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William & Mary Law School

2013 Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA)

Agenda l Faculty l Graduates l Slideshow

The 2013 Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA) at William & Mary Law School, Williamsburg, VA, July 28 - August 2, 2013 provided training in special education advocacy for experienced advocates, law students, new attorneys, and attorneys who are new to special education law.

ISEA is a five-day training program hosted by the William & Mary School of Law and co-sponsored by the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic, Wrightslaw, and The Oklahoma Disability Law Center.

***ISEA 2014 scheduled for August 3 - August 8, 2014***

ISEA 2013 Agenda

The Institute opened Sunday evening, July 28, 2013, with the Orientation and Registration session and a wine and dessert Welcome Reception at the Law School.

The program included over 28 hours of training (25 sessions) on applicable laws, ethics, best practices in advocacy, strategies in working with parents and schools, and dispute resolution procedures, taught by national leaders in the field. This training was approved for 27.5 CLE (continuing legal education) credits and (25 contact hours) 2.5 CEUs (continuing education units).

  • History and Relevant Law
  • Ethics in Special Education Advocacy (CLE credit)
  • Lives Worth Living (film)
  • Case Review and Analysis
  • Understanding Evaluations, Tests and Measurements
  • Behavioral Issues in Schools
  • Experts as Fellow Advocates/Witnesses
  • Discipline
  • Advocacy for Children in the Delinquency System: Reversing the School to Prison Pipeline
  • Strategies for Working with Parents
  • Making the Case for Eligibility
  • Section 504 & the ADA (medical component of eligibility and the legal side)
  • ADA Case (accommodations)
  • Strategies for Working with Schools
  • IEP Strategies
  • Evidence Strategies by Attorneys who Represent Parents
  • Preparing a Case for Trial/Due Process
  • Drafting Due Process Claims/State Complaints
  • Dispute Resolution and Settlements
  • Case Law Review by Circuits
  • Legal Claims and Remedies
  • Creating Systemic Change in Your State

Attendees were selected via an application process. Attendees received over $200.00 in books and DVDs, a flash-drive with comprehensive course materials, resource materials, and multimedia training CDs required for completing pre-assignments. Law students earned two graded credits for this course. 

ISEA 2013 Faculty

Angela Ciolfi Angela Ciolfi is the legal director of JustChildren, a program of the Legal Aid Justice Center that focuses on improving Virginia's public education, juvenile justice and foster care systems. Her work for the program earned her the Oliver White Hill Award from the Virginia State Bar in 2003 and the Child Advocacy Award from the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division in 2010. She joined JustChildren as a Powell Fellow in 2004 after clerking for U.S. District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay. Ciolfi is a graduate of The College of William and Mary and the University Of Virginia School Of Law, where she was a member of the Virginia Law Review, was elected to the Raven Society and Order of the Coif, and won the VTLA Trial Advocacy Award, James C. Slaughter Honor Award and the Pro Bono Award.

At JustChildren, Angela has worked with a team of attorneys and organizers to develop and implement innovative strategies for strengthening the educational rights and opportunities for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are incarcerated, through policy advocacy and litigation. She also has provided individual legal representation to children and families in the areas of special education, student discipline, enrollment of special populations, dispositional advocacy for court involved youth, conditions of confinement and post-conviction relief for serious youth offenders. She has provided training, advocacy materials and technical assistance on education law to lawyers and service providers statewide. Angela is also a lecturer at the University Of Virginia School Of Law where she teaches a seminar on Special Education Law and supervises students in the Child Advocacy Clinic.

Kayla Bower, Esquire Kayla A. Bower, Esquire, is the executive director and senior litigation attorney for the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. The center is the federally funded protection and advocacy system (P&A) in Oklahoma. The P&A has the authority to provide legal representation and other advocacy services, under all federal and state laws, to all people with disabilities.

Ms. Bower graduated from the University of Oklahoma School of Law in 1979. She is licensed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Federal District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the American Association of Justice and the National Disability Rights Network. She has made presentations to national, state, and local organizations and governmental agencies, including the Oklahoma Children's Court Program.

