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P-3. Advocacy 101: Conflict Resolution: Tools & Strategies to Make IDEA Work for Parents & Students

TWO DAY Skill Building Session

Thursday, March 8th and Friday, March 9th

9:00 am - 5:00 PM


Audience Category: All

Audience Level: Novice


Brief Session Description:

The purpose of the Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act, in part, is “to ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and parents of such children are protected.”   This interactive training is specially designed for parents, advocates with 1 to 5 years of experience in the field, and attorneys considering the practice of special education law.  We’ll walk through the regulations implementing IDEA, as well as Federal guidance documents and current case law, with a view towards identifying areas of potential conflict and strategies to either prevent them from occurring in the first place, and to address them when they do.  We want participants to walk away from this training with strategies and guidance to be proactive in their efforts to ensure the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are met. 




Melissa Alexander, Advocate
P.O. Box 802
Chaptico, Maryland 20621


Catherine Michael, Esquire
Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C.
Chair of Education Law Division
11555 N. Meridian Street, Suite 530
Carmel, Indiana  46032


Presenter(s) Biography(ies):

Melissa (Missy) Alexander is a Parent Educator with Maryland’s Parent Training and Information Center and Family-to-Family Health Information Center, The Parents’ Place of Maryland.  In her 15 years with PPMD, she’s worked with hundreds of families in Southern Maryland, helping them advocate for appropriate educational services for their children and finding community resources to meet their children’s needs.  She presents parent and professional workshops on a variety of topics, and has helped facilitate study groups using Wrightslaw’s “From Emotions to Advocacy” publication. 


Missy is the parent advocate on the St. Mary’s County Local Care Team (formerly known as the Local Coordinating Council), and is a member of the St. Mary’s County Local Management Board.  She has been a guest lecturer at Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, and The College of Southern Maryland on the parent perspective of raising a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Missy is the Secretary of the Learning Disabilities Association of Southern Maryland, and is on the Board of Directors for the Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland. 


Missy’s dedication and passion for advocating for the civil rights of children with disabilities stems from advocating for her own daughter, Shelby.  Her initial experience with special education law was a ‘trial by fire,’ which resulted in successfully securing 90 hours of compensatory services for her daughter.  Missy feels very strongly that a parent’s role in their child’s education should never be usurped, and strives to help parents effectively advocate for their children. Missy is an active member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, specifically the Conference Committee, the Training Committee, and the Amicus Committee’s Litigation Workgroup.  She was the first advocate member to Chair the COPAA Board of Directors in 2012 to 2013.  


Catherine M. Michael is the Chair of the Education Law Division of Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C.  She is licensed, and practices, throughout the states of Indiana, Texas, and Michigan.  She represents students and their families in a wide variety of educational matters including special education due process hearings, Section 504 matters, expulsion and disciplinary issues, personal injury of children, private school issues, as well as other civil rights and disability claims experienced by students with disabilities.  She possesses extensive knowledge regarding special education due process, teacher and student discipline and dismissal matters, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), personal injury of children in schools, and other civil rights matters. 


Her passion has led her to speak on topics regarding education law, such as student discipline, educational due process, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as Every Student Succeeds Act), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other special education student-specific issues.  A member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), she has appeared in the national news, including television and radio, on numerous occasions for her cases focused on children with disabilities and abuse in schools. 

Catherine has been an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern School of Law in Florida since 2005, where she works in the Education Law Master’s Program and teaches Federal Legislation, Ethics for Educators, and works with students on their master’s degree thesis and Capstone projects. Catherine’s dedication and unique legal prowess has led to her inclusion in the Super Lawyers © Rising Stars list by Indianapolis Monthly and Law & Politics Magazine for the last 9 years.  She also received The Honorable Viola J. Taliaferro Award by the Indiana State Bar association in 2010 for her admirable work in addressing the unmet legal needs of children. 


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