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Two Day Pre-Conference Skill Building Sessions 

9:00 AM – 5:00PM, Thursday, March 10, AND Friday, March 11, 2016


 P-1 New IDEA Attorney Skills Training: Special Education Law, Procedure and Strategy

Presenters: Selene Almazan, Esq., Dawn Smith, Esq. Barbara Ransom, Esq., and Maureen van Stone, Esq.

Audience Category: Attorneys

Audience Experience Level:  Novice, new to practicing special education law

Capacity: 30, with small group breakouts

Description:  This is an introductory program designed for attorneys who are just beginning to practice special education law.  Participants learn basic special education law and procedure as well as strategies and practice tips for handling special education cases.  Program includes an overview of the IDEA and Section 504, and focuses on practical skills in taking a case from the initial client interview to the due process request.  We do not address skills and issues that arise in a due process proceeding as that is covered in the pre-conference session “Impartial Due Process Training.”  We do work in a combination of large and small groups led by experienced practitioners in special education.


P-2 Impartial Due Process Hearing Training

Presenters: Jennifer Laviano, Esq., Craig Goodmark, Esq. and Wayne Steedman, Esq.

Audience Category: Attorneys

Audience Experience Level:  Intermediate

Capacity: 30, with small group breakouts

Description:   This program is for attorneys who are familiar with the IDEA and who want to focus on and practice skills for impartial due process hearings. Large group discussions cover important pre-hearing tasks, from complying with 10-day notice provisions to requesting appropriate remedies such as compensatory education. In smaller groups, broken out by experience level, participants review records for consideration as exhibits, identify key issues, discuss strategies for drafting a comprehensive due process hearing complaint, and establish a trial plan. There are discussions and demonstrations of how to prepare and organize opening statements, direct and cross examinations, and how to handle potential objections. Participants are individually critiqued during each exercise by experienced special education attorneys.


P-3 Advocacy 101: Applying the Law and Other Resources for Effective Advocacy

Presenters: Susan Bruce, Advocate, Cheryl Poe, Advocate, and Catherine Michaels, Esq.

Audience Category: Advocates

Audience Experience Level: Novice

Capacity: 30 

Description: This two day advocacy training includes an overview of the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, NCLB, McKinney-Vento and FERPA. This interactive training also focuses on many tools often underutilized by advocates, such as the commentary of several federal regulations regarding children with disabilities, free resources to assist in identifying scientifically research based practices, locating and utilizing information from OSEP funded projects (the TA&D Network), OSEP and OCR Policy Guidance.  Reframing an IDEA complaint as a Section 504 complaint or an ADA complaint is an interactive activity. The intersection of education laws as they pertain to children with disabilities are also laid out. 


P-4 Advocacy 201: Skills Every Advocate Should Know

Presenters: Mandy Favaloro, Esq., Carrie Watts, J.D., and Missy Alexander, Advocate

Audience Category: Advocates

Audience Experience Level: Intermediate to Advance

Capacity: 40 with small breakouts

Description: This two-day session is for intermediate to experienced Advocates with a working knowledge of the IDEA who are looking for a hands-on, in depth training with a focus on advocacy skills.  The training includes lectures, discussion and activities in both whole group and small group format.  Participants learn and apply a wide range of critical skills for effective advocacy, including preparation strategies, case review, analytic skills, effective communication and negotiation skills, and writing skills.  Utilizing case documents and training materials, participant engage in activities designed for practical application of the skills learned.  This is designed to be an intensive skills-based training, and small group lessons are tailored to the experience level of the participants in order to offer the opportunity for enhancement of skills for both intermediate and advanced advocates.


P-5 Advocate Training: Representing Parents In Impartial Hearings

Presenters: Barbara Jean (BJ) Ebenstein, Esq. and Jean Marie Brescia, Esq.

Audience Category: Advocates

Audience Experience Level: Advanced: Professional advocates who have at least five years’ experience pursuing the educational rights of other people’s children.  Attorneys and law school graduates may not participate in this training.

Capacity: 20, with small breakouts

Description: Some states now permit advocates to represent parents in IDEA impartial hearings. This intensive two-day training begins to give advanced professional advocates the basic skills to represent parents in impartial hearings through readings, lectures, and skill practice in small groups.  Participants should work in states that permit advocates to represent parents or are silent on the matter.


One Day: Thursday, March 10, 2016

 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM 


T-1 Section 504 & the ADA: Advanced Issues and Latest Developments

Presenters: Catherine Reisman, Esq. and Sarah Zuba, Esq.

Audience Category: All

Audience Experience Level:  Intermediate/ Advanced

Description:  This one-day session for advocates and attorneys focuses on the latest scholarship and cases interpreting Section 504 and the ADA. What standard of "intent" applies to disability discrimination claims? How have courts addressed the argument that ADA/504 create standards that may be higher than the FAPE standard? How can we use the least restrictive environment provisions of the ADA to ensure appropriate transition and adult services? Participants explore these issues through examination of documents from recently litigated cases as well as the most recent works of legal scholarship. 

T-2 Assessment Bootcamp!

Presenters: Dr. Ann Simun, PhD and Jane DuBovy, Esq.

Audience Category: All

Audience Experience Level:  All

Description:  Attorneys and advocates can improve their effectiveness by learning details about how to evaluate assessment reports, how to obtain good IEEs, and how to use assessment data in the IEP and mediation/DP process.  This workshop provides detailed information about understanding assessment data, evaluating existing reports, making progress assessments through data comparison, and knowing how to effectively gain strong data.  In addition, specific information will be presented regarding specific instruments and their strengths and weaknesses.

T-3 Legal Writing Workshop

Presenter: Ellen Saidman, Esq.

