Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
Protecting the Legal and Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities
Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT) TM
A Project of the USC UCEDD and COPAA
The SEAT Program is the most intensive training of its kind, and the only field tested program created under an independent national review advisory Board.
The Special Education Advocate Training (SEAT) Project is born of a collaboration between the USC UCEDD, one of 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Research, Education and Service nationwide, and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA). The SEAT Project over the years of 2005-2008 develop, field-test, evaluate, and explore the feasibility of a model special education advocate training program to address current concerns regarding the availability and quality of professional non-attorney special education advocacy services for families of children with disabilities.
Four goals were proposed:
I To develop and field-test a uniform training program for professional Special Education Advocates
II. To explore the feasibility of replicating the SEAT training throughout the U.S.
III. Evaluate the effectiveness of the SEAT curriculum and training program.
IV: To disseminate findings of the project
There are many entities throughout the nation which provide training to parents and professionals on special education law, rights, and responsibilities, including but not limited to law schools, the National Disability Rights Network (formerly Protection and Advocacy); Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs), Public Interest Law Centers, and some Family Resource Centers. Much of existing training focuses on understanding how to advocate for ones own child and/or on the foundations of special education and related law. However, there is no uniformly agreed upon format to provide training for professional special education advocates. The SEAT Program was designed to be an advanced level training program, distinct from the training provided by PTIs, law schools, and related advocacy organizations, to prepare non-attorney advocates to assist, advocate for, and when appropriate represent families/students to access FAPE, within the guidelines set by states for non-attorney advocates.
III. How the Goals were Accomplished
Final Project Report to the National Advisory Board
The SEAT Curriculum consists of 115 hrs of classroom instruction and at least 40 hrs of practicum/field experience under the supervision of an experienced special education attorney and/or special education advocate.
There are many stakeholder groups involved in educating and supporting families navigating the special education system. Consequently, the topic of creating a uniform training curriculum for special education advocates was of interest to many groups. In order to assure a thorough examination of the goals and end product of this project, the SEAT Project recruited representatives from a diverse group of stakeholders to participate in the project's National Advisory Board and Project Developers.
There are many stakeholder groups involved in providing information to and advocating for the special education rights of students with disabilities. In order to integrate the expertise and concerns of these various groups into our final product, SEAT convened a national advisory board to inform our work. They were selected to be representative of stakeholders most likely to be impacted by or most likely to use the curriculum.
Christine Little, California
Barbara J. Ebenstein, Esq., New York
Brice Palmer, Vermont
Judith Gran, Esq., Pennsylvania
Linda Boyd, Esq., California
Janeen Steel, Esq., California
Ines Kuperschmit, Esq., California
Denise Marshall, Maryland
Barbara Wheeler, California
Fran Goldfarb, California
Mark Woodsmall, Esq., California
SEAT National Advisory Board
Catherine Blakemore, Esq., Executive Director
Kayla Bower, Esq., Executive Director
Robert Farran, Ph.D., Director
Nancy Huerta, Esq., Attorney at Law
Kim Jones, Esq., Executive Director
Denise Poston, Ph.D., Research Associate
Paula Goldberg. Executive Director
Rich Robison, Executive Director
Janet Rumple. Fellow
In addition, special thanks to the following individuals who provided the SEAT Project with resources and support since the inception of the project: Kayla Bowers, Esq., Oklahoma Disability Law Center and the Oklahoma PEApods (Partners in Education Advocacy) program who gifted SEAT with numerous books and resources to launch our project; Pete and Pam Wright, Adjunct Professors of Law at the William and Mary Law School, and co-authors of several books on Special Education Law who supported the early efforts of SEAT; Pam Hovey who provided content for this Reader and Dale Mentink,formerly with Disability Rights CA and currently with the CA Office of Administrative Law who at the 12th hour provided Instructor Keys to a number of the activities for the SEAT Instructor’s Handbook.
A special thank you to Mark Mlawer and Stephen Rosenbaum for conducting an independent review and providing feedback on the first draft of the curriculum.
Finally, special thanks to Barbara Wheeler, Project Director and our Project Officer, Anne Smith, Ed.D., Office of Special Education Programs, USDOE, whose deep commitment to students with disabilities and their families and her belief in the importance of this project was critical to this work.
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