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BREAKOUT II – SATURDAY, 3/10/18, 1:30 PM – 2:45 PM

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 2.1 Obtaining Trauma-Informed Educational Services Under the IDEA and Section 504

Jodi Siegel
Southern Legal Counsel
1229 NW 12th Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32601


Simone Chriss
Southern Legal Counsel
1229 NW 12th Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32601



Audience Category: All

Audience level of expertise: Novice/Intermediate

Brief Session Description:

This session provides a foundation on childhood trauma, including the science behind the neurological, emotional, and behavioral impacts on children and learning.  The relevant sections of the IDEA and Section 504 are explained, including how to use these laws to advocate for appropriate services to meet the unique needs of trauma-impacted students.

Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Jodi Siegel has been an attorney with Southern Legal Counsel, Inc. ("SLC"), a non-profit public interest law firm, since 1985, and became its Executive Director in July 2004. A predominant portion of Ms. Siegel’s responsibilities at SLC is in representing individuals with disabilities in a variety of forums. She has litigated class and individual actions involving federal constitutional and statutory actions under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, Federal Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Federal Rehabilitation Act.  She also has presented extensively to various groups on special education and other issues.  She is lead counsel in Citizens for Strong Schools v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., a declaratory action under the Florida Constitution on behalf of public school students in Florida against state officials to challenge the failure to provide a high quality education.  The case is currently pending in the Florida First District Court of Appeal. Ms. Siegel is an Adjunct Professor for Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center where she teaches a Masters Level program in Special Education Law.  She has been the Director of SLC’s Education Advocacy Project since 1999, which is funded by The Florida Bar Foundation to provide state support and train, support, mentor and co-counsel legal service/aid lawyers and advocates to increase and improve special education advocacy.  She is a past Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates Board of Director, including Past Chair and Past Treasurer.  She coordinated the 2003 and 2004 national conferences for COPAA, and continues to assist with conference planning.  She is a Past Chair of The Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section. Ms. Siegel is a member of The Florida Bar, the U.S. Middle, Northern and Southern Districts of Florida, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She received her B.A. in 1982 from New College (Honors College of University of South Florida), Sarasota, Florida; and a J.D. in 1985 from the University of Florida College of Law, Gainesville, Florida. She was the Senior Research Editor for one semester and Senior Student Works Editor for two semesters with the University of Florida Law Review.


Simone Chriss joined Southern Legal Counsel in August 2016 after graduating from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she received her J.D. with honors in May 2016.  Ms. Chriss received her B.A. from the University of Florida in 2012 with honors, and volunteered at SLC for a year prior to beginning law school. Ms. Chriss is a member of The Florida Bar, and the U.S. Middle and Northern Districts of Florida. Ms. Chriss leads SLC's trauma-informed initiative, which includes advocacy in the areas of special education and juvenile justice reform. During law school, she worked on children's issues and advocated for juveniles in the dependency and delinquency systems in our community as a Certified Legal Intern for the Gator TeamChild Juvenile Law Clinic. Ms. Chriss has long been involved in youth outreach, volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem for many years, with the Law and Justice and Youth Summit Conferences for three years, and mentoring students through the Gator Law Mentor program. Ms. Chriss has presented to various groups on trauma and its impact on child development and education. Ms. Chriss was published in the Northwestern University School of Law's Journal of Law & Social Policy. The article she co-authored is "The Case for Trauma-Informed, Gender-Specific Prevention & Early Intervention Programming in Reducing Female Juvenile Delinquency in Florida.”  She also was published in Genius, an Italian law journal focusing on sexual orientation and gender identity. The article she co-authored is titled "After Obergefell v. Hodges: the Continuing Battle Over Equal Rights for Sexual Minorities in the United States."

2.2 Comprehensive Speech/Language Assessment for Functional IEP Design

Jennifer Douglas, Director
Douglas Speech Associates
 1680 N. Vine Street, Suite 816
Hollywood, CA  90028
(323) 960-0176


Audience category: All

Audience Level of Expertise: All


Brief Session Description:

This presentation identifies the components of a comprehensive Speech/Language Evaluation and how those components may be assessed differently across age groups, disorders, and severity levels.  How to use the acquired information to effectively design the goals and treatment plan in the IEP is also explored.

 Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Jennifer Douglas is the Owner and Founder of Douglas Speech Associates, a private practice in Hollywood offering speech, language and communication services in the greater Los Angeles Metro Area.  She received her Master of Arts Degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders from Louisiana State University in 1994, and possesses her Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language & Hearing Association.  Jennifer brings a broad base of experience across medical, educational, and corporate speech settings, and has established long-standing, positive relationships with many attorneys, pediatricians, orthodontists, otolaryngologists, private school directors, and other allied health care providers in the community.  She particularly enjoys connecting and giving back to the community by providing complimentary presentations on topics relating to speech & language to parent groups and teachers, and offering free screenings at many local private schools.     


2.3 Advocacy Strategies to Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline: From Working with Localities to Litigation

Dawn Yuster, School Justice Project Director
Advocates for Children of New York
151 West 30th Street, 5th Floor
New York, New York 10001
(212) 822-9542


Rebecca Shore, Director of Litigation
Advocates for Children of New York
151 West 30th Street, 5th Floor
New York, New York 10001
(212) 822-9574


Audience Category: All

Audience Level of Expertise: All

Brief Session Description:

Exclusionary, punitive discipline and school policing negatively impacts all students, with a disparate impact on students with disabilities and Black and Hispanic students.  This presentation discusses various strategies to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and the reduce the disparate impact on students with disabilities, including: working collaboratively with school districts and localities, advocating to change laws, and litigation.

Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Dawn Yuster is the Director of AFC’s School Justice Project (“SJP”), which provides advice and free legal representation directly to families with students situated along the spectrum of the school-to-prison pipeline.   Dawn also oversees the SJP’s community education and systemic reform work, including advocating for positive alternatives to suspensions, arrests, and summonses.  She is class counsel in J.G. v Mills, which brought claims involving the failure by the New York City Department of Education to provide appropriate educational services to students with disabilities in, and upon their return from, certain court-ordered settings.  Dawn started her career as a staff attorney fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, where she litigated state and federal cases and performed policy advocacy to protect the rights of youth and low-income women. She then worked at the New York Civil Liberties Union on various civil rights issues, including systemic deficiencies in indigent defense systems and illegal policing tactics. From 2005 to 2008, Dawn served as a public defender with the Legal Aid Society, where she represented youth and adults accused of crime. Prior to joining AFC, Dawn served as the First Deputy Director of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ Research and Investigation’s Legal Unit in charge of the agency’s work to address illegal and deceptive business practices.


Rebecca Shore has served as the Director of Litigation at Advocates for Children since 2008.  After clerking in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, she was a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP where she worked on numerous special education cases and class and individual lawsuits involving disability discrimination.  Immediately prior to joining AFC, Rebecca was a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & AIDS Project, working on disability discrimination lawsuits against corporate and governmental entities.  As AFC’s Director of Litigation, Rebecca oversees all impact litigation, including class actions, individual and group lawsuits, IDEA appeals, and state and federal administrative complaints.  She serves as class counsel in, among others, L.V. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., D.S.  v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., E.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., and C.D. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ.

2.4 Charter Schools and Special Education: Common Problems and Advocacy Strategies to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive their Education

Eden Heilman
Southern Poverty Law Center
Senior Supervising Attorney
1055 St. Charles Avenue, Suite 505
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 486-8982


Jennifer Coco


Bizer & DeReus

3319 St. Claude Avenue

New Orleans, LA 70117

(504) 619-9999



Audience Category: All

Audience Level of Expertise: Novice/Intermediate


Brief Session Description:

This session discusses some of the inherent tensions between charter schools and the education of students with disabilities, and identify common problems in areas such as enrollment, child find, service provision, discipline, and providing a continuum of educational placements.  The session also shares strategies for advocates to use to address barriers for students with disabilities in charter schools.

Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Eden Heilman is a Senior Supervising Attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s office in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She works 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.  Prior to joining the Southern Poverty Law Center, Eden was an attorney for the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL).  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.


Jennifer Coco is an associate at Bizer & DeReus and is admitted to practice law in Louisiana and Illinois.  Ms. Coco graduated from DePaul University College of Law in 2010 and from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2007.  Ms. Coco has devoted her legal practice to protecting the civil rights of vulnerable communities, particularly children and adults with disabilities.  Ms. Coco’s experience includes impact litigation in federal court, resulting in consent decrees and successful verdicts to overhaul deficiencies in our public systems, including the New Orleans public education system.  Ms. Coco is also an experienced legal advocate for students with disabilities in the special education context, and has had extensive involvement in public education policy matters and legislative initiatives to end the School to Prison Pipeline.  Ms. Coco joined Bizer & DeReus in 2018 after working at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  Ms. Coco also serves on the board of the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a local mental health agency which provides community-based mental health services to children and families.

