ASK - Advocates for Special Kids
"Parents helping parents to understand special education"

Home | FAQ's | Documents | Links | Contact Us


Advocates for Special Kids - ASK 
September 2002 Newsletter

Volume 2, Issue 1
"Back to School Edition"


"Back to School Edition"

It’s that time of the year when they start running that TV commercial for the office supply store, where the father runs happily through aisles of school supplies, while in the background music plays "It’s the most wonderful time of the year!" Suddenly, the focus shifts to his two children standing forlornly, contemplating the start of another school year. Although we all can appreciate the humor of the commercial, at the same time I wonder why it is that as parents of children receiving special ed services, we all seem to feel more like the kids in the commercial than the Dad?! Anxiety, trepidation, downright fear. And that’s just us! Imagine what our kids feel. Although these are not usually the emotions one associates with "back to school," such is the world of special education.

This issue is full of information about ASK’s school year of meetings and activities. Our meeting schedule is found on Page 2, while a description of our upcoming meeting speakers can be found on the back page, with much more in between.

This issue also includes an insert at Pages 3 through 6 with an in-depth discussion of MBUSD’s continuing non-compliance with state and federal law, and how that non-compliance is affecting student access to the curriculum at Mira Costa High School. We hope you will read this analysis, for it provides insight into historical problems experienced by families of students receiving special education services in MBUSD and the devastating implications their non-compliance has for our students, our schools and our community.

Please get involved with ASK and its efforts toward building a more inclusive educational system and community. Come to our September 30th meeting, and visit our Hometown Fair Coke booth on October 5th and 6th. As always, if you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you!

Hometown Fair - Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6, 2001
ASK Coke Booth - Help ASK Raise Money and Awareness!

*   *   Volunteer! Volunteer! Volunteer!   *   *

We need YOU at our Hometown Fair booth! We need donations of $$$$ and Coke!
We need volunteers and would like two volunteers who each can take responsibility for Saturday or Sunday and help coordinate shifts!
We need help with delivering inventory! We need ice chests! We need chairs!
We need able-bodied parents and kids who want to practice making change!!

Booth shifts both days are 9:30-12:00, 11:30-2:00, 1:30-4:00 and 3:30-6:00

Contact Susan Viker (e-mail at; Telephone at (310) 545-0201)

Advocates for Special Kids - Parents Networking Together

Advocates for Special Kids (ASK) was formed in May 1997 by Manhattan Beach parents whose children received special education services in the district. These parents had become aware of the need to understand all placement options that were supposed to be available to their children, as well as services to support their children in their least restrictive environment [LRE] pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Since then, many more families have become involved with ASK and benefit from the support and education they gain from attending our regularly scheduled meetings. These meetings provide information about services within the district, resources in the community, upcoming trainings and workshops, as well as the most current updates on special education law and pending legislation affecting their child’s education.

*     *     *  

ASK Meetings 2002-2003 School Year
ASK meetings are 7 PM the last Monday of each month. Our schedule this year is:

September 30, 2002
October 28, 2002
November 25, 2002
No December Meeting
January 27, 2003
February 24, 2003
March 31, 2003
April 28, 2003
May 19, 2003
June 30, 2003

Pacific Christian Center, 
1403 Pacific Ave, M.B.

*     *     *  

ASK E Group

ASK has an E-group through Yahoo! which allows subscribers to communicate with other ASK members in an effective, efficient manner.


To join the  group contact the moderators Marilyn Barraza, Dona Wright  by emailing They will let you know how to get started.

ASK’s Board of Directors & Advisory Board consists of the following individuals who meet monthly to plan ASK’s activities:

Board: Marilyn Barraza [President], Dona Wright [Vice-President], Deborah Blair Porter [Secretary], Karen Mohan [Treasurer], Eunice Kramer, Alicia Delgado.

Advisory Board:  Becky Grossman, Mary Anne Fontana, Rebecca Schulman, Susan Viker, Alyse Zwickel, Janet Hodgman.