Jim Comstock-Galagan, EsquireJim Comstock-Galagan is the Executive Director of the Southern Disability Law Center (SDLC) located in New Orleans, LA, with a second office in Austin, TX. Founded in 2001, SDLC is a 510 (c) (3) non- profit legal services organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the legal rights of people with disabilities throughout the South. It partners with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Protection and Advocacy (P&A) programs, Legal Services Corporations (LSC) and disability organizations on major, systemic disability rights issues involving the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the federal Medicaid Act.

Before founding SDLC, Jim was the Executive Director of Advocacy, Inc. (AI), the Texas P&A, where he worked for 12 years. During that period, he managed the growth of the P&A from an office of 34 staff to a staff of 93, and from a centralized operation with one office to a regionalized operation with eleven offices spread across Texas. From 1981-1989, Jim worked for the Advocacy Center for the Elderly and Disabled in New Orleans (Louisiana P&A) as its Legal Director. From 1979 to 1981 Jim worked as a staff attorney for the Louisiana Center for the Public Interest.

Jim graduated from Tulane University School of Law in 1977, and has a BA in Accounting & Economics from the University of Puget Sound. Jim is the author of publications and training materials on the IDEA, the ADA, and Section 504, including: Stopping the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Pipeline by Enforcing Federal Special Education Law (2006), co-authored with Rhonda Brownstein from the Southern Poverty Law Center. He has served as lead or co-counsel in several IDEA class action lawsuits in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas on behalf of thousands of students with disabilities, and in three systemic Administrative Complaints filed under the IDEA in Louisiana and Florida. Jim has also made numerous presentations at both regional and national conferences on IDEA and ADA issues.

Harry Gewanter, MDDr. Gewanter, MD, FAAP, FACR, is a pediatrician and pediatric rheumatologist who has practiced in Richmond, Virginia for almost 3 decades. A graduate of Duke University and Wayne State University Medical School, he received his general pediatric and pediatric rheumatology training at the University of Rochester. He has been actively involved in national, state and local professional, community and disability organizations. These have included the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, the national American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Children with Disabilities, a variety of volunteer positions within the national and Mid-Atlantic Region Arthritis Foundation and the first Walter E. Bundy, Jr Clinical Professor of Community Pediatrics at the Medical College of Virginia.

As a result of both his personal and professional interests and experiences, his practice has evolved over the years into primarily caring for children and youth with disabilities and special health care needs. Beyond personally advocating for his patients, he helped co-found Medical Home Plus, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization that provides information, support and referrals for families of children and youth with any disability. One of its primary activities is working with families who are having difficulties working with their school system. Since three of his four children had IEP's, he lived through the many challenges parents and children with disabilities or chronic health problems face within the public school system. These experiences have resulted in a desire to help other families undergo fewer difficulties than those of his children and family.

Dr. Beth HellerDr. Beth Heller is a licensed clinical psychologist and nationally certified school psychologist. She completed an Ed.S. in School Psychology at James Madison University in 1988 and worked for many years in Virginia public school systems, serving preschool through high school populations. In 2005 Dr. Heller earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. While there she was awarded the Richard Abidin Award for Clinical Excellence. Presently, Dr. Heller is Associate Director of the Center for Psychological Services and Development, a primary training site for psychology doctoral students at Virginia Commonwealth University. In this capacity, Dr. Heller provides administrative oversight of CPSD's assessment service and intensive training and supervision for Ph.D. students in psychological and psychoeducational assessments.

Dr. Heller's experience also includes work in community mental health and in-patient psychiatric facilities. When not working, Dr. Heller can be found in her garden or hanging out with her two teenage daughters.

Pat Howey, Advocate Pat Howey has four children, seven grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. Several of her children, grandchildren and one great grandchild have a variety of disabilities. Pat has a specific learning disability. Pat has been involved in special education advocacy since 1985. She is an active advocate for families who have children with disabilities and specializes in dispute resolution. In 2008, Pat became involved in the world of adult special education when her brother suffered a massive stroke. She continues to learn how to navigate the Social Security Disability, Social Security Retirement, Veterans Administration, Medicare, and Medicaid systems.

Pat is a member of the Wrightslaw Speakers Bureau, a former charter Commissioner of the Tippecanoe County Human Relations Commission, and a charter member and former member of the Board of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. Pat graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Paralegal Studies from Saint Mary of the Woods College.

