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The Cast: Surviving Due Process:
Stephen Jeffers v. School Board

Information l Story l Scenes l Cast l Orders l Updates l Awards
Trailer (Quicktime) l  Trailer (Windows Media Player)

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Kathleen S. Mehfoud, Esq.

Kathleen S. aMehfoud, Esq.Kathleen S. Mehfoud plays the role of school board attorney. Ms. Mehfoud is a partner in the Richmond, Virginia office of the law firm of Reed Smith LLP with a practice in education law and in special education law.

Ms. Mehfoud provides consultation services on a national basis and represents a number of school boards. She lectures nationally on a frequent basis. Additionally, Ms. Mehfoud serves on the School Attorneys Special Education Advisory Council providing consultative services to LRP Publications.

Lori Battin

Lori BattinLori A. Battin plays the paralegal for the school board attorney. She is Executive Director of the Virginia Coalition for Students with Disabilities Legal Advocacy Center.

Ms. Battin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Public Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Darrel Tillar Mason, Esq.

Darrel Tillar Mason, Esq.Darrel Tillar Mason plays the hearing officer. She is founder of the Virginia Coalition for Students with Disabilities Legal Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the educational rights of children with disabilities.

Ms. Mason served as a hearing officer through the Virginia Supreme Court for 6 years and is active with the Virginia Women Attorneys Association. She presents seminars on legal topics and has written numerous articles on legal, ethical, and social issues.

Rhonda Smith

Rhonda Smith Rhonda Smith plays the role of Ms. Jeffers, Stephen's mother.

Ms. Smith is a professional actor. She also works at the Virginia Treatment Center for Children, a residential program for children with disabilities.
A close family member has autism.

d l Hopkins

d l Hopkinsd l Hopkins plays the role of Mr. Jeffers. Mr. Hopkins is a veteran Richmond actor and performance poet. As a founding member of Jazz Actors Theatre he has toured throughout the country. He has starred in independent films, national and regional advertisements, and various roles in episodic television.

For the past ten years, Mr. Hopkins has worked with youth, helping them to harness, hear and understand their individual artistic voices.

Peter W. D. Wright, Esq.

Pete WrightPete Wright plays the attorney who represented Stephen Jeffers and his parents. Mr. Wright has represented children with disabilities and their families for more than 30 years.
In 1993, Mr. Wright gave oral argument before the United States Supreme Court in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993). The Court found for his client in a unanimous landmark decision.

Mr. Wright and his wife Pam developed Wrightslaw and have co-authored several best-selling special education and education books: Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy and Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind.

speaks at national conferences and continuing legal education seminars about representing children with special educational needs. Pete and Pam Wright also do training programs in special education law and advocacy.

Pamela Darr Wright, MA, MSW

Pam WrightPam Wright is a psychotherapist who worked with children and families for more than 30 years. Her training and experience in clinical psychology and clinical social work give her a unique perspective on parent-child-school dynamics, problems, and solutions.

Ms. Wright is the primary author of the Wright’s best-selling books, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy and co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind. Ms. Wright is the managing editor of The Special Ed Advocate newsletter.

Mary Hart, Esq.

Mary Hart, Esq.Mary Hart plays the role of special education teacher. Ms. Hart has represented parents and children in special education rights in her private practice and as counsel for the Department for Rights of Virginians with Disabilities (now the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy). Before law school, Ms. Hart worked as a special education teacher and was certified in learning disabilities and emotional disturbances.

Ms. Hart has been faculty for disability and special education presentations for parents and teachers, the Virginia Centers for Independent Living, and the National Attorney General Civil Rights Conference.

Sharon England, Esq.

Sharon England, Esq.Sharon England plays the role of occupational therapist. Ms. England served as practitioner, educator and administrator in child welfare for nearly twenty years before receiving her law degree in 1996. As a social work practitioner, Ms. England provided family, individual and group counseling to child victims of physical and sexual abuse and their families.

Ms. England's law practice is dedicated to representing children as a guardian ad litem in custody, child protection, and delinquency hearings and special education matters. She assisted the Virginia Supreme Court with its implementation of Virginia's Court Improvement Program. She continues to provide training to attorneys, judges, social workers and CASA volunteers.

