Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
Protecting the Legal and Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities
|2016 Webinar Speaker Bios|
2016 Webinar Speaker Biographies
Selene A. Almazan, Esq., COPAA Legal Director has represented students and families for nearly 30 years. She is a former Supervising Attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland where she represented children in the foster care system, including representation in special education matters. For the last 23 years, Selene represented parents in special education matters with a primary focus on least restrictive environment issues at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Since September 2014, Selene has been the Legal Director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) where she supports the work of the Amicus Committee as well as works on federal and local policy issues. Selene maintains a private practice focusing on parent and student representation in special education matters. Selene represents families at IEP team meetings, state complaint proceedings, mediations, due process hearings, suspension/expulsion proceedings and federal court proceedings, including matters involving violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She has extensive experience training families, teachers, school administrators, attorneys and advocates on legal issues related to special education law as well as disability discrimination issues.
Alexis Casillas, Esq. is a special education attorney practicing in California. She has spent time working for the American Civil Liberties Union in Orange County on issues of educational equity and discrimination, and was a member of the Youth and Education Law Project, a Stanford Law School clinic devoted to providing free legal assistance to low-income special-needs students. She was an extern for the Department of Health and Human Services; later, she was a post-bar clerk for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office, where she conducted research on the admissibility of testimony by individuals with language deficits and disabilities. Alexis also served as an extern to the Honorable Kim Ward law on the Ninth Circuit. Alexis began her own practice in 2009, in which she exclusively served special-needs students and their parents. Having grown up with a sibling with disabilities, Alexis vividly remembers her family's experience with school districts, regional centers, and other government agencies, and brings those experiences to all of her cases. She approaches each case with the empathy born of that experience. She is also broadly interested in policy affecting special-needs populations, and she works with groups interested in developing programs for adults with autism.
Matthew Cohen, Esq. is owner and founder of the Chicago law firm, Matt Cohen and Associates LLC (2012). Currently admitted to practice in Illinois, his practice concentration is representation of children and families in special education and discipline disputes with public schools. He also has extensive experience in mental health and confidentiality law, representing many mental health providers and agencies. Mr. Cohen frequently litigates special education matters in the federal courts, and has represented hundreds of families in special education disputes. He lectures on special education, mental health and confidentiality issues throughout the United States and publishes frequently on these topics. He is a legal commentator for LD Online and a periodic columnist for Attention Magazine. He contributed to the introduction in the K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities, 8th Edition (College Admissions Guides). He completed a chapter for a special issue of the medical journal AMSTAR (Adolescent Medicine State of the Art Reviews) on ADHD and Learning Disabilities in Adolescents that was released summer of 2008. He also has completed a book on special education advocacy titled, A Guide to Special Education Advocacy: What Parents, Clinicians and Advocates Need to Know, which was published in February, 2009. He is a past adjunct faculty member at Loyola University School of Law. He is the former President of National CHADD(Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder), is a current board member of COPAA (Council on Parent Attorneys and Advocates), has chaired the Illinois Attorney Generals Committee on Special Education for many years, and is involved in a wide variety of disability related groups. His peers have elected him to the Illinois Super Lawyers List in 2005, 2007-2015 and again in 2016. He is a graduate of Grinnell College and the University of Minnesota Law School.
Andrew K. Cuddy, Esq. graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1987, where he attended on a Navy R.O.T.C. (Marine Option) scholarship. Upon graduation he was commissioned into the U.S. Marine Corps. He served on active duty for nearly five years and is a combat veteran of the First Gulf War. After active duty, Andy attended the University at Buffalo School of Law, while remaining active in the Marine Reserves. During this time as a reservist, Andy served in Somalia. He graduated from law school in 1996 and was admitted that same year. He remained active in the Marine Reserves until 1996 and attained the rank of Captain. Andy initially practiced criminal defense law. In 2001, a criminal case with overlapping special education issues introduced him to the special education problems families were experiencing. He began representing families in these matters, and in a very short time this area of law took over his practice. He now devotes his practice to represent families of children with special needs. He speaks publicly on the topic of special education law routinely for various entities. In 2007 Andy wrote The Special Education Battlefield: A Guide to the Due Process Hearing and Other Tools of Effective Advocacy. As the founder of the Cuddy Law Firm, Andy has grown the firm to meet the increasing demand for special education representation, and in 2011 expanded the services of the firm to other areas of disability law, including special needs trust planning, and guardianship. To meet this demand, Andy has brought together attorneys with key litigation skills and combined those skills into an effective team. The Cuddy Law Firm currently maintains offices in Auburn, New York, White Plains, New York, Cleveland, Ohio and Austin, Texas. Andy lives with his wife Shoby and their two boys Danny and Deonsay
Sandra Dixon Shove, Advocate, is a former elementary educator, a non-attorney special education advocate in private practice, and a longtime Autism Society affiliate leader. She has 12 years of experience teaching, 10 years advocating for children with a variety of disabilities, and more than 11 years supporting and mentoring parents, as well as developing and presenting community awareness programs countywide as an Autism Society leader. She is the mother of three adolescents/young adults (one with autism); Vice President, Autism Society of Santa Barbara; First Vice President, Autism Society of California; and a member of the Alliance of California Autism Organizations, Council of Parent Advocates and Attorneys, and Women’s Organization for Special Education Professionals. Sandy draws from this broad background and shares lessons learned while helping other parents become empowered members of their children’s planning teams.
