LRP's Special Education School Attorneys Conference | January 25 - 27, 2023 Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel 


Thursday, January 26

Jan Tomsky kicks off the conference with the always popular overview of the most important cases decided during the past year — enhanced by keen expert commentary on how they affect your everyday practice of special education law. Additionally, she’ll examine what likely will be on the horizon, identifying key litigation trends to prepare you for 2023 and beyond.

Ethical issues arise during IEP meetings with unrepresented persons, parent advocates, and parent attorneys in attendance. Hans Graff, with reference to the Model Rules and important court cases, including a class action filed during the pandemic against school districts, will explain what steps to take if you encounter potential conflicts. He'll thoroughly examine ethical requirements, such as competence in representation, multijurisdictional practice, the unauthorized practice of law, communications with an individual represented by counsel, and the rule regarding meritorious claims and contentions.

While the public school is responsible for determining and providing FAPE under both IDEA and Section 504, it does not always have complete control of the school environment. Sometimes, schools need the cooperation of nondisabled students, their parents, and school staff to provide FAPE. Through a survey of cases, Dave Richards will explain how you can help your clients address this troublesome dynamic. He'll survey cases where nondisabled students, their parents, and staff approached IEPs and 504 plans with responses that range from apathy to hostility as well as the legal avenues they pursued to block plan implementation. You’ll leave this session equipped to address interference by learning practical tips on how to utilize the employment process and staff training to improve campus compliance, and utilize FERPA-friendly interaction, along with appropriate responses as required by the student code of conduct and school policy, with uncooperative nondisabled students and their parents.

Residential placement cases have the highest stakes for parents and school districts: sending the child out of their home to a very expensive placement. There are times and situations where a residential placement is the LRE for certain students, but not in every case where a parent may request such a placement. Brandon Wright will review the key factors you must employ when advising clients and litigation cases related to residential placements, giving you extensive knowledge of key court cases and a list of strategies to incorporate into your next hearing.

Special education attorneys may be experienced with compensatory education, settlement agreements, and attorney's fees, but the allowability rules under IDEA are a whole new ballgame. Tiffany Kesslar will explain how ESSER funds may be used by your district clients to ensure compliance with the IDEA rules and regulations. She will focus specifically on how ESSER funds may be used to assist in meeting the needs of students with disabilities, including making buildings accessible and increasing learning space. You’ll take home best practices, a sample policy, litigation strategies, and all the legal requirements that apply to using federal funds in a practical way.

Friday, January 27

For years, schools' obligations regarding discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, and general responses to sex harassment, were in flux. Bobby Truhe will explain the intersection of Title IX’s “Two Branches” — sex discrimination and sexual harassment — and the overlap with special education, especially on the topics of MDRs, supportive measures, and informal resolution. He'll review the proposed regulations to get you prepared for the difficult cases likely to come your way.

Districts continue to report an increase in student behavioral problems and an uptick in related litigation. They turn to you for advice. Because the IDEA does not provide specific guidelines for positive behavior interventions, supports, and strategies to address behavior, school attorneys across the country have relied on court and hearing officers' decisions that set forth the requirements to guide functional behavior analysis and the development of behavior intervention plans. Courtney Stillman will share lessons learned from case law, so you can better assist clients in building legally defensible BIPs based on appropriate FBAs. She'll also give you a checklist of items to review with your clients to ensure that they comprehensively assess and analyze behaviors and craft and implement behavior plans that provide FAPE.

In requesting a due process hearing, the parents' attorneys, who happen to be super-experienced real estate attorneys, throw spaghetti at the wall to see if something sticks. Now what? Responding to every claim can result in incoherence, rather than effective advocacy, so assessing the case and formulating a cogent theory is essential. The litigation posture adopted by the opposition, as well as the claims made, determine the district's tactical responses, such as a counterclaim, a request for an evaluation, and how far to go with discovery. Hans Graff will focus on the difficult cases and how the prehearing positioning can differ. He'll concentrate on use of formal and informal assessment data to demonstrate progress resulting from implementation of the students’ special education program. You’ll leave with tools and strategies to use in successfully litigating cases to achieve a favorable outcome for your clients.

An ethics presentation about a presenter presenting on presentations ... welcome to the real metaverse (sorry Zuckerberg!). Although often straightforward in other contexts, the duty of confidentiality and privilege enjoyed through the attorney-client relationship is complicated when information is already, in whole or in part, public knowledge or available as a public record. Bobby Truhe will take you on a dive into the duty of confidentiality and the related concept of attorney client privilege from the perspective of a presenter who has spent far too much time perseverating about what war stories he can, can’t, and can maybe share while speaking about legal issues. After this fast-paced session, you will leave ethically prepared to educate your clients and peers while preserving privilege and following the Model Rules.

Due process hearings are expensive. And while compensatory service awards can be pricey, often the costliest component of IDEA litigation is the attorney’s fees — especially the prospect of paying the family’s fees. Dave Garner will explain prevailing party status, what fees are and are not compensable, and the procedural logistics of claiming and objecting to a fee application. He'll show you ways to mitigate potential adverse fee awards and how to best help your clients make informed decisions about when and how best to double-down on litigation or press for a negotiated resolution.