Wheaton to Direct William & Mary Law School’s Special Education Advocacy Clinic

  • Vital Work in Special Education
    Vital Work in Special Education  Jim Wheaton knows that parents and other caregivers who do not happen to be lawyers encounter tremendous disadvantages when advocating for their children. As Director of the PELE Clinic, he will help law students to support families by giving them both legal help and self-advocacy tools.  
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William & Mary Law School has announced the appointment of Jim Wheaton to its faculty for the Fall 2023 semester. Wheaton will serve as Clinical Associate Professor of Law and as Director of the PELE (Parents Engaged for Learning Equality) Special Education Advocacy Clinic.

Wheaton brings strong special education and disabilities-related experience to the Law School, having devoted the entirety of his legal pro bono efforts during his career to representing students and families in special education matters, including attendance at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, dispute resolution, mediation, filing and resolution of state compliance complaints, and successful representation through due process proceedings and federal court appeals. He also served as a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Disability Rights from 2013-16.

“Jim Wheaton has done incredible service work for the Greater Hampton Roads area, and we welcome him wholeheartedly into our clinical program,” said A. Benjamin Spencer, Dean and Trustee Professor of William & Mary Law School. “Through his vision and leadership, the PELE clinic will strengthen its great work advocating for children with special needs education, and continue to train our law students, as well as advocates and attorneys, in this important field.”

Wheaton provided pro bono representation of national, Virginia statewide, and local disability rights organizations as amici curiae in Hartmann v. Loudoun County School Board. He was also appointed by Virginia Governor Mark Warner to serve as chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Virginia Public School Authority from 2002-08 and continued in that position under Governor Tim Kaine.

Wheaton also served on the Chesapeake, Virginia, School Board from 1991-2000 (appointed in 1990 and 1993, and elected in 1996); as a member of the Special Education Task Force appointed by Representative Donald McEachin, 2017-18; and on a predecessor board to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities. As a parent member of the Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads, he has also participated in that organization’s special education seminars. From 1997-2001, he served as Vice President and Board member of the Governor’s School for the Arts Foundation. He has been an annual recipient of internal law firm pro bono awards for work devoted entirely to special education representation.

A graduate of Wake Forest University (magna cum laude with honors in mathematical economics), Wheaton went on to earn his J.D. at the University of Virginia School of Law where he was executive editor of the Virginia Law Review and a member of Order of the Coif. Following law school, he clerked for Judge J. Dickson Phillips Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Wheaton’s legal practice focused on corporate and securities law. He represented companies in startup, M&A, and general corporate work in a variety of industries, as well as both issuers and underwriters in public and private securities transactions. In 2015, Wheaton received the Martin I. Lubaroff Award from the American Bar Association for leadership, scholarship, and service in the field of LLCs, partnerships and unincorporated entities law. He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and of the American College of LLC & Partnership Attorneys.

Wheaton most recently served as a Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Boston University’s Startup Law Clinic, which provides legal counsel to campus-based entrepreneurs on a wide range of legal issues faced by early-stage business ventures. He also taught adjunct courses at William & Mary Law School and the University of Virginia Law School.

“We entered the special education world when my daughter turned two,” Wheaton observed, “and I realized immediately that parents and other caregivers who do not happen to be lawyers encounter tremendous disadvantages when advocating for their children. This opportunity at William & Mary will allow my students to support families by giving them both legal help and self-advocacy tools.”

The Special Education Advocacy Clinic was formed in 2009 to assist special-needs children and their families. The clinic is designed to bolster the partnership between families and schools by working collaboratively to ensure that each child receives the necessary assistance to meet his or her individual needs in school.

“Professor Wheaton’s strong background, both in special education work and in clinical teaching, makes him uniquely qualified for the vital work of the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic,” said Stacy Kern-Scheerer, Director of Clinical Programs and of the Immigration Clinic, and Clinical Associate Professor of Law. “Just as important, he has deep ties to Hampton Roads, and we are glad he is coming back down this way.”

Under Wheaton’s supervision, law students will continue to offer their services to families at no charge. The Special Education Advocacy Clinic relies on law school and private donor support to assist families.

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 first law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.