*     *     *  

ASK Board Mtgs. 
2001-2002 School Year

Scheduled for the first Thursday of each month, upcoming meetings are as follows:

September 5, 2002
October 3, 2002
November 7, 2002
December 5, 2002
January 9, 2003
February 6, 2003
March 6, 2003
April 3, 2003
May 1, 2003
June 5, 2003

Location subject to change.

Call Marilyn Barraza at (310) 545-5855

*     *     *  

ASK’s Mission is to promote the principle that ALL CHILDREN can learn together; the acceptance of diversity; family awareness of rights and options for receiving special education services for their child; children being taught in their least restrictive environment [LRE]; district collaboration and community awareness of the importance of educating all students together to reach their individual potential. ASK supports family choice and advocates for the full continuum of special education services for ALL CHILDREN.


MBUSD’s Ongoing Non-Compliance

Lack of Basic Classes At Mira Costa High School

MBUSD 8th graders receiving special ed services who are transitioning to 9th grade this Fall have found themselves faced with the prospect of not having access to the high school curriculum, because Mira Costa, which offers only College-Prep [CP] courses and above (Advanced Placement [AP] and Honors [H]), does not have basic level courses.

Parents have been told they must choose whether their student is "diploma-bound" or "non-diploma bound," too late learning the choice is limited to CP classes or the Special Day Class [SDC]. When parents, in light of the difficulty of CP courses, have asked for accommodations for their student, they’ve been told that students receiving accommodations will not receive class credit toward graduation! What many were NOT told was that NONE of the SDC classes ever count toward graduation!

Students who would be able to graduate were they properly supported, are being denied access to the curriculum and the essential standards that are the basis of the CA High School Exit Exam [CAHSEE]. They are also prevented from successfully achieving course credit so that they can graduate from high school. This violates their right to be in their least restrictive environment [LRE] and is, to quote an MBUSD elementary vice principal "discriminatory!"

In response to parent concerns, district officials claim to have created "embedded" classes, where essential standards are taught within CP courses. Yet, parents have not received accurate or timely information about these classes. As well, there has only been last minute training for these "embedded" classes, and as Assistant Superintendent Sheralyn Smith recently acknowledged, March 2002 staff development related to differentiating instruction was only directed toward differentiation at the gifted end of the educational spectrum.

All Students Entitled to Basic Track of Courses

The reasoning behind the lack of basic classes at Mira Costa is the belief that all students should have an opportunity to attend college and to do so, they must take CP courses. As well-meaning as this thinking is, it ignores the reality that if CP courses are so difficult students fail them, or are so discouraged they drop out of school altogether, there will be no "opportunity" to


attend college. Also, if teachers mistakenly assume students receiving accommodations are not entitled to course credit, the current reality in MBUSD, students are taking classes that are pointless from the outset, since they won’t receive high school credit for them.

School districts are obligated to serve the needs of ALL students, not just high achievers or those going to college. Typical students who choose a trade or who have not yet decided to go to college, should not be obligated to take CP courses, except that in MBUSD there is no other course or track to choose. School districts which provide a full range of classes, e.g., Beverly Hills, Las Virgenes, Irvine, Redondo, produce test scores which demonstrate that their special ed students not only do better on the CAHSEE than MBUSD, they have higher graduation rates as well.

Unfortunately, MBUSD with its generally high student test scores and high-achieving students apparently isn’t concerned about students other than those who are easy to teach or who make the district look good. MBUSD also seems to believe it doesn’t have to comply with federal laws or state orders or guidelines when it comes to special education. Unfortunately, the State of California has failed to monitor or enforce compliance and essentially has let MBUSD get away with its non-compliance scot-free.

MBUSD and the State of California are obligated to ensure access to programs and procedural safeguards. Both receive federal tax dollars are conditioned upon their promise to uphold the law and student rights, yet both are taking our tax dollars under false pretenses, for they are doing neither.

