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2018 Webinar Presenter's Biographies

Lewis Bossing, Esq., is a senior staff attorney for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Since coming to the Center in 2007, Mr. Bossing has worked on a broad array of issues affecting adults and children with mental disabilities, including community integration, education, voting, and criminal justice. Bossing has been involved with most of Bazelon’s education litigation over the past ten years, including coordinating Bazelon’s work as class counsel in the longstanding special education class action Blackman v. District of Columbia, which achieved significant reforms in Washington, DC’s special education dispute resolution system. Bossing is also on the litigation team for the nation’s largest special education class action, Doe v. Ohio, where, working with expert educators, he has investigated special education practices in Ohio school districts.

Rebecca Diddams, J.D., received bachelors degrees in Psychology and Justice Studies from Arizona State University, and her Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law. During law school, she began interning with Lanterman Regional Center’s Special Education Law Clinic, in Los Angeles, CA, working as an advocate for families of children with developmental disabilities. After law school, she continued with the Law Clinic as a fellow and grant recipient from the Department of Developmental Services to reduce disparity in access of services. She has been working towards this goal by providing multi-lingual trainings to families, social workers, and community members about Special Education law and families’ rights.

Lisa Fagan, Esq. is the owner of the Law Office of Lisa Fagan, and advises parents of children with disabilities on all matters relating to special education services. She represents clients in mediation, administrative hearings, due process and disciplinary hearings, and provides representation and counsel on matters relating to disability services and special needs planning. Ms. Fagan is a member of the Fairfax County Public Schools Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities and a Peer Reviewer with the U.S. Department of Education. She is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and the Virginia State Bar. Ms. Fagan earned her B.A. degree from Allegheny College and her J.D. degree, cum laude, from Washington College of Law, The American University.

Helen Ghio, Esq., began her law career in real estate litigation and transactions and moved on to handling complex, large scale multi-state commercial real estate transactions. Since 2002 when her son was born with multiple mild disabilities due to a viral brain injury, she has been advocating for him and has continuously mentored and advocated for numerous families of children with disabilities. Helen officially transitioned into special education law in 2015 working alongside Cara Lucier, who has represented Helen’s son in special education matters for over ten years. Helen has been dedicated to the Autism Tree Project Foundation since its inception in 2003, previously served on several nonprofit boards of directors, and currently is involved with various other nonprofit organizations. Helen is based in San Diego, California.

Judith Gran, Esq., has presented the Year in Review for the Court of Appeals for COPAA each year, starting with the very first COPAA Conference. Since her graduation from Temple Law School in 1983, Attorney Gran has represented children and adults with disabilities in fifteen states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Ms. Gran has brought a number of class action and system change lawsuits designed to improve special education and community services and secure the right of persons with disabilities to inclusion and full participation in schools and communities. Many of her cases have resulted in the closure of state institutions and the creation of highquality community services for former institutional residents. These cases include the landmark class action case, Halderman v. Pennhurst, in which Ms. Gran served as lead counsel for the Arc of Pennsylvania during the last twelve years of implementation. As a result, Ms. Gran played a major role in improving community services for individuals with disabilities nationwide. Prior to joining Reisman Carolla Gran LLC, she worked for 25 years at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the last 11 years as Director of its Disability Law Project. Ms. Gran is also one of the founding members of COPAA and a former Board Chair.

Eden Heilman

Eden Heilman is the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, where she oversees the office’s legal docket on issues such as criminal justice reform, sex discrimination, reproductive rights, free speech and religious liberty, privacy and technology, and voting rights. Prior to joining the ACLU of Virginia, Eden served as the Managing Attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s office in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she worked to ensure children’s access to public education and to reform ineffective school discipline practices that push children out of school and into juvenile and adult prisons. Eden has presented at dozens of national conferences and has provided expert testimony about these issues, including testimony before the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. She has authored several publications on issues such as the exclusion of children with disabilities from public charter schools and the education system in post-Katrina New Orleans.  She received her law degree from Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, her master’s degree in social work from Tulane University School of Social Work, and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.

David Jefferson, Advocate, as a parent of special needs children, David 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.

Sonja D. Kerr, Esq., Partner at Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C. She was previously Director of Disability Rights for the prestigious Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. The daughter of a deaf parent, and sister of a person with epilepsy, Ms. Kerr learned about disabilities firsthand early in her life. Ms. Kerr was honored to serve as the first chair of the nationwide Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and continues to be involved with COPAA. Ms. Kerr has been involved in litigation to protect the rights of Limited English Proficient parents, and regarding the misidentification and disproportionate placement of non-Caucasian students into special education. Ms. Kerr is committed to providing information and training to all persons involved in the IEP process, but especially parents, their attorneys and advocates. She is a frequent writer and lecturer on special education issues.

Cara Lucier, Esq., is an education and civil rights attorney. She began her law career representing school districts throughout California in the areas of special education law, charter schools, and litigation. She represented school districts at IEP team meetings, mediations, due process hearings, and in federal and state courts. When Cara’s son was diagnosed with Autism, Cara switched to assisting families with special needs. Cara is on the faculty at the University of San Diego, where she teaches Special Education Advocacy, Fundamental Legal Studies, Introduction to Law, and the Practice of Law. She is a Board Member of Autism Tree Project Foundation and past Co-Chair of the Early Intervention Committee for the California State Senate Autism Task Force for South Counties. Cara is frequently asked to teach legal trainings and seminars in the area of education and disabilities law. Cara is based in San Diego County, California.

