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Support and Services

There are a number of program teams that provide focus and direction for special education services. They also monitor the effectiveness of programs and services for students. Each program offers a continuum of program options, ranging from least to most restrictive environments. Such options include:

  • General education with special education supports and services.
  • Special day classes.
  • Special schools.
  • Nonpublic schools (most restrictive placement requirements).

Typically, these program options are provided to students in a general education setting. A few nonpublic schools provide programs for students who require a more restrictive environment. These include:

Whittier School

Whittier School is a separate school option for students who are non-diploma bound in grades K-12. The students are significantly impacted by behavioral, communication, academic, sensory, and/or social needs. Whittier School provides a highly structured educational environment to assist students in acquiring academic, social, independent living, and vocational skills through alternate standards-based instruction. Only students with IEP's attend Whittier School, so opportunities for mainstreaming or access to general education peers cannot be provided. Students who attend Whittier School have received extensive interventions with minimal effectiveness, often in a number of environments. The ultimate goal of Whittier School is to provide students with the necessary skills and supports to successfully return to a comprehensive school site.

Riley, Marcy, and New Dawn Schools

Riley, Marcy, and New Dawn Schools are structured learning environments that support the academic, emotional, behavioral, and social growth of students toward progress and skill mastery on their IEP goals and objectives. This takes place through an integrated delivery of related services that lends itself to creating an instructional and therapy-centered setting with individual and school-wide supports throughout the school day. These supports may include small teacher to student ratios, behavior intervention services, and intensive mental health therapy. Placement and services are diagnostic and targeted for specific outcomes based on student needs through the IEP (Individualized Education Program) and formal assessment process. Determination of placement is based on the impact of the student's qualified disability alongside lack of progress to past interventions, services, and supports tried through the least restrictive environment continuum. When students demonstrate adequate application of skills and growth over a period of time, a re-integration to the least-restrictive environment to the comprehensive site setting is supported through the IEP process.

Low Incidence Programs 

  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) Program

The district's Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) Program serves students from birth to age 22 who have bilateral hearing losses ranging from mild to profound. Students with an educationally significant unilateral hearing loss may also be eligible for D/HH services. The focus of the D/HH Program is to:

  • Encourage maximum independence.
  • Foster the development of age appropriate communication skills, academic/career goals and social/emotional growth.
  • Provide educational services.
  • Provide technological education and assistance.
  • Introduce accommodations, and provide for communication access.

Learn more.

  • Physical and Health Disabilities (PH) Programs

The program for students with Physical and Health Disabilities (PH) provides services for students with orthopedic or other health impairments that are established by the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP). Student needs can be met in a variety of settings with:

  • Physical modifications and equipment to support participation in the educational program;
  • Modifications to the curriculum based on physical needs; and
  • Specialized assistive technology requiring preparation, ongoing instruction and training.

The goal is to provide an instructional program with supplemental curriculum that leads to a diploma, letter of recognition, or a certificate of completion.

  • Visual Impairments (VI)

The program for students with Visual Impairments (VI) is designed to:

  • Foster maximum independence.
  • Provide integration with sighted peers.
  • Provide development of communication and literacy skills.
  • Provide career training.

Curriculum is the same as for non-visually impaired peers throughout the district. Additional instruction is provided for the development of skills specifically necessary for persons with visual impairments, such as keyboarding (typing), Braille, the use of specialized equipment/materials, and travel skills.

  • Audiology Assessment Center

The San Diego Unified School District's Audiology Program is designed to provide audiological assessments, direct consultative services to students with a hearing impairment or with an auditory processing disorder; and to support parents, staff and other district offices in efforts of providing students equal access to district curriculum and programs. Please visit our web page for more information.

  • Licensed Children's Institute (LCI)

Teachers from SDUSD in the LCI program provide educational services to students in hospitals and social agencies throughout San Diego. The hospital or agency provides a treatment program for students with emotional difficulties or other issues affecting their lives. The LCI program does not control the student's admission or discharge. The population served may be in general or special education.

In addition to the teaching staff, SDUSD also provides an itinerant staff to assist and support students in these programs. These positions include a Special Education Administrator, DRT, psychologists, district counselors, mental health clinician, rehabilitation specialist, vocational rehabilitation specialist and school nurse. DIS services, such as Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, etc. are provided according to the IEP.

  • Medically Homebound/Hospital Program (MH/HP)

The Medically Homebound/Hospital Program office manages two programs designed to provide special education services to students with special medical needs in accordance with their individualized Education Program (IEP):

  • Medically Homebound Program

Provides general educational and special education services for students while they are confined to their home according to their the recommendation of their physician, psychiatrist or psychologist.

  • Home/Hospital Instruction

The purpose of home and hospital instruction is to provide instruction to a student with a temporary disability in the student's home or in a hospital or other residential health facility, excluding state hospitals.

A temporary disability is defined as a physical, mental or emotional disability incurred while a student is enrolled in regular day classes or an alternative education program, and after which the student can reasonably be expected to return to regular day classes or the alternative education program without special intervention.

A temporary disability does not include a disability for which a student is identified as an individual with exceptional needs pursuant to California Education Code (EC) Section 56026.

For additional information regarding Home/Hospital instruction in San Diego Unified School District, please visit:


Parentally Placed Private School Services (PPPSS)

The Parentally Placed Private School Services (PPPSS) program is a Special Education service for students enrolled in private schools. According to federal and state law, the San Diego Unified School District has a policy to assist private schools in child-find activities, accept referrals from private schools and others, and conduct appropriate assessments for students suspected of having a disability.

Occupational and Physical Therapy Services(OT/PT)

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Infant Program

The Infant Program provides services to 280 infants and toddlers determined eligible in accordance with California Early Start (CES), a federally mandated program, and Part C of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Diagnostic Learning Center

Administrative Procedure #4613 details the district's procedures relating to the placement of students following release from juvenile court placements. The Placement and Appeal Office is responsible for receiving and evaluating all pertinent information prior to a recommendation of a school placement. Individuals who have been in juvenile hall less than thirty (30) days return to their last school of attendance for re-admittance.

is housed on six comprehensive sites: 2 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, and 2 high schools. Student to teacher/staff ratio is low and students are taught in small groups when appropriate. Teachers, aides and multi-disciplinary service providers work collaboratively to support the needs of all students.

STARS Program 

STARS: Successful Transitions Achieved through Responsive Support. STARS is an alternative classroom for students with IEPs, and is located on six comprehensive campuses. The central feature that distinguishes STARS from the support and services provided at most comprehensive sites, is the unique separate classroom environment and how that setting is the center for all support and services the student receives. The rationale guiding the STARS classes is to provide dynamic responsive supports and services within an environment that allows the student to achieve their academic potential toward earning a diploma. As students demonstrate academic and social/emotional growth in the separate classroom, the Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) is adjusted to meet the student's changing needs. Conceptually, and in the spirit of Least Restrictive Environment, the primary goal of STARS is eventual placement back at the student's school of residence. Even with the goal of returning students to the school of residence, students may remain in STARS, if appropriate, and graduate with a diploma utilizing the support of STARS.

Transition Resources for Adult Community Education (TRACE)

TRACE is a community-based program for students transitioning from public school to adult life. The program helps ensure students are connected to lifelong opportunities and supports within the community.