2.5 Expanding Your Advocacy Work to Include the Media

Maria E. Blaeuer, Esq.
Director of Programs and Outreach
Advocates for Justice and Education - The DC Parent Training & Information Center
25 E Street, NW, 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 678-8060 ext. 213 (Office)


Audience Category: All

Audience level of expertise: All 

Brief Session Description:

Advocacy does not begin in the school building and end at Due Process or Federal court.  Effective advocacy includes thinking about how the children we serve are seen in the community, how and if their stories are covered in the media.  This session is designed to help advocates understand 1) Why we need to do this work 2) How to cultivate relationships with media professionals and 3) Practical suggestions for working with reporters, including sample press release, talking points and a script for"ground rules," and, 4) The role of social media in this work.  Participants will leave feeling more comfortable talking to media about their work and understand how to lay ground rules for conversations.


Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Maria Blaeuer is Director of Programs and Outreach at Advocates for Justice and Education (AJE), the District of Columbia’s federally designated Parent Training and Information Center.  At AJE, in addition to providing parents with direct representation in school discipline and special education matters, she provides parent training and does systematic policy advocacy.  Prior to joining AJE, Maria spent most of her legal career in private practice focusing on special education law and the needs of students with disabilities in low-to-moderate income communities.  As part of that practice, she has provided professional development and continuing education about special education to attorneys, teachers and other service providers in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois and Pennsylvania.  She brings a unique perspective to this role, having participated in the IEP and special education process as a student with an IEP herself, as a teacher of students with disabilities, as a parent, and, as an attorney for students and families.  She obtained her Bachelor’s degree with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University, earned her law degree from Howard University School of Law and is pursing a Master’s degree in Education Policy.  Ms. Blaeuer is a native of the Washington D.C. region, and serves as an appointed member of the Montgomery County, MD Commission on Juvenile Justice, and the Lawyer Assistance Committee of the D.C. Bar.   She is also on the board of a small charter school serving at-risk, and over-age and under-credited students.    Ms. Blaeuer lives near Montgomery County, MD’s agricultural reserve with her husband, three children, and the family’s cats, dogs, and numerous chickens. She is attempting to convince her husband to add bees to the menagerie, but he drew the line at chickens.


2.6 LRE for Students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs): Essential Assessments and Considerations


Audience Category: All

Audience level of expertise: All

Brief Session Description:

The presenters will provide a comprehensive overview of FASDs. The presenters will discuss barriers to diagnosis and identification of students with FASD and will share data and statistics on the prevalence of FASDs on the national and global levels. The presenters will provide an overview of common characteristics of persons with a FASD, secondary conditions associated with FASDs, and treatment options. The presenters will then discuss educational difficulties and educational identification of students with FASDs, as well as strategies for assessment, goal development, and instructional strategies.

Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Maureen van Stone is the associate director of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute and the founding director of Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law), a MCDD community-based program. Project HEAL is Maryland’s only comprehensive medical-legal partnership, which provides advocacy and legal services to families and children with disabilities who receive clinical services at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Maureen is faculty for Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education and adjunct faculty at Towson University and The University of Baltimore School of Law. Maureen is a member of Kennedy Krieger Institute’s ethics committee. Maureen serves as the Vice Chair, on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors, for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc., she serves on the Committee on Improving Health Outcomes for Children with Disabilities through The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, she serves on two advisory committees for the National Council on Disability, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, Community of Practice on youth receiving Supplemental Security Income.

Mallory Finn is a staff attorney at Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law), a community-based program of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Project HEAL is Maryland’s only comprehensive medical-legal partnership, which provides advocacy and legal services for low- and moderate-income children with disabilities who receive clinical services at Kennedy Krieger. Mallory earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Delaware and a Juris Doctor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. She interned at Project HEAL during her second and third years of law school, and started as a staff attorney in August 2014. In April 2015, Mallory received an award for dedication to her law school's public interest organization, the Maryland Public Interest Law Project. Mallory is on the board of the Collaborative Project of Maryland. Mallory is on the development committee and is a co-chair of the membership committee for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. Mallory received The Daily Record’s Leading Women Award in December 2017 and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Young Professional Award in November 2017.