Shenikwa Medlock, Advocate, married for 19+ years and Mom of 4 kids ranging in ages from 7-17 with special needs (Autism, Audio Processing, ADHD, Autism, Twice Exceptional and Sensory Processing Disorder). She understands from a personal level about how having a child with a disability affects every aspect of your life. Mrs. Medlock's motto is "First do no harm". She strives to leave parents, caregivers, and/ or guardians better and more empowered. Her brand of advocacy takes the entire family into consideration. She is experienced in navigating not only special education system (IEP, ARD, 504 plan, etc.) and its complaint process (IEP, ARD, OCR, ADA, Due Process, Texas Education Agency, and School Board complaint). Mrs. Medlock is a COPAA SEAT graduate. She volunteers as a Parent Leader with Partners Resource Network (Parent Training Information and Resource Center of Texas) and Parent Match volunteer with Texas Parent 2 Parent.

Richard O'Meara, Esq., is a shareholder and director in the law firm of Murray, Plumb & Murray in Portland, Maine, which has the largest practice in Maine representing families of students with disabilities. He received his B.A degree summa cum laude from Dartmouth College; an M.Sc. degree with distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science; and a J.D. degree summa cum laude from the University of Virginia School of Law. Mr. O’Meara has been involved with the ACLU of Maine since 1987 and with COPAA since its inception. As part of his civil litigation practice, he regularly represents families of children with disabilities in disputes arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Maine Human Rights Act. Mr. O’Meara is the president of the Board of Disability Rights Maine, the state’s federally-funded protection and advocacy agency, and a member of COPAA’s Amicus Curiae Committee.

Amy Phalon, Esq., is an associate attorney at the law firm of Murray Plumb & Murray. Her practice is centered on representing students with disabilities and their families. Amy received her J.D. from Maine Law School in 2013. She received an M.A. in English from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, in 2001; and her undergraduate degree is from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Prior to embarking on her legal career, Amy taught writing and English literature courses at York County Community College in Wells, Maine. She is a member of the Disability Rights Maine Board of Directors and the Chairperson of the Town of York Planning.

Dorene Philpot, Esq.is a private practice attorney based in Galveston, Texas. She devotes her practice entirely to representing special needs children and their parents under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. She is the recipient of the national 2012 Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Educational Advocacy from COPAA (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates). She is the author of "Do-It-Yourself Special Education Due Process: An Educational Guide" which is available at www.learningenabledpublications.com. She is admitted to the federal courts in the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana and the Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western Districts of Texas. She is also admitted to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a member of Mensa. She gives presentations to parent groups and other organizations on a regular basis about special education law rights of children.

Jack D. Robinson, Esq., is an attorney and co-founder of the law firm Spies, Powers & Robinson, P.C., where his primary practice area is special education law and educational discrimination. Mr. Robinson has been representing the interests of children with disabilities and their parents for over twenty years and is a frequent lecturer on the application and construction of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. He has represented clients in numerous due process proceedings, civil actions, and appeals. Mr. Robinson is counsel of record for the student and his parents in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, a case in which the United States Supreme Court’s decision in favor of the student established a substantive standard for a free appropriate public education and, in so doing, greatly expanded the rights of all children with disabilities. Mr. Robinson is the founder of the Colorado Council of Special Education Lawyers and is a former member of the Colorado Special Education Advisory Committee. 

Ellen Saideman, Esq., has nearly thirty years of experience with special education and disability rights litigation. She is a COPAA Board member and co-chair of the COPAA Amicus Committee. She has practiced special education in four states: Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. She spent more than twelve years teaching legal writing at Roger Williams University School of Law, and she has also provided training in legal writing to attorneys and advocates at COPAA and also at NDRN. She has presented at COPAA’s annual conference on several occasions.

Michele Scavongelli, Esq., joined the EdLaw Project as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Bingham McCutchen, LLP in September 2012, and has continued on as a staff attorney through a Morgan, Lewis & Bockius Fellowship since September 2014. Michele has successfully represented over one hundred families in the past five years in both school discipline and special education matters. She has built a pro bono panel for The EdLaw Project and has trained hundreds of delinquency, child welfare, firm, and in-house counsel, as well as parent and community groups in special education advocacy and school discipline rights. Michele graduated Northeastern University School of Law in 2012. Prior to attending law school she spent 29 years as an executive in the life insurance industry. She is on the board of Bottom Line, an organization that is dedicated to helping disadvantaged students get in to college, graduate from college, and go far in life. She earned her S.B. in Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1979.

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, 12 years advocating for children with a variety of disabilities, and more than 13 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 of Autism Society of Santa Barbara, First Vice President of 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.

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 is also a credentialed and experienced School Counselor, School Psychologist, and 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.

Alex Tracosas is a 24-year-old Los Angeles native. In 2015, Alex graduated Summa Cum Laude from Syracuse University with a B.A. in Political Science. He is currently working toward a joint juris doctor and master’s degree in public policy from the UCLA School of Law and UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Upon graduating in 2020, he aspires to enter the political arena as a staunch advocate for, among others, the developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

Mark C. Weber, Esq., is the Vincent de Paul Professor of Law at the DePaul University College of Law. Professor Weber's main professional interests are disability rights and complex tort litigation. He has presented testimony on the implementation of the ADA to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and is active in community service and legislative initiatives on disability matters. Professor Weber's work on complex tort litigation includes both scholarship and law reform efforts. He has appeared at programs on mass tort issues conducted by the Indiana court system, the Illinois court system, and the Federal Judicial Center, and at various academic symposia. He began his career as a staff attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and then worked as a clinical fellow at University of Chicago Law School. At DePaul, he has served as associate dean and acting dean of the College of Law. He has received the College of Law Outstanding Teaching Award, the DePaul University Excellence in Public Service Award, the College of Law Excellence in Scholarship Award, the DePaul Spirit of Inquiry Award, and the Center for Disability and Elder Law Distinguished Service Award. He was named Vincent dePaul Professor of Law in 2004.
































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