Bill Hurd, EsquireWilliam H. Hurd, Esquire, is a partner in the Richmond office of Troutman Sanders and leads the firm's Appellate Team. He previously served as the first Solicitor General of Virginia (1999 - 2004). Mr. Hurd's special education practice involves representing parents of children with disabilities in disputes with local school divisions, including IEP meetings, administrative hearings and federal appeals. He argued the case of Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49 (2005) (allocating burden of proof at administrative hearings) as well as several key cases in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

His writings in the area include: Special Education Law, 2009 Annual Survey, University of Richmond Law Review (co-author); Legal Consequences of Tuition Assistance Grant Program for Students with Disabilities, Thomas Jefferson. Institute for Public Policy (2009); & "Autism, the IDEA and Recent Developments in Virginia," Critical Issues in Education Law and Policy (Commonwealth Educational Policy Institute, Virginia Commonwealth University) (April 2007) (co-author). In addition to practicing law, Mr. Hurd is an adjunct professor at George Mason University Law School, where he teaches a course on the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause.

Sonja D. Kerr is a Senior Attorney at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. As the Law Center’s Director of Disabilities Rights, Ms. Kerr’s practice focuses on special education litigation, extending from representation in administrative due process hearings to complex class action litigation. Ms. Kerr’s disability advocacy also extends through all of the Law Center’s practice areas, including employment, housing, and community services. A long-time disabilities rights attorney and advocate, Ms. Kerr started the first private practice firms in both Alaska and Minnesota devoted exclusively to representing individuals with disabilities. She litigated many of the first special education cases in both regions, including the very first special education cases on an Indian reservation in Minnesota and in what is known as “the Bush” in Alaska – communities that are off the road system and can only be accessed by plane or dogsled. Having gained a national reputation for groundbreaking litigation on behalf of children with disabilities, Ms. Kerr served as the first chair of the Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys (COPAA). Ms. Kerr is a cum laude graduate of Northwest Nazarene College in Idaho, and has received a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Purdue University and a JD from Indiana University School of Law.

Bill Reichhardt, Esquire William B. Reichhardt, Esquire, is the principal in the firm of William B. Reichhardt & Associates in Fairfax, Virginia. His primary practice areas include family law, criminal defense, school law, special education and mental health issues. He has successfully represented children and parents in special education appeals at the administrative and court appellate levels.

Mr. Reichhardt had early experience as a juvenile probation officer, Director of a therapeutic group home and school of special education for emotionally disturbed adolescent boys, and as the intake supervisor for the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

In 2001, Mr. Reichhardt received the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award from the Fairfax Bar Association. In 2009, Mr. Reichhardt was appointed by the governor to serve on the Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice and is also a sitting member on the Virginia Bar Association Commission on the Needs of Children. He is the 2010 recipient of the prestigious Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award bestowed by the Virginia State Bar in recognition of his efforts to provide and support legal advocacy for children.

Patty Roberts, Esquire Professor Patty Roberts, Esquire, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Law whose areas of specialization are in Clinical legal Education; Education Law; Negotiation; Legal Writing; Practice of Law. She is currently directing the Special Education Advocacy Clinic and teaching Special Topics in Special Education Law. She is a founder of William & Mary's Institute of Special Education Advocacy. Professor Roberts practiced law for eight years in Newport News, VA., as a sole practitioner and later as a managing partner of a civil practice law firm. In 1997, she began teaching at William & Mary and since 2000 has served in numerous administrative roles including Associate Director of the Legal Skills Program, Director of the Academic Support Program and Externship Program, and Associate Dean for Academic Programs. She became a Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Programs in 2008.

As Director of Clinical Programs, Professor Roberts' responsibilities include the development of new clinic initiatives. In spring 2009, the first in-house clinics, the Lewis B. Puller Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic and the Parents Engaged for Learning Equality (PELE) Special Education Advocacy Clinic, began operations. Several additional clinic opportunities are in the planning stages. In 2004, she received the John Marshall Award which is given annually by the Law School in recognition of exceptional service. She is Chair of the Association of American Law Schools Interdisciplinary Clinical Education Committee, Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee for Williamsburg/James City County, and a member of Rep. Rob Wittman's First District Disability Advisory Council. She is a former member of the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, former member and president of the board of Legal Services of Eastern Virginia, and also has served as President of the Greater Peninsula Women's Bar Association.

