and his behavior problems have gotten worse. Four months ago, the OUSD finally agreed to provide TA with all of the services he needs. OUSD is still not providing my son with what was agreed to. I don’t know what else to do to get the school district to give my son what he needs.” 

OUSD is well-aware of these problems. A 2013 report commissioned by OUSD itself found widespread deficiencies in its special education program, which profoundly and negatively impact students with disabilities.  The District has not taken comprehensive steps to remedy these deficiencies.   A copy of the report is at:

“DRC has serious concerns about OUSD’s system for providing education to students with disabilities, and in spite of efforts by DRC, OUSD continues to engage in patterns and practices that result in the systemic denial of services for many students with disabilities,” says Maggie Roberts, Associate Managing Attorney at Disability Rights California.

The Complaint also charges that CDE violated its obligations under the law to ensure California’s special education students receive a free and appropriate public education. “We want immediate action from CDE in the form of investigation, technical assistance, and development and oversight of a comprehensive, systemic multi-year corrective action plan,” says Suge Lee, staff attorney on the case.

Maggie Roberts
Associate Managing Attorney
Disability Rights California
Phone: (510) 267-1200

Suge Lee
Staff Attorney
Disability Rights California
Phone: (510) 267-1200

Leonard Alfaro
Advocate (for Spanish-language inquiries)
Disability Rights California
Phone: (510) 267-1200