Lack of Progress of Special Education Students

The reality is that far too many MBUSD special education students are not making appropriate progress. To add insult to injury, MBUSD fails to regularly monitor or objectively measure student progress. Rather than performing the IEP progress analysis found in "California’s Guidelines for the Promotion and Retention of Special Education Students," MBUSD allows students to languish without appropriate interventions, often denying special ed students access to remediation because they receive special ed services.

When concerned parents press for assistance for their child, information regarding assessments and rights under the law related to SSTs/IEPs is routinely withheld from parents. In too many instances, MBUSD has passed students from grade to grade, despite their


lack of progress, often hiding a child’s failure from parents behind false assurances that the student is "doing just fine."

The 8th graders transitioning to the 9th grade, like all special education students in the district, are products of MBUSD’s special education system. Their failure to make progress is the district’s failure. While typical students do well and succeed academically, those receiving special education services have done neither. These students are entitled to an appropriate education and to successful outcomes, just as their typical peers are. In fact, the law mandates it.

MBUSD Out of Compliance Under May 1998 CCR

But what the law mandates is apparently of no consequence to MBUSD, for in May 1998 it was found out of compliance on these very same issues under its Coordinated Compliance Review [CCR] and ordered to come back into compliance. The CCR clearly stated:

"Full continuum - parent understanding options

"Documentation and interviews of staff and parents reveal a need to:

"Ensure parents are informed and understand all options, settings, combinations of services, the full continuum of program options available throughout the district.

"Include a wider range of general education programs in core areas, such as English Language Arts, Mathematics, etc. to accommodate the needs of students whose current options are limited in Language Arts CP-AP courses.

"Ensure placement decisions are not made on the basis of disability, configuration of service delivery, availability of staff, curriculum, content method of curricular delivery or administrative expedience."

[Page 11 of 16, IIS8]

"Addressing Modifications and Accommodations

"There is also a need to address modifications to be made by regular education teachers for special education students' successful integration and maintenance in the regular classes."

[Page 10 of 16, IIS3]

As of today’s date, MBUSD is STILL out of compliance on these and other issues, since MBUSD still does not provide courses less rigorous than CP and


refuses to ensure accommodations. These are issues ASK pointed out in its December 1999 "Summary and Recommendations [S&R]." These are issues Caryl Miller raised in her 2001 analysis of MBUSD’s special education program. These are issues three separate subcommittees of the MBUSD’s Advisory Board for Special Education [ABSE] raised in subcommittee reports to the ABSE as critical problems facing high school students. Yet, neither MBUSD nor the State of CA has done anything about them.

In early 2000, as a result of ASK’s contact with CDE officials regarding the non-compliance, it appeared the State would finally take action. Then, on April 28, 2000, the State of CA returned MBUSD to compliance status, despite the fact that MBUSD still hadn’t resolved these issues. How could this be?

Perhaps it was because the State of California and Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin knew that within two weeks, the "National Teacher of the Year" was to be chosen and it was pretty clear that the teacher to be selected was from...(can you guess?!)...MBUSD, a district out of compliance with state and federal law!

Perhaps there was concern about how it would look for CA’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to honor the "National Teacher of the Year" in a district that discriminated against students receiving special education services. Perhaps there was also concern about the President of the United States holding a Rose Garden ceremony to honor a well-deserving teacher who had the misfortune of teaching in a district which openly discriminated against the disabled!

Suddenly MBUSD’s non-compliance disappeared! But its effects continue to detrimentally impact our students with disabilities, who for the fifth year in a row have come back to school in the Fall facing the prospect of only CP and more rigorous courses to choose from, or being forced out of the general ed classroom altogether. All at a time when their need for access to the essential standards to ensure they can pass the CAHSEE has never been more critical.


