For the first time, ISEA offered attendees an opportunity to receive a Certificate in Special Education Advocacy from the Law School
Twenty attorneys and 35 advocates successfully waded through an arduous application process to be admitted to the one-of-a-kind training. At week’s end, they returned to the frontlines to advocate for children with disabilities to ensure they receive the free, appropriate public education guaranteed under federal law. These advocates and attorneys, hailing from 24 states and the District of Columbia, joined a network of over 300 ISEA alumni across the country who have completed the program.
“There was something about coming together with these people face-to-face, the special education experts and my fellow ISEA attendees, that gave me a level of confidence I previously didn’t have as an advocate,” said Erin Moon-Walker, an advocate from Indiana.
Sessions included a review of two watershed Supreme Court cases decided this term, schools’ responsibilities to address bullying of students with disabilities, legal protections for students facing school discipline, the importance of including students with disabilities in general education settings, and tactical choices in using different conflict resolution measures.
For the first time, ISEA offered attendees an opportunity to receive a Certificate in Special Education Advocacy from William & Mary Law School. Additionally, 19 graduates of the program took advantage of the inaugural Alumni Track to earn the Certificate as well.
“I am a stronger advocate because of my experience at William & Mary,” said Gina McClellan, an advocate from Massachusetts and 2016 ISEA alumna. “My approach to advocacy is well-defined … and my methodology is clear, concise, and always strategic.”
ISEA also offered the first-ever Kayla Bower Advocacy Scholarship, named for the former executive director of Oklahoma Disability Law Center. Ms. Bower helped launch ISEA in 2011 and remained an integral part of the Institute until her retirement. This year’s scholarship recipient was Kelly Herrick, an advocate from South Carolina who has spent over 24 years advocating for countless rural, low-income families.
“I will be forever grateful for the scholarship,” Herrick said. “Immersing myself in an environment with like-minded people from across the country who share the same passion and drive to better the lives of children and adults with disabilities was an experience like no other. The kinetic energy among the participants was palpable.”
Wrightslaw, a national clearinghouse for information about special education advocacy, co-sponsored ISEA. Founders Pete and Pam Wright also helped start the PELE Clinic at William & Mary with Vice Dean Patricia E. Roberts in 2009.
ISEA faculty all donate their time to educate these advocates and attorneys. The Institute serves as a fundraiser for the PELE Clinic, in which law students advocate for low-to-moderate income families in special education matters. In the spring of 2017 alone, PELE students provided over 700 hours of pro bono services in Williamsburg, Newport News, and Hampton.
The 8th annual ISEA conference will take place from July 29 through August 3, 2018; everyone who successfully completes the course will receive the Certificate, and the Law School will again offer an alumni track. Applications will begin to be reviewed in January 2018. For more information about the conference or the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic, please call (757) 221-5735 or email [[w|pele]].
About William & Mary Law School
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.