Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
Protecting the Legal and Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities
Denise has been the Executive Director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) since 2005. She 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 has a wealth of non-profit association management experience and is a dynamic trainer, experienced in leading sessions for participants of diverse abilities and experience levels. Prior to becoming the Executive Director of COPAA Denise was the Director of Training and Educational Outreach for the national organization TASH from 1995-2005, the Program Manager and trainer for Maryland Leaders in Disability Policy; and a Positive Behavior Support specialist and Director of the National Training Center for The Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland among other consulting and management positions. Denise's specific areas of interest are civil right to quality education, positive behavioral supports, prevention and reduction in the use of restraints, seclusion and aversive techniques, family supports, grassroots advocacy, self-advocacy, and experiential learning.
Selene has been a member of COPAA since its inception in 1998. Selene was on the Board of Directors from 2003-2014 and has contributed to COPAA as a volunteer in many substantial ways. Selene is a long time Co-Chair of the Amicus and Conference Committees. She led the Strategic Plan workgroup (2007) and the Litigation Workgroup (2012). As a member of the Board of Directors Selene has been Vice Chair, Chair, Treasurer and Secretary and a member of the Executive Committee since 2005. Selene has also been a trainer for COPAA Conference and webinars for a number of years beginning in 2004. As an Amicus member Selene has been involved in nearly every COPAA brief submitted, (and written at least three amicus briefs for COPAA in the 4th, 5th and 9th Circuits) as well as involved in a number of governmental affairs issues: the Reauthorization of 2004; Restraint Seclusion; ESEA (and its precursor NCLB); Charter Schools; Burden of Proof and expert witness fees. Selene is also currently the in private practice. She is formerly the Director of Advocacy Services and Co-Executive Director of the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education (MCIE), a non-profit organization founded in 1989. For the last 20 years, Selene has represented parents in special education matters with a primary focus on least restrictive environment issues at the MCIE. As the Director of Advocacy Services, she directs the only legal services project devoted solely to the issue of least restrictive environment in the country. The Advocacy Project has represented over 3000 individual students in the last 20 years throughout the state of Maryland. 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. Selene 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. 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. Selene may be contacted by phone 844-426-7224 x 702. (Please do not call for individual case representation or legal advice. Please consult our directory if you are seeking an attorney)
Jessica Salonus - Staff Attorney
Jessica has been an active member of COPAA for a number of years prior to recently joining COPAA as a part-time, contractual Staff Attorney. She graduated with honors with a degree in Management from Louisiana State University and with honors from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law with her law degree, where she was also the Managing Editor of the Law Review.
Jessica has a personal understanding of what it means to be a parent of a child with a disability. Accordingly, she has an active and dedicated private practice securing the services and accommodations a child deserves under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (“IDEA”), Section 504, and/or the ADA. She also seeks compensation for physical and/or emotional injuries caused to a child as a result of abuse or illegal actions taken against the child by school officials. Additionally, Jessica has experience litigating cases involving retaliation against parents or teachers who advocate for the rights of children with disabilities.
Some case law contributions in the area of special education by Jessica include: AC v. Shelby County Bd. of Educ., 711 F.3d 687 (6th Cir. 2013) (retaliation against parents of child with Type 1 diabetes for requesting accommodations was legally sufficient—reversing district court); L.H. v. Hamilton Cnty. Dep't of Educ., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 153322, *2 (E.D. Tenn. Nov. 4, 2016) (bench trial with judge finding school’s proposed removal of a second grade child with Down syndrome from the general education classroom at his neighborhood school into a comprehensive development classroom ("CDC") at his non-neighborhood school was more restrictive than necessary); C.G. v. Cheatham Cty, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 77134 (M.D. Tenn 2015) (retaliation against child and parents of child with severe allergies, under Section 504 and the ADA, does not require exhaustion of administrative remedies); Cockrill v. Metro Gov’t, 2015 U.S. Dist. Lexis 3180 (M.D. Tenn. 2015) (special education teacher properly brought claims of retaliation against school when she fought for rights of children with special needs); Grummons v. Williamson County Bd of Educ., 2014 U.S. Dist. Lexis 51983 (M.D. Tenn. 2014) (Department of Children’s Services must disclose all documents to parents relating to any alleged retaliation by school system).
Jessica can be reached by phone at 844-426-7224 x 708
Marcie Hipple, Member and Meeting Services Coordinator
Marcie has worked for COPAA since 2006. She graduated from Roanoke College with a Bachelor of Business Administration. Prior to working at COPAA she worked at MCI in Global sales for 18 years. She has a wealth of experience in customer service, project management, and negotiations.
Marcie can be contacted by phone 844-426-7224 x 701.
Jamie Anderson - Administration Assistant
Jamie is experienced as a parent advocate. Prior to working for COPAA, Jamie worked for the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). Contact Jamie for any membership, registration, or website questions. Jamie may be contacted by phone 844-426-7224 x 703
First name @ copaa.org
6/1/2016 » 6/1/2017
Webinar Subscription for Organizations
6/1/2016 » 6/1/2017
Webinar Subscription for Individuals
3/10/2017 » 7/10/2017
2016 Webinar Series 1: IEP's and Their Components, What You Should Know
3/10/2017 » 7/25/2017
2016 Webinar Series 2: Access to FAPE
3/10/2017 » 7/25/2017
2016 Webinar Series 3: Legal Issues