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2020 COPAA Award Luncheon

  

 

Saturday, March 7th at 12:15 PM 


The COPAA Board of Directors is pleased to announce the following 2020 Award Recipients. The awards are given at the Saturday Luncheon during the annual COPAA Conference, this year on March 7, 2020 at the Baltimore Hilton.  



2020 Diane Lipton Award for Outstanding Advocacy

 

Louis H. Geigerman (Adv, TX) - is a long-time advocate in the State of Texas and a long-time member of COPAA. Though residing in the Houston area, Lou serves children statewide. Lou goes about his work quietly, positively, and with little fanfare. He works not only for the individual family but appreciates the systemic problems and serves as a pivotal voice on them throughout Texas. One of the most amazing pieces of Lou’s work is the founding in 1995 of the National ARD/IEP advocates group. In essence, Lou established a group of advocates who could share knowledge and resources to help each other help children with disabilities. The group has sustained for 25 years and currently has five advocates who regularly work on behalf of children.  Lou has mentored many successful special education advocates who have followed in his footsteps to affect the lives of thousands of children. 

Lou is also a “voice to be heard” on legislative initiatives. The Texas legislature is often overwhelmed by the school lawyer side. The Texas legislature and the school lawyers listen to Lou on important special education matters. His was one of the fervent voices for cameras in the special education classrooms here. In Texas it has helped, it has made a difference, and it is holding schools accountable. In 2015, Lou founded the Benjamin Geigerman lecture series which focuses on the needs of employment for persons with autism and other disabilities. Named after Lou’s son, the yearly lecture series brings attention to the employment problems and provides the public with critical information about how the lack of employment impacts the lives of students with autism. See, https://www.tmc.edu/news/event/2019-benjamin-j-geigerman-lecture/.   Since July of 2015, Lou has arranged for a weekly radio show every Saturday known as the Special Ed/Section 504 Radio Hour. Prior shows can be heard at http://cypressradio.org.  One of Lou's clients wrote in: "Mr. Geigerman has my respect because he is, to use a Yiddish word, a mensch – a person of great integrity, courage and sensitivity, honest and caring. I can think of no one more deserving of this honor for 2020."

 

 

Gail Stewart, (Atty, NM) -  Gail is the mother to a daughter with a disability, a fact which greatly directed Gail’s late career as an attorney practicing in areas of special education and civil rights. Her service of more than 20 years to students with disabilities and their families has changed lives in a state which has consistently failed to live up to the promise and vision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Gail has provided direct representation to children, including Native American children, in special education matters across the state with zeal, intellect and compassion.  Gail has worked on behalf of low income students and caretakers in New Mexico to protect and defend the rights of all New Mexicans to a free and appropriate public education, real access to necessary supports, and schools free from discrimination. For her entire career, Gail has been one of just a handful of parent attorneys in this field in the state. She has fought as a singular force ensuring that the IDEA in New Mexico has meaning and resonance. Gail’s practice is not limited to litigation, however. She is a crucial watchdog of the New Mexico Public Education Department and of Albuquerque Public Schools. Through public information requests, legislative advocacy, and community engagement, Gail is able to bolster her litigation efforts with the promotion of policy to create real systemic change. A few years ago, Gail started a group called Organizing Parents Education Network (“OPEN”). OPEN is a grassroots group of parents concerned with the rights of students with disabilities. It meets once a month and is parent-led. The group decides democratically what issues it will take on and then pushes for changes in those areas. Gail is the group’s facilitator, but not its leader. The member/parents lead.  A colleague who wrote in support of Gail said: "Like Ms. Lipton, Gail is uncompromising. She is willing to negotiate about the details but not the bedrock principles."



COPAA Distinguished Service Award 


Given to law firms that have helped COPAA achieve important strategic goals, on critical issues. 

 

Seth Galanter, National Center for Youth Law  -  Seth is an Attorney and Senior Director of Legal Advocacy in the firm's Washington D.C. Office.

 

Jean-Claude André, Sidley Austin, LLC -  Jean-Claude  "J.C." is a partner in Sidley’s Los Angeles office and is the West Coast head of Sidley’s national Supreme Court and Appellate Practice.

 

Seth and J.C. represented COPAA in our groundbreaking, victorious  COPAA v. Devos complaint which challenged the Departments illegal and harmful delay in implementing the IDEA Equity In IDEA Regulation. The courts issued a unanimous decision in COPAA's favor on March 7, 2019,  in which a federal judge called the Education Department’s delay of the special education rule illegal and “arbitrary and capricious.” A DoE appeal was dismissed in September, 2019, so the original decision stands. 

 

 

Eve Hill, Brown, Goldstein & Levy - Eve is Partner at Brown Goldstein & Levy and Inclusivity Strategic Consulting. Eve represents COPAA in a lawsuit filed with The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) against the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Betsy DeVos and Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, to challenge the Department’s changes to its complaint handling process to strip students with disabilities and students of color of their rights. 

 

Lifetime Achievement Award 


Pamela Darr Wright and 
Peter W.D. Wright

 

Pam and Pete have been COPAA members since its inception in 1998 and served on the very first Board of Directors. The Wrights are honored for thier immensely important and successful work to empower parents to be meaningful partners in their child's education through understanding and protecting rights under the law and being knowledgeable about education best practices.  The Wrights have also positively impacted the field of special education advocacy. 

 

Pete and Pam have accomplished this work through Wrightslaw, The Yellowpages, publications, nationwide training, and the annual William and Mary Law School Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA).  They have contributed so much to COPAA at its inception and through the years, and we are very appreciative of that partnership. Too numerous to count are the times a member indicates that the Wright's referred them to us; that they participated in one or more training to enter the field; or, that they rely on one or more of Wrightslaw training or books for critical information.

 

 

 

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