Malcolm Higgins, Esq.

Malcolm Higgins, Esq.Mal Higgins plays the role of special education director. Mr. Higgins is engaged in the general practice of law in Virginia Beach. His interest in special education law began with the birth of his youngest daughter who has learning disabilities. Together with other Tidewater advocates, he helped form an advocacy organization called P.I.E.R [Protecting Individuals with disabilities Education Rights] which is well-known for its workshops, school board voter's guides, and training of parents.

Mr. Higgins has been involved with the Virginia Coalition for Students with Disabilities in the review and public comment on the Virginia special education regulations. Mr. Higgins represents parents of students with disabilities in the Tidewater Virginia area on matters involving their special needs children.

Donald Oswald

Dr. Donald OswaldDr. Oswald plays the role of the psychologist who evaluated Stephen Jeffers and observed the programs at the public school and The Early School. Dr. Oswald first worked with children with autism as a teacher. Later he was program supervisor at a residential autism facility. He holds a master of education in school psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology.

Dr. Oswlad is a professor and associate division chair in the Department of Psychiatry and affiliate clinical professor in the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Oswald serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Child and Family Studies and as a consulting editor for Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. He has served as principal investigator for numerous research studies and has published on child development and education topics. He has testified about educational issues and children with autism in special education due process hearings.

Dawn Hendricks

Dawn HendricksDawn Hendricks, M.Ed., plays the role of program specialist at The Early School.

In real life, Ms. Hendricks is a program coordinator for The Faison School for Autism, a private school in Virginia for children with autism. She has presented at local and state conferences on various topics, including autism, applied behavior analysis in the classroom, building language repertoires, and discrete trial instruction.

Ms. Hendricks received her M.Ed. in special education from the Virginia Commonwealth University and taught in public schools from 1993 through 1999. She began as Program Coordinator at The Faison School in 1999.

Candace David, M.Ed.

Candace David, M.Ed.Candace David plays the principal of The Early School. Ms. David is the founder and former director of Northstar Academy. a private special education school in Richmond, VA.

She has worked as an educational diagnostician, consultant, teacher, and child advocate.

Ms. David is a consultant in private school development and educational programs for students with disabilities. She presents on learning disabilities, non-verbal learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, advocacy, and No Child Left Behind. Ms. David is actively involved with the International Dyslexia Association, the National Council of Learning Disabilities, the Autism Association of America, and the Association of Instruction and Supervision.

V.A.V.S. Video Productions

Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
was directed and filmed by V.A.V.S. Video Productions, a team of specialists in producing educational video programs. "We enjoy creating educational media, documentaries and training materials on issues that need more public awareness. We devote ourselves to topics about the legal and educational issues surrounding people who have disabilities."

Learn More

Learn more about Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board:

Trailer (Quicktime)
Trailer (Windows Media Player)

Read the Story
Meet the Cast
List of Scenes

Internet Orders
Fax & Mail Orders

Updates and Status of Case

When Surviving Due Process was being filmed, the due process hearing in Z.P. v. Henrico School Board had just been held. The story of Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board was based on the facts in Z.P. v. Henrico School Board.

The individuals who played the roles of teachers, therapists, psychologist, special ed director, and attorneys in Surviving Due Process read the transcript of the Z.P. v. Henrico School Board due process hearing. At the time the DVD was filmed, the hearing officer had not issued a decision.

What happened next?

The parents received a favorable decision from the hearing officer. The school district appealed to U. S. District Court. The District Court reversed the hearing officer and found for the school district.

The parents appealed this decision to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Court heard oral argument on September 29, 2004.

On February 11, 2005, in a 2-1 split decision, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the District Court and remanded the case back with instructions. Read School Bd of Henrico County VA v. Z.P. in html.

School Bd of Henrico County VA v. Z.P. is also available in pdf at

Does this mark the end of School Bd of Henrico v. Z.P.? If there are new developments in School Board of Henrico County VA v. Z.P.
, we will update this page.

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