William & Mary Law School’s Special Education Advocacy Clinic was formed in 2009 as the Parent’s Engaged for Learning Equality (PELE) initiative to assist students with disabilities and their families and caregivers with special education legal needs, and to empower parents and others to advocate for children in the special education system.
After a brief interlude in which the Clinic was not offered, the Special Education Advocacy Clinic returned in summer 2023, and will again include William & Mary law students beginning with the fall 2023 semester. These students, working under the supervision of the Clinic’s director, offer their services to families at no charge. The students and their director also work to provide advocacy training to caregivers, advocates and disability organizations, and to develop written and video resources for the special education community.
The Special Education Advocacy Clinic focuses on providing families and other caregivers with the legal and practical advice needed to navigate special education challenges, including:
- Assisting with eligibility, evaluation, and placement issues
- Helping resolve disputes through meetings, mediations, and where necessary, other means
- Working to develop appropriate IEP goals and objectives
- Facilitating behavioral assessments (FBAs) and plans (BIPs)
- Advising on obtaining appropriate services and accommodations, including therapies, assistive technology, and extended school year (ESY) services
- Addressing school discipline issues involving students with disabilities
- Providing advice about IDEA, 504 and ADA questions
- Counseling about “transition” services and decisions
A parent, other caregiver, or student may apply for our services by completing a brief web-based questionnaire. Because we are a small Clinic, there may be times of year when we are unable to take on substantive work on new matters. However, we will make every effort to provide assistance, resources, and/or referrals.
Our Training and Resources
One way the Clinic can most effectively help the disabilities community is by providing advocacy training and resources. Our resources pages are in the early stages of development, but we plan to add materials as we develop them. Each semester, the Clinic intends to add additional written resources (including FAQs), video resources on special education topics, and helpful forms to the Clinic website.
We are also willing to visit virtual and in-person (subject to travel limitations) conferences, programs, and meetings to provide basic advocacy and self-advocacy training workshops. If you are interested in having the Clinic provide that kind of workshop or presentation, please contact us using the form here.
Law students in the Clinic will work with the director to identify possible areas in which the Clinic can affect systemic change at the local, state, and federal level. This work may involve drafting statutory and regulatory language, advocating for change (or for not making negative changes) at hearings, and meeting with state and federal officials, including legislators and legislative staffers. From time to time, we may also be willing to assist in pending litigation through “friend of the court” briefs or with other help. If you are aware of an advocacy opportunity, please feel free to contact us.