Audience Category: Attorneys and Experienced Advocates.   Intended audience:  attorneys and advocates who frequently write documents that are three pages or longer.  Advocates may have obtained their writing experience by writing state complaints, OCR complaints, and demand letters.  

Audience Level: Novice/Intermediate/Advanced

Description: This full-day workshop assists attorneys and advocates of all levels of experience to improve writing. The workshop starts with discussion of how to develop a persuasive theory of the case, through the final polishing touches for written work.  The workshop also focuses on case development and legal strategy. Attendees are asked to bring to the program (1) a short writing project prepared for this workshop and (2) a project of their own that they are working on or have recently completed.  Also discussed is an author’ need to know opponents’ theory of the case and how to address it persuasively, not defensively.  Exercises in case reading, crafting thesis paragraphs, writing persuasive headings, writing persuasive topic sentences, and developing arguments are also included.   Attendees work in small group to revise individual projects.

T-4 Cross-Examination of Witnesses

Speakers: Franklin Hickman, Esq., Tracey Walsh, Esq.

Audience Category: Attorneys

Audience Experience Level:  Intermediate / Advanced Attorneys - who have completed due process training or equivalent experience examining witnesses at “trials” both in and out of federal court. 

Description:  This session focuses on the examination of witnesses at trial; structuring a cross and preparing your expert for direct and cross examination, based on materials provided, actual experience in cross and a demonstration of direct and cross by experienced attorneys.  The main focus of the training is cross examination by each participant.  Participants will be guided through the preparation process by the section leaders and given individual critiques.  Each participant will have at least two opportunities to cross examine the expert.


One Day: Friday, March 11, 2016

 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM


F-1 IDEA Litigation in Federal Court – The Process, Procedures, Claims and Best Practices

Presenters: Mark Martin, Esq. and Jon Zimring, Esq.

Audience Category: Attorney

Audience Experience Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Description: This one-day session is for attorneys who are filing or defending a Complaint in federal court arising from an IDEA claim.  Participants will be led through a step-by-step review of the IDEA review process addressing federal court litigation from complaint or answer through post-judgement and appellate considerations. Includes a discussion of supplemental claims but with a focus on handling the various stages of the IDEA appeal.  Participants consider strategies related to filing a complaint and answer, preparing and handling discovery, determining the appropriate legal standards and a review of the critical cases and issues involved in federal litigation, as well as the legal standards for Appellate review and the factors to consider when seeking an appeal.


F-2 Transition Planning: Legal and Researched Based Application of an Important IDEA Obligation

Presenters: Joshua Kershenbaum, Esq., Maria Vetter and Misty Terrell, Advocates

Audience Category: All

Audience Experience Level: Intermediate.

Description: All Day Session:

Friday morning:  The morning session provides participants with an overview of the legal rights under IDEA for appropriate Transition Services and the practical challenges attorneys and advocates face asserting those rights.  Because hearing officers and courts often offer limited or inadequate remedies for denial of appropriate transition services, emphasis is on the practical strategies used to ensure that students receive important transition services. 

Friday afternoon: The afternoon session provides participants with a deeper understanding of formal and informal transition assessments and four focus areas for the assessments. Participants are expected to gain greater knowledge of transition assessment resources, processes for conducting meaningful and useful transition assessments for all students with disabilities, and for managing, using, and documenting the data collected.


F-3 Case Aggregation, The Matrix Re-Imagined, Etc.: Six Projects to Implement in Your Jurisdiction to Reverse the School-to-Prison Pipeline 

Presenters: Joseph Tulman, Esq., and other speakers to be determined. 

Audience Category: All Attendees,

Audience Experience Level: All Levels

Description: The School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP) is populated predominantly with children with disabilities who are children of color from low-income families.  The intersection of disability rights and delinquency defense creates opportunities for novel legal theories and problem-solving strategies for extricating these children from the STPP.  The presenters describe five or six systems-change projects that COPAA members can develop and implement in their jurisdictions to empower parents, advocates, and attorneys to reverse and dismantle the STPP.


Half Day, Friday, March 11, 2016:

9:00 AM - 12:30 PM 

F-4.1 From Stalemate to Mediate: Can’t We All Just Work it Out?

Presenters: Heidi B. Konkler-Goldsmith, Lauren M. O’Connell Mahler, and Caitlin E. McAndrews

Audience Category: All

Audience Level: Intermediate  This session is designed for participants with an understanding of special education law and advocacy but without much prior experience with mediation.

Description: You have reached an impasse with the school system. What’s next? Is your only option to file for a formal due process hearing? This session discusses the option of mediation and its various forms, differences among states and even within the same state, and creative dispute resolution tips. Participants leave with practical tools to implement in their own cases.

1:30 PM - 5:00 PM 

F-4.2 Getting Paid for Kicking Butt: IDEA Attorneys’ Fees

Presenter: Alice Nelson, Esq.

Audience Level:  All Levels

Audience Category: Attorneys

Description: Interested in collecting (more) fees for your winning cases? Wondering about settlement options and challenges? Ever thought about writing a time entry as an art? Don't know how the mechanics of obtaining fees? Come join this interactive half-day session that includes a comprehensive review of the law regarding entitlement and recovery of IDEA attorneys’ fees. This session includes defenses and practical tips for writing time entries and the mechanics of filing for fees. Also discussed are the ethical difficulties and challenges to collecting fees with.



more Calendar

6/1/2016 » 6/1/2017
Webinar Subscription for Organizations

6/1/2016 » 6/1/2017
Webinar Subscription for Individuals

7/14/2016 » 7/14/2017
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8/11/2016 » 7/25/2017
2016 Webinar Series 2: Access to FAPE

9/1/2016 » 12/1/2016
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