Emily SuskiEmily Suski teaches in the Health Law Partnership (HelP) Legal Services Clinic at Georgia State University's College of Law. Prior to joining the HelP Clinic, she co-taught the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Virginia School Of Law, and she was a Clinical Teaching Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center. She also worked as a staff attorney in the JustChildren Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Virginia. She received a B.A., J.D., and M.S.W. from the University of North Carolina and an LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center.

Joe Tulman directs the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law’s (UDC-DCSL) Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic. He has been a professor at the law school, directing the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic, since the late 1980s. From 1988 until 2002, Professor Tulman served as counsel for plaintiffs in Evans v. Williams, a class action on behalf of persons with mental retardation. The suit, filed in 1976 by an Antioch law professor, led to the closing in 1991 of Forest Haven, a large institution. An agreement, filed by the Evans parties and approved by the court in 2001, establishes and funds a non-profit organization (The Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities) to advance the interests of people with disabilities in D.C.. With his colleagues in the law school clinic, Tulman has pioneered the use of special education advocacy for children in the neglect and delinquency systems. Among other numerous awards, The D.C. Bar Foundation named Professor Tulman the winner of the 2001 Jerrold Scoutt Prize for sustained, full-time service to under-represented people in the District of Columbia. In 2007, the Association of American Law Schools Clinical Section Committee on Lawyering in the Public Interest named Professor Tulman as a Bellow Scholar. In 2011, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) honored him with its Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Educational Advocacy on behalf of children with disabilities. In 2012 the University of the District of Columbia honored him with The Dr. Cleveland L. Dennard Distinguished Service Award, honoring an individual who has demonstrated a long-term commitment of outstanding service to the University or to the Washington, D.C. community.

Peter W.D. Wright, Esquire Pete Wright is an attorney who represents children with special educational needs. In second grade, Pete was diagnosed with learning disabilities including dyslexia, dysgraphia and ADHD. He was fortunate – his learning problems were identified early. His parents obtained intensive Orton-Gillingham remediation for him by Diana Hanbury King. Pete's determination to help children grew out of his own educational experiences. While attending Randolph Macon College, Pete worked in a Juvenile Training School as a houseparent. After graduation with a degree in Psychology, he worked in another Juvenile Training School as a counselor and later became a Juvenile Probation Officer in the Juvenile Court system. In 1972, he was honored as Virginia's "Juvenile Probation Officer of the Year." During that time, Pete was also attending evening college in a graduate psychology program at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 1977, Pete graduated from T. C. Williams Law School at the University of Richmond.

On October 6, 1993, Pete gave oral argument before the United States Supreme Court in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993). Thirty-four days later, the Court issued a unanimous decision for Shannon Carter. Pete is the co- author of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law (1999), Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (2003), Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004, (2005), Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd edition (2005) and Wright law: All About IEPs. He appeared as the parent's attorney in in the award-winning DVD video, Surviving Due Process: When Parents and the School Board Disagree - Stephen Jeffers v. School Board (2004). Pete and Pam Wright are advisors at the William and Mary Law School's Special Education Law Clinic (PELE). They are the founders of Wrightslaw, the #1 ranked website about education law, special education law, and special education advocacy.

Guest Speakers

Marilyn Bartlett

Marilyn Bartlett, a member of the ISEA Class of 2012 spoke to the class via skype from Austria. Marilyn Bartlett, a person who has dyslexia, sued the NY Board of Law Examiners for refusing to provide reasonable accommodations on the bar examination. Judge Sotomayor, who was later appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, ruled for Ms. Bartlett, awarding her injunctive relief and damages.

Jeffrey Breit, Esquire

Jeffrey Breit, the 2008-2009 St. George Tucker Adjunct Professor of Law and partner at Breit, Drescher, & Imprevento, who provided the impetus to create the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic spoke to the graduates.

Meet the ISEA 2013 Graduates l View the Slideshow

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