MBUSD Attempts to Lower Standard for Special Education Students

Insight into how this problem could persist in our district is found in the recent efforts of the Assistant Superintendent to "revise" MBUSD’s board policy related to IEPs. In her May 1st presentation, stating that "We often talk about the Cadillac vs. the Volkswagen" and that "best is not the standard


appropriate is the legal standard," Mrs. Thompson attempted to justify a policy change that would have lowered the district’s educational standard for children with disabilities, because they receive special ed services.

Yet, MBUSD’s public statements support a high standard for ALL students, without any separate or lower standard for students with disabilities. In fact, MBUSD’s own curriculum brochure describes special education by stating "a continuum of appropriate programs and services exists to enable all students to achieve their maximum potential in the least restrictive environment."

MBUSD seems to forget that the majority of parents of special ed students are also parents of typical learners. No parent with both special needs and typical students in their family would ever agree their typical child was entitled to a "Cadillac" education, while their disabled student was entitled only to a "Volkswagen" education.

Mrs. Thompson’s effort to lower expectations for students with disabilities makes it clear why MBUSD’s special education program is a failure.

Parents File Non-Compliance Complaint

On June 28th, 2002, 22 MBUSD families filed a non-compliance complaint against MBUSD, the SELPA and the State of California, outlining the situation at Mira Costa and alleging that MBUSD was, among other things, discriminating against students with disabilities by failing to provide an appropriate education that would ensure progress. The State of CA refused to even open a complaint investigation.

How can a school district be out of compliance, and yet be returned to compliance status when they haven’t resolved the issues for which they were found out of compliance in the first place? Why would a district refuse to provide classes or remediation to a group of students who so significantly need it? Why would the State of California refuse to do ANYTHING about this outrageous situation?

The answers are simple and at the same time complex. To provide additional, remedial services to "special ed" students would require MBUSD admit that their "special" education programs, i.e., the programs they claim are breaking the budget, aren’t so "special" after all. It would be to acknowledge that despite their blue-ribbon status and excellent teachers, they’ve failed to appropriately teach at least 10% of


their students, failed to ensure the progress of these children and are not being held accountable for their failure by anyone.

The reality in MBUSD, that the vast majority of typical students are successful and make appropriate progress, while far too many special education students do neither, is historically the case because -

- MBUSD personnel have withheld critical information from parents about the full continuum, about programs and services, about parent rights and the district’s responsibilities under the law, denying parental input and informed consent;

- MBUSD personnel have low/no expectations for students with disabilities, often based on ignorance or mistaken assumptions regarding the ability of children with disabilities to learn, and in the absence of parental involvement and effective advocacy, their low expectations have become the educational standard;

- MBUSD has not tracked student progress/lack of progress, nor conducted appropriate progress analyses at annual IEP’s to determine whether services need to be added or revised;

- MBUSD has failed to provide supplementary aides and services in the general education classroom sufficient to allow students to remain in that placement as the law requires, and often mistakenly assumes if a child is fully included they are to be placed in the general education classroom without supports;

- MBUSD has, in the past, failed to hire or use sufficiently and appropriately trained staff;

- MBUSD has denied appropriate remedial interventions to students receiving special education services, because they receive special education services, despite state mandates to the contrary.

- MBUSD has used our tax dollars to avoid providing services, rather than providing them in good faith for students whom teachers routinely acknowledge need them. As a result, MBUSD ends up having to provide services anyway at the end of protracted litigation that drains staff, alienates parents and funnels our tax dollars out of the educational system into the pockets of attorneys hired to defend the indefensible.

- MBUSD’s school board doesn’t understand that the Superintendent works for them, not the other way around; fails to carefully scrutinize the actions of


district administrators; and rather than leading when it comes to special education, instead slavishly follows, and acts as a rubber stamp for, the Superintendent.

- The Superintendent has failed to show leadership in ensuring our district is a caring school community, and instead uses our tax dollars to fight services for our kids, refuses to work toward comprehensive systemic change that would benefit all students and also save money, and ignores the well-considered input of the Advisory Board that he likes to claim he created.