Lisa A. Fagan, Esq. is a member of the Virginia Bar and practices largely in the Northern Virginia area. Ms. Fagan has a BA from Allegheny College and a JD from Washington College of Law, the American University. She has acted as a peer reviewer for the US Department of Education, serves on the Fairfax County Public Schools Advisory Committee for Student’s with Disability and has been active in the disability and education community for 10 years. Her practice focuses on advocacy and mediation in educational and disciplinary disputes.
Sarah Flohre, Esq. a supervising attorney in the Healthy Together program, a Medical Legal Partnership at DC’s Children’s Law Center. Sarah joined Children’s Law Center as a special education staff attorney in 2012, after working for many years in private practice, advocating for the special education needs of low-income children and families. She has litigated over thirty administrative due process hearings, has litigated appeals of Hearing Officers’ Decisions under IDEIA in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and has assisted with class action litigation on post-Katrina health care issues. Sarah has also presented on special education issues and special education litigation practice in many forums, including at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates ("COPAA”) Annual Conference, the National Association of Counsel for Children’s Annual Conference ("NACC”), and the 16th ABA Children and the Law Conference.
Jason Fortenberry, Esq.'s special education career began out of law school when he served for three years as a staff attorney for the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law. In this capacity, Jason provided recommendations for case dispositions in special education matters. With this training and perspective into the judicial decision-making process, Jason moved into active litigation as an attorney for the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP). At PILCOP, Jason was a very well-respected attorney for individual parents and children involved in Special Education disputes. He maintains a commitment to public service as demonstrated by his extensive history of community involvement, including his efforts to establish a Human Relations Commission in Conshohocken, where he continues to serve as a commissioner to assist in dealing with discrimination. Jason graduated from Rutgers School of Law where he was an aspiring public servant. He served as a Marshall-Brennan Fellow, taught a course in Constitutional Law at Camden High School, and was a weekly financial literacy tutor at Hopeworks 'N Camden, Jason was a recipient of the Mary Philbrook Public Interest Award. As a law student, Jason served as a summer intern for the Honorable Marlene F. Lachman of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and as a judicial extern for the Honorable Gloria M. Bums, Chief Judge, United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Jersey. Prior to finding his calling as a Special Education attorney, Jason worked for several years in the information technology field following his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama.
Charlie Fox, Esq. set his sights on becoming a lawyer, he never envisioned himself as a specialist in education law, supporting the needs and rights of children and young adults. But, as a veteran special education attorney, Fox has found his path with the beacon light of his son Cole, now 19, guiding the way. The "catalyst and defining principle” for Fox when he entered special needs law was his then two-year-old son, who is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy who needed an advocate. Now considered "my hero” by Cole, Fox works to assure that his son and other children with special needs receive an appropriate public education.
Kimberly Glassman, Esq., is a sole practitioner practicing in Maryland and the District of Columbia, primarily representing parents in special education and neglect matters. Ms. Glassman was previously a special education attorney at James E. Brown & Associates, a Staff Attorney at the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau in the general litigation unit representing indigent clients in bankruptcy, consumer, education, and housing matters, and a Skadden Fellow/Counsel at the National Women's Law Center. She has successfully litigated over 50 due process complaints in the District of Columbia. Ms. Glassman earned her J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbia School of Law in 2013 and her BA from SUNY Geneseo in 2000. She has also presented at the Neglect and Delinquency Practice Institute on special education issues in the District of Columbia in 2013, 2014 and 2015, serves on the Education Sub-Committee for the District of Columbia Superior Court and as a co-chair of the Special Education Attorney Roundtable.
