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2014 Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy Winners Announced

Monday, February 17, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall

The COPAA Board of Directors is delighted to announce this year’s winners of the Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy, which recognizes outstanding achievement by members of the special education advocacy community.

Each year as part of the annual conference we honor the memory of COPAA member Diane Lipton, a tireless advocate for children with disabilities for over two decades. Diane began as a parent-advocate on behalf of her own daughter, Chloe, who had been placed in a segregated school, separated from her peers without disabilitiesby a chain link fence. Diane became an attorney for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), where she championed the civil rights of children with disabilities.

 Learn more about Diane and her accomplishments at the UC Berkeley's website on the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement.

Previous recipients of the Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy have included Wendy Byrnes (2006), Kathleen Boundy (2007), Judith Gran (2008), Ellen Chambers (2009), Warren J. Sinsheimer (2010), Joseph Tulman (2011), Dorene J. Philpot (2012) and Terrie Rymer (2013).

This year we have the great honor of announcing two winners, Leslie Seid Margolis and Susan Tobin, both tireless advocates who are exceptionally dedicated to the rights of children with disabilities.

Leslie Seid Margolis is a Managing Attorney for the Education Unit of Maryland’s Protection and Advocacy agency, Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC). The effect she has had on children with disabilities and their families has been multifaceted for her entire professional career. Her accomplishments are extensive: Leslie served as co-counsel on Vaughn G. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, MDLC’s long-standing special education reform litigation in the Baltimore City School District; she authored the United States Supreme Court amicus curiae brief on behalf of national disability organizations in Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garret F., which expanded the provision of related services for students with disabilities nationwide and enabled students with medical needs to receive a free appropriate public education; she testified before Congress on special education statutes and regulations; she has engaged in education and public awareness efforts as a speaker and has published many articles on educating children with disabilities. Leslie takes a leadership role in policy issues at the state and national levels, including the issue of restraint and seclusion of children with disabilities in schools. She is involved in systemic work with the Maryland State Department of Education as a member of various Task Forces and Workgroups, where she was responsible for writing restraint and seclusion regulations in Maryland.

Leslie generously shares her knowledge, skills, and passion with others. Her commitment to the educational rights of children with disabilities is irrefutable. Her work not only assists Maryland residents, but also continues to have a nationwide impact. She epitomizes someone who is ‘exceptionally dedicated to the rights of children with disabilities,’ as is the intent of the Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy.

Susan Tobin recently completed more than 30 years of service with Disability Rights Ohio, Ohio’s Protection and Advocacy organization where she served as Chief Legal Counsel. Although it would be impossible to catalogue all of Susan’s contributions to the disability community over the years she served, her accomplishments include: serving as lead counsel in the class action suit Doe v. State of Ohio,which impacted state funding for special education and improved state compliance with federal law; serving as lead counsel in a case in which the state of Ohio was enjoined from implementing regulations that would conflict with Medicaid requirements regarding medical services for children with autism; and traveling all over her state for many years, presenting on disability related topics. Most recently, Susan spearheaded a statewide effort to curb the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools, which resulted in the promulgation of regulations to protect students. Susan has also been involved in efforts to change the due process hearing system in Ohio so as to level the playing field for parents.

Susan has dedicated her entire life to improving the lives of people with disabilities. She commands respect from people on both sides of the table. She is a ferocious advocate and yet maintains a degree of professionalism rarely seen. She has been a valued member of the disability community and has improved the lives of many who don’t even know her name.

Please join us in congratulating Susan and Leslie. The Diane Lipton Award will be given at the 16th Annual COPAA Conference Saturday Awards Luncheon on March 8, 2014 at the Baltimore Waterfront Marriott.

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