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A Georgia Advocate asks: "How can I get professional standards for advocates in my state?"

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As an advocate, I continually run into the problem of coming behind other ‘advocates’ who have made a mess of things and broken down all effective communication between the school and the parents. They often back out of the situation they created, leaving the parents in a greater state of crisis.

These advocates know only half of the law(s), have no negotiation skills, no functional knowledge of the child's specific disability or needs. They seem to think their job is to be a 'pit bull' and 'attack' the school system in a direct and personal fashion.

This negates my credibility, and damages my ability to work with the school. I have to ‘clean up’ after advocates who refuse to return confidential documents and tape recordings to the parents.

I think we need some baseline professional standards for those who call themselves "Special Education Advocates." How might I accomplish this?

I appreciate the demands on your time and will wait patiently for a response.

Thank you,


Dear Leslie:

The things you describe happen when inexperienced people take on a job, then find it is more complicated than they realized. This isn’t specific to advocates, but is a sign of inexperience and lack of training.

Similar things happen when inexperienced attorneys receive a request for help. Sometimes they assume that writing a letter to the school will cause the school to reconsider a position. Of course, in most cases this doesn't happen.

Most professions have ways to monitor their members -- tests and exams to gauge information, standards, hours of supervision.

You should get involved with COPAA (Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates). COPAA is an independent, nonprofit organization of attorneys, advocates and parents established to improve the quality and quantity of legal assistance for parents of children with disabilities.

COPAA is working on standards and training for advocates. I think advocates will have more credibility and muscle if they belong to COPAA. The COPAA site is at

BTW: The 3rd annual COPAA conference is scheduled for early March in Houston.

The Conference schedule is at

You can also leave your message on the Wrightslaw Bulletin Board/Guestbook. After people leave questions on our Bulletin Board, they get public and private emails about their question or issue. Go to:

Good luck!

Pam Wright

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