Judith Gran, Esq. Judith is a founding member and past Board Member of COPAA and an active member of the COPAA Government Relations Committee. Judith is perhaps best known within COPAA for providing her invaluable annual case law review at each conference. Prior to joining Reisman Carolla Gran, Judith practiced law at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia from 1984 to 2009. She served as Director of Disability Projects from 1998 to 2009. She has conducted class action litigation to obtain community services for institutionalized persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Montana, California, Illinois, and Tennessee. Her work as counsel for the Arc of Pennsylvania and the plaintiff class during the implementation phase of the consent decree in Halderman v. Pennhurst from 1986 through 1998 led to significant improvements in community service systems in Philadelphia and other counties. Ms. Gran represents special education students in administrative and judicial proceedings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states, including the class action suit, Gaskin v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a case – currently in its implementation phase - brought to enforce the least restrictive environment mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Felicia Hurewitz, Ph.D., BCBA, directs EdMent Consulting, LLC, which offers educational placement and transition assistance to families of children with disabilities. After receiving her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Hurewitz trained in a postdoctoral position at the Rutgers University Institute for Research in Cognitive Science, and taught at the Assistant Professor level at several universities. She has been the recipient of a number of research awards, including a National Academy of Education postgraduate fellowship and an Innovative Technology grant from Autism Speaks, and has conducted research on autism interventions, cognitive psychology, numerical cognition and psycholinguistics. She was the founder and director of the Drexel Autism Support Program (DASP), which provided peer-mentorship, instruction in goals setting and self-advocacy, and support services for post-secondary students with autism spectrum disorders
Deborah Jacobson, Esq. is a sole practitioner currently practicing in Northern California, carrying special education cases throughout most school districts in the Bay Area. Ms. Jacobson was previously in private practice at a special education law firm in the District of Columbia where she represented low income families and children in special education cases. Prior to relocating back to the Bay Area, Ms. Jacobson co-founded The School Justice Project, a legal services and advocacy organization serving older students with special education needs who are involved in DC’s justice system. Ms. Jacobson worked as an intern and special education advocate for Disability Rights CA and Bay Area Legal Aide as she earned her J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law
David Jefferson, Advocate, a parent of special needs children, understands and appreciates all of the difficulties parent’s face as they try and navigate the special education maze. David formed Parent Support Arizona to ensure parents have a local resource and the tools they need to ensure their children’s educational needs are met. Over the past few years, David has sought administrative remedies through the State Department of Education, Office of Administrative Hearings OCR and FERPA. David uses these experiences to provide civil rights advocacy, educational advocacy, parent training and represent parents in IDEA due process hearings in the State of Arizona. In addition he offers self-help tools and resources that allow parents to advocate for themselves and on an equal footing with schools as they advocate for their children’s rights.
Laura W. Kaloi, Esq., is COPAA’s public policy consultant and is an accomplished senior level executive who cares deeply about advancing policies and best practices so that more children especially those at- risk and those who struggle have access to a high quality education as well as the supports and services needed so that they can achieve their full potential and live independent, meaningful lives in today's global economy and modern world. Laura leads client strategic planning and implementation in: funder research and fund development; government affairs; communications; research and analysis; grassroots advocacy; as well as the development and implementation of large scale and mini campaigns targeting the U.S. Congress, the White House, federal agencies, key states, the media and grassroots advocates. Highlights of issues and areas of focus include: education, civil rights, special education, early intervention, literacy, assessment, system accountability, accessibility, employment, social/emotional learning, at-risk youth, disability and health. Prior to joining Washington Partners, Laura was public policy director for The National Center for Learning Disabilities; public affairs director, American Health Quality Association; communications director, HealthInsight; and, legislative associate, Congressman James V. Hansen. Laura is also the parent of three great children, including her teenage son who has dyslexia and dysgraphia.
Josh Kershenbaum, Esq., is a founding Member of Frankel & Kershenbaum, LLC, a law firm devoted exclusively to representing children and families. Josh's clients benefit not only from his extensive litigation experience, but from the valuable perspective and knowledge he gained in his previous career as a teacher in a public elementary school. Today, Josh represents children and families in matters ranging from special education law, school discipline and truancy, bullying and discrimination, child-centered personal injury and Constitutional rights of students. He also represents college and graduate students in disputes with institutions of higher education. Josh's work on behalf of children with special needs and their families includes counseling and representation with respect to all forms of disputes over the provision of educational services, such as those arising under The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 and other federal and state laws. Accordingly, Josh represents clients at IEP meetings and administrative due process hearings, in settlement negotiations with school districts and in state and federal litigation. Josh is a frequent author and lecturer. He developed and taught a Special Education Law Seminar as an adjunct professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law; is a contributing writer to MetroKids magazine; and trains parents, attorneys and advocates in all aspects of special education law. Josh is admitted to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is a cum laude graduate of Temple University Beasley School of Law and a magna cum laude graduate of Amherst College. He received his Elementary Teaching Certification from the Shady Hill School TTC Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife and son.