- Parents have been afraid to speak up about MBUSD problems for fear of retaliation against their children.

- The system of accountability, i.e., the State of California, fails to monitor/enforce the law governing special education and the failure of districts like MBUSD to comply with the laws, so that there is no accountability. Thus, districts like MBUSD are able to ignore state orders, and state and federal laws and do so with absolute impunity.

The Impact on Our Children, Schools, Community

This negative treatment of students with disabilities impacts our children, our schools and our community.

For our children, it is their future. If our children with disabilities do not graduate and become productive, contributing members of society, it not only affects them and their families, it affects their peers, all families, our community. MBUSD’s failure to ensure that ALL our children have the opportunity to succeed sends a very negative and debilitating message to typical students who see their disabled peers struggling without appropriate assistance, falling further behind as they themselves move forward. What must they think of a system that helps some, but not others and makes its choices based on whether or not a child is disabled?

For our schools, it is their credibility. If our schools are educating only those who are easy to teach, without taking responsibility for those whose needs are more challenging, what does that say about our schools, our teachers and their overall reputation? There is a saying "The good students teach themselves. The good teachers teach the rest." It is well-accepted that MBUSD’s high test scores are generally because we are a high-achieving and affluent community. If we accept that the high scores of our typical students are attributable to our community, it is logical that our


special ed students should score high as well as compared to their disabled peers in other districts. But that is not the case. What are the low scores of our special education students attributable to, but MBUSD’s failure to appropriately teach these students and ensure the same relative success their typical peers enjoy.

For our community, it is its viability and reputation. If students with disabilities cannot be contributing, productive members of society, they become the community’s responsibility and burden. It is a greater benefit for these students, as well as for our community, if ALL our students achieve to their greatest potential and successfully contribute to the community’s overall well-being.

What Can Parents Do?

MBUSD has demonstrated beyond a doubt that it lacks the will and the ability to provide an appropriate education that will ensure progress for ALL Manhattan Beach children. MBUSD has also made it clear, as has the State of California, that they care not a whit about their legal obligations to these children.

Our community doesn’t expect the "minimum" for our typical children. Our community has historically supported and funded extensive additional programs to ensure that ALL our children receive the best education available. Why should we expect anything less for our children with special needs?

Parents of special needs students in MBUSD must face up to the fact that this is what the future holds in store for their children...unless each and every one of them, and the community, speak up and take action to stop this discrimination. The Complaint filed against MBUSD and the State of California was submitted to every state and federal educational official and elected official possible, yet no agency has committed to taking any action to stop this mistreatment of our students.

It is up to parents to speak out, demonstrate their outrage and and challenge this injustice. Write the school board, speak out at school board meetings and take action on behalf of educational equity for all MBUSD children. Our community’s good name and the schools we’ve all worked so hard to make the best they can be are tainted by MBUSD’s failure to do the right thing, the simple thing, and appropriately teach ALL our children. We cannot let this be our district’s legacy for our children or their future.



Upcoming Events! Items of Interest!

ASK Has a New Telephone Number - (310) 480-9310

ASK now has a telephone number you can call to find out our upcoming meeting schedule, make those member referrals for your friends who want to find out more about ASK or get on our mailing list for upcoming newsletters.

LA FEAT - Families for Effective Autism Treatment

LA FEAT will hold meetings the third Wednesday of each month, from 7:00 - 9:00 PM at St. James Church, 124 N. Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach. [It is caddycorner from the church in the Religious Building Room 5]. Any questions, do not contact the church, contact LAFEAT at (310) 796-2252.

10/11/02 - 10/12/02 - Neurodevelopmental Advances and Best Practices in


The H.E.L.P Group Summit 2002 features experts in autism, Asperger’s, learning disabilities and ADHD, including B.J. Freeman, Eric Courchesne, Edward and Riva Ritvo, Laurie Stephens, Bina Varughese, and others. Radisson Hotel Westside, Culver City, CA. For information, call (818) 779-5212. Website:

Cal-TASH Conference - February 7th- 8th - Fresno

Save the dates! More details forthcoming!