2.7 NCD IDEA Report Series : The Persistent Gap Between Promise and Reality 

Selene Almazan, Esq.
Legal Director, COPAA
844-426-7224 ext 702


Laura Kaloi
Vice President
McKeon Group
675 North Washington Street, Suite 340
Alexandria, VA 2231


Audience Category: All
udience level of expertise: All

Brief Session Description: 

In 2016-17 COPAA, under agreement from The National Council on Disability, conducted research for a five (5) report series on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The findings in these reports primarily serve policymakers, including the White House and Congress, and state and local education agencies; providing critical insight needed to make policy decisions to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. The reports include input from a cross representation of stakeholders, including students with disabilities, their families and those who support them, who participated in forums and interviews across the country to help shape the recommendations for practical improvement of policy under the IDEA. Highlights and educational policy recommendations from the five reports are provided in this session. The report topics include Monitoring and Enforcement of IDEA Compliance, Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA; English Language Learners with Disabilities and IDEA; The Continued Segregation of Students with Disabilities; and the IDEA and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Selene Almazan has been a member of COPAA since its inception in 1998.  Selene was on the Board of Directors from 2003-2014.  She has represented students and families for nearly 30 years.  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. For nearly 23 years, Selene represented parents in special education matters with a primary focus on least restrictive environment (LRE) issues at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education.  Since September 2014, Selene has been the Legal Director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) where she supports the work of the Amicus Committee as well as works on federal and local policy issues.  Since May 2015 Selene maintains a private practice focusing on parent and student representation in special education matters, including LRE. She 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. 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. 

Laura Kaloi is a Vice President at McKeon Group with an expertise in strategic planning, government affairs, grassroots advocacy, development and communications within the education space. With over twenty-five years of DC-based experience, she is an accomplished executive with keen interest and demonstrated results in Prek-16 education and health policy.

Laura has worked on Capitol Hill for health and education-focused nonprofit organizations as well as the private sector. As a DC-based consultant since 2013, she has helped clients work successfully with the U.S. Congress, federal agencies, and the White House to accomplish their goals. Her work with corporate and nonprofit leaders has focused on strategic planning, legislative advocacy, coalitions, integrated communications, grassroots initiatives and more.  Laura’s emphasis in education policy has allowed her to influence every PreK-16 education law and related regulations since 1999. Over the course of her career, Laura has been heavily involved in and has a deep understanding of special education and disability law.

In 2013, Laura was chosen as a select recipient of The Bridgespan Group’s nationally recognized Leading for Impact program while serving on the executive team as public policy director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Other career highlights include: director of public affairs for the American Health Quality Association; communications director for HealthInsight, Inc.; legislative assistant for Rep. James V. Hansen (R-UT); marketing coordinator for First Health, Inc.; and, leadership consultant, Alpha Chi Omega Fraternity.

Laura holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Utah and a Masters in Public Administration from Brigham Young University’s Romney Institute of Public Management. She currently serves as an appointee to the Romney Institute’s Advisory Board.

2.8 Exhaustion after Fry: Application and Strategies FRY’S GRAVAMEN AND THE ROAD TO DAMAGES

Barbara E. Ransom
P.O. Box 660242
Sacramento, CA  95866


Taymour Ravandi, Sr. Attorney
Disability Rights CA
1831 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95814


Audience category:  All

Audience level of expertise: Intermediate


 Brief Session Description:

As with all U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Fry has found both sides scrambling to put their imprimatur on its meaning. We will discuss its implications for Parents’ attorneys from drafting the due process hearing request to the opposition brief.


Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Barbara Ransom has some 27 years as a civil rights advocate and filed her first due process request in her first year as an attorney.  The case went to federal district court and obtained an award of injunctive relief and damages. Barbara worked at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia for 17 years where she learned her advocacy skills.  She has worked for the PA Human Relations Commission and Disability Rights of CA.  Barbara now practice as a sole practitioner as attorney of record at the Sterling Law Firm in New Jersey.  Ms. Ransom is also a former teacher and an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University.


Taymour Ravandi is a senior attorney with Disability Rights California specializing in special education. He represents parents in mediation and hearings; provides legal assistance to parents, attorneys and advocates; writes publications and conducts training to the community on a variety of legal issues relating to special education. In his legal career, he has also advised and represented clients on laws relating to discrimination and public benefits.


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