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P-1. New IDEA Attorney Skills Training: Special Education Law, Procedure and Strategy


TWO DAY Skill Building Session

Thursday, March 8th and Friday, March 9th

9:00 am - 5:00 PM





This is an introductory program designed for attorneys who are just beginning to practice special education law.  Participants learn basic special education law and procedure as well as strategies and practice tips for handling special education cases.  Program includes an overview of the IDEA and Section 504, and focuses on practical skills in taking a case from the initial client interview to the due process request.  We do not address skills and issues that arise in a due process proceeding as that is covered in the pre-conference session “Impartial Due Process Training.”  We do work in a combination of large and small groups led by experienced practitioners in special education.


Selene Almazan, Esq.

Legal Director, COPAA

(844) 426-7224 ext. 702



Jodi Siegel, Esq.

Southern Legal Counsel, Inc.

1229 NW 12 Avenue

Gainesville, Florida 32601



Dawn Smith

Smith & Lake, LLC

1 West Court Square, #410

Decatur, GA 30030



Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Selene A. Almazan, Esq., Legal Director, 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.


Jodi Siegel, Esq. 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 currently litigating a statewide declaratory action under the Florida Constitution alleging that Florida is not providing a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools. Jodi 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.  Jodi 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.


Dawn Smith, Esq. is a partner at Smith & Lake, LLC where she practices family and education law. She has represented children and families for over 26 years. Immediately prior to joining the firm, Dawn was a partner at one of Atlanta’s most prestigious family law firms. She also served as Deputy Director of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation where she was responsible for administration of the city’s largest pro bono family law program. In this role, Dawn worked in partnership with the Judges of the Fulton County Family Court to provide trained Guardian ad Litems in contested custody matters. She has trained Guardian ad Litems throughout the state and has lectured on their role nationally. Dawn is frequently appointed by Courts to serve as Guardian ad Litem in family law cases. She also is a certified arbitrator and mediates family law cases. In addition to her expertise in family law, Dawn is recognized as one of the leading advocates for the civil and educational rights of children with disabilities. She is the past President of the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the national membership organization for special education attorneys and advocates. She has pursued actions on behalf of children in state and federal trial courts as well as in the 11thCircuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Dawn is a frequent lecturer both nationally and locally on the rights of children. At the firm, Dawn provides quality legal services on behalf of children and lends her expertise in this area to all of our family law endeavors. Dawn began her career as Law Clerk to United States District Court Judge Marvin H. Shoob and subsequently was appointed Special Administrative Master for the Court. Dawn was also a partner in the firm Zimring & Smith LLC and was later appointed Administrative Law Judge for the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. She is a 1985 graduate of North Carolina State University and a 1989 cum laud graduate of Georgia State University College of Law where she served as Style Editor on Georgia State Law Review. Dawn is a member of the Atlanta, Cobb and DeKalb County Bar Associations; the Family Law Section of the Georgia Bar, the American Bar Association Family Law Section, Lawyers Club of Atlanta and a barrister of the Charles Weltner Inn of Court. She is a member of the Ethics & Professionalism Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, Founder of Cool Girls, Inc., served on the Board of the Greater Georgia Chapter of the Autism Society of America and was on the Advisory Board of Emmaus House. She is a current member of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church. Dawn is a 2014, 2015, and 2016 Super Lawyer and Georgia Trend’s Legal Elite for 2014 and 2014. Dawn is married to Robin Griffith, has two sons and resides in Decatur.


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