What is a Special Education Attorney?

You know, Jen, it’s been my experience that many people I speak with don’t even know what a special education attorney is. And if you even tell them there is such a thing as a special education attorney, they wouldn’t even know what your role is. Right, right. And they shouldn’t feel too bad because I happen to represent a lot of children whose parents are attorneys. So it’s not an area that most law schools really teach, special education law.

And so it’s not terribly shocking to me that there are parents– many parents, probably most– who don’t even understand that there is this kind of practice of the law. So what is a special education attorney? Well, theoretically, and again, it depends on how you define it yourself because there’s no standardization of this makes you a special education attorney, but how I define it is a special education attorney is somebody who is an attorney, licensed to practice law– That’s a good start.

–a good start– who focuses their practice on the issues that come up under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as well as some other statutes that interplay a lot with that statute, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and some other civil rights laws as well. In my experience, you can do that in one of two ways. You can do it as I do it, where I represent the parent and the children. Or you can do it where you are a special education attorney who represents school districts.

So you could be a special education attorney, but be a school district special education attorney. Right. Many of those professionals also do other aspects of education law, such as labor, employment, et cetera. Whereas many, if not most, of the people who I interact with who represent parents tend to focus on just that IDEA 504 piece.

Many attorneys choose to also do adult services. So you may be a disability attorney across the board. So you may represent adults who have accommodations issues in employment, et cetera. But I don’t do that. What I do is just special education law, just representing children under the IDEA. And what’s my role?

My role is when a parent is in a dispute with their school district about whether their child requires special education services, or whether the services they’re getting are appropriate, they bring me in. And I am there to help them achieve what they’re looking for on behalf of their child, hopefully amicably. Excellent.

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