Lisa Peskay Malmsten, Esq., Formerly a deputy county counsel and deputy city attorney whose practice has included juvenile dependency, environmental law, public works and public records, Lisa Peskay Malmsten practices special education law in Long Beach California. She is a member of SEAT-IV (2016). Lisa is also an instructor for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at California State University, Long Beach
Denise Stile Marshall, M.S., COPAA Executive Director, Denise graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Science. Denise has 30 years’ experience in the field of disabilities in a variety of support, management, and advocacy capacities. She is a dynamic trainer, experienced in leading sessions for participants of diverse abilities and experience levels. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of COPAA in 2005 Denise was the Program Manager and trainer for Maryland Leaders in Disability Policy; the Director of Training and Educational Outreach for the national organization TASH, and a Positive Behavior Support specialist and Director of the National Training Center for The Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland. Denise's specific areas of interest are positive behavioral supports, prevention and reduction in the use of restraints, seclusion and aversive techniques, family supports, grassroots advocacy, self-advocacy, and experiential learning.
Catherine Merino Reisman, Esq. Ms. Merino Reisman is a founding partner of Reisman Carolla Gran LLP, providing consultation and guidance regarding the legal rights of children and adults with disabilities. She has represented clients in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and nationally in administrative hearings as well as federal and state court. Upon graduation from law school, she was a clerk to the Honorable Edward N. Cahn, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Ms. Merino Reisman then practiced employment law at a small Philadelphia firm for several years. Prior to forming Reisman Carolla Gran, she was Of Counsel to a regional mid-sized law firm, where she co-chaired the Special Education practice group in addition to handling appellate, commercial and employment litigation. Ms. Merino Reisman is a past Chair and a member of the Board of Directors of COPAA. Ms. Merino Reisman is Co-Chair of COPAA's Amicus and Committee. She serves on the Board of SPANNER, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people with developmental disabilities in South Jersey. She is a former parent member of the Program Advisory Board to the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education. Ms. Merino Reisman speaks regularly to groups of parents and attorneys regarding special education, civil rights, and disability rights. Ms. Merino Reisman graduated magna cum laude in 1985 with a B.A. degree from New York University, where she majored in French and Italian, was a Presidential Scholar, and a recipient of the Founders Day Award. In 1989, she earned a J.D. degree from Yale Law School where she was a note editor of the Yale Law Journal, a founding member of Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, and a director of the Labor Law Project and Student-Funded Fellowships.
Michael A. O' Connor, Esq. is a 1970 graduate of DePaul University School of Law, where he was an editor of the Law Review. He was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1970 and in New York in 1971. Mr. O’Connor worked in federally funded legal services programs serving low-income families from 1970-1990. In 1990 he founded the Center for Law and Human Services and served as its Executive Director until 1998. While at the Center (since renamed the Center for Economic Progress) he established a Children’s SSI Advocacy Project, which secured Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security benefits for over 1,000 Illinois foster children. He developed nationally recognized expertise in the area of tax benefits for lower income families, and he initiated the free tax preparation program, which recruits and trains volunteers to prepare tax returns for lower income families. The Center’s program has become one of the largest volunteer tax preparation programs in the nation, serving 17,000 families and generating tax refunds worth $30 million in 2013. In 1999 Mr. O’Connor started a consulting practice assisting non-profit organizations, units of local and state government, and foundations in the development of innovative programs serving lower income families. He participated in the initial design and start- up of Mayor Daley’s EITC Outreach Program, which has become a national model. In addition to his consulting work, Mr. O’Connor initiated a law practice, representing parents in disputes with local school districts concerning special education services. Mr. O’Connor is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) a national organization of attorneys and advocates who represent parents in special education matters. From 2002 through 2007 he served as a board member and, from 2002-2006, he served as Treasurer of COPAA. Since January, 2008, Mr. O’Connor has served on the Board of Directors of the Family Defense Center. Mr. O’Connor authored a guide to education rights of displaced and homeless children He has delivered numerous workshops and seminars at national conferences, including the International Dyslexia Association, COPAA, and the National Foster Parents Association. In July, 2005 he joined Sara Mauk in establishing Mauk & O’Connor, LLP, a law firm devoted to representing low and moderate income families in special education and disability related matters.