11th Annual Lindamood-Bell International Conference - March 13-15, 2003

Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes presents "The Sensory-System Connection: Dyslexia to Autism" - including guest speakers Dr. Stanley Greenspan, Dr. Temple Grandin, among others. The International Conference Catalog will be available soon! Contact (800) 233-1819 or

AAA Clears a Path For Disabled Travelers

A new series of AAA books, "AAA Barrier-Free Travel" aimed at travelers with disabilities, provides detailed specifications on facilities at hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions that enables access for those with disabilities. It also ranks them on their accessibility, and includes information for wheelchair users and visually and hearing-impaired travelers. Guides are available for California, Hawaii, Las Vegas, central Florida, New York and Washington, D.C. Retailing for $12.95, these guides can be found at bookstores and also at AAA offices, as well as online at [Source: July 14, 2002 LA Times Travel Section]

Strong Proud Sisters: Girls and Young Women with Disabilities

By Harilyn Rousso (2001), paints a portrait of disabled girls, their needs and resilience, looking at a range of issues - definitions/demographics, access to health care, substance abuse, exercise and sports, depression, self-esteem, eating disorders and body image, disability identity, role models/media images, social/sexual development, violence, educational equity, employment. [$14, from The Center for Women Policy Studies,, "Publications"].


Upcoming ASK Meetings

[All ASK Meetings are at the Pacific Christian Center, 1403 Pacific Avenue, Manhattan Beach.]

09/30/02 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting:.Organizing Meeting: Join Manhattan Beach parents as we organize around the issue of access to the curriculum at the high school, and at all levels of our district’s educational system, to ensure student success. Bring your ideas on how we can advocate for better practices throughout the district.

10/28/02 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Learning Together in General Education Classrooms: Focusing on Learning Outcomes - Rick Clemens, M.S., founder/director of IECP, has worked with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities since 1985, and has done staff development for school districts, including MBUSD

11/25/02 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: IEP Training - Join ASK as we do a comprehensive parent training related to your student’s IEP. This session aims to provide a hands-on how-to for making your student’s IEP’s efficient and effective.

12/30/02 - NO ASK MEETING - Happy Holidays!

01/27/03 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Educational Therapy - Guest speaker Susan Ehrlichs

02/24/03 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Autism and AB 88 Reimbursement - Chris Angelo, Esq.

03/31/03 - 7PM: ASK Meeting - To Be Scheduled

04/28/03 - 7 PM: ASK Meeting: Occupational Therapy [OT]/Physical Therapy [PT] and Sensory Integration - Lori Annes, RPT, PhD, Dr. Annes is the Director of Can Do Kids in Venice. She will talk about OT/PT and sensory integration dysfunction.



ASK is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping parents with issues related to special education. To contact ASK, call (310 480-9310. ASK does not accept payment for assistance provided to families, rather raises money in furtherance of our efforts through fundraising and accepting donations. We also accept sponsorships of our newsletter,  covering  typical costs of printing and mailing the newsletter. Your sponsorship will be gratefully acknowledged on the newsletter cover. If you wish to donate to ASK or sponsor an issue, please contact ASK or speak to an ASK Board member.

Advocates for Special Kids - September 2002, Volume 2, Issue 1
[Sponsored by the Wicker Family]

Advocates for Special Kids
c/o 3109 Walnut Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

"Families and friends of children receiving special
 education in Manhattan Beach & the South Bay"

"Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in
no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or
contribute to society. Improving educational results for children
with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of
ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent
living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities."

20 U.S.C. § 1400 Congressional Findings
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA]


Copyright © 2001  ASK 
All rights reserved.
Revised: January 25, 2002

FAQ's | Documents | Links | Contact Us

This site is best viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer

 To report problems with this site please e-mail  Webmaster