Malmsten, Esq. has been practicing law in California for over thirty years. She was a
deputy county counsel for Orange County, working first at dependency court and
later advising the County on environmental issues. Later, as a deputy city
attorney in Long Beach, her responsibilities included ADA issues and First
Amendment cases. One of her sons has learning disabilities; advocating for him
brought her to special education law, which she has practiced for seven years.
She enjoys legal writing and has co-authored Ninth Circuit briefs but finds
working with parents at the IEP level to be most rewarding.In her "other
life’, Lisa teaches paper arts at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at
California State University, Long Beach, and is mastering ice dyeing.
Gloria Perez-Stewart, Advocate, is a disability advocate who has worked for both private and not-for- profit law firms such as Advocacy Incorporated (Disability Rights Texas) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She has worked on systemic issues affecting students with disabilities in the public school system, and in particular, on The School to Prison Pipeline Project. In that role, she helped train and organize parents along the Texas Rio Grande border for class action lawsuits against their school districts. Gloria is also an experienced community organizer who has worked for One-LA and the Industrial Areas Foundation on housing campaigns, and on public health issues for women of color and working class families. She is the founder of Latina Miami, a community organization providing training and advocacy for Latinas who have children with disabilities. Gloria is a 3 year law student at People’s College of Law in Los Angeles and currently serves on the board of directors of COPAA and is the co-chair of COPAA’s Diversity Committee.
Jennifer Sang, Esq., is an associate with the Law Offices of David J. Berney, P.C. She focuses her practice in the areas of education law, civil rights, and employment discrimination. Jennifer earned her Juris Doctor from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2008, where she served as a Notes & Comments Editor of the Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law. Prior to joining the Law Offices of David J. Berney, P.C., Jennifer served as a fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA where she participated in constitutional litigation. In 2015, The Legal Intelligencer named Jennifer a Lawyer on the Fast Track.
Ann Simun, PsyD, has been working professionally with children with learning and behavioral challenges since 1989. She is a licensed psychologist (PSY20113), with a specialization in neuropsychology. She also is a credentialed and experienced School Psychologist, as well as a Licensed Educational Psychologist, making her eligible to conduct IEEs for school district matters. Dr. Simun is a member of the American Psychological Association, National Academy of Neuropsychology, and International Neuropsychological Society. She regularly presents at conferences nationwide and provides training for school districts, parents, advocates, and nonprofit disability agencies. Dr. Simun conducts neuropsychological and psychoeducational assessments, provides expert witness and consultation services, conducts formal observations, and teaches psychoeducational assessment at the graduate level.
Julie Welsh, Esq. is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. She has over a decade of experience working with special needs children and their families at Association House Legal Services, the Cook County Office of the Public Guardian and now with Charlie Fox. She is very happy to be part of the COPAA family.
Tania L. Whiteleather, Esq. has practiced law for twenty-six years, coming from a background in education, where she taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Returning to school, she completed her juris doctor in 1989 and began a practice in family law and probate. After representing a family member with a disability, she entered the practice of special education and related litigation. She is admitted to the four District Courts of California as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and is a member of the Los Angeles County 317e Panel, which provides court-appointed counsel to students with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. Ms. Whiteleather has presented to parent, school, and court groups regarding various special education topics and has served and serves on the boards of several non-profit agency boards including Su Casa - Ending Domestic Violence, the YMCA, the Lakewood Regional Medical Center, and her local Rotary Club.
Sarah E. Zuba, Esq, brings experience in both civil litigation and education to her advocacy on behalf of the civil and legal rights of individuals with disabilities and their families. While studying at The College of New Jersey and after graduating from Yale Law School in 2002, Ms. Zuba taught students of all ages, including children with special needs, in a variety of settings. Ms. Zuba serves as Chair of the board of Community Treatment Solutions, a nonprofit mental and behavioral health provider for at-risk youth and their families. She regularly presents to parent and professional groups throughout New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania and at COPAA conferences.
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7/14/2016 » 7/14/2017
2016 Webinar Series 1: IEP's and Their Components, What You Should Know
8/11/2016 » 7/25/2017
2016 Webinar Series 2: Access to FAPE
9/1/2016 » 12/1/2016
2016 New Attorney: Educational Rights Online Training