Agenda At-A-Glance
8:30 - 11:30 a.m.

An Advanced Approach for Presenting an Effective Defense to OCR Complaints

Helfrich Betsey A. Helfrich, Mickes O’Toole, LLC, St. Louis, Mo.
Douglass Josh Douglass, Mickes O’Toole, LLC, St. Louis, Mo.

An OCR complaint can require a significant amount of district resources and lead to costly outcomes. So how can you, as an experienced practitioner, best represent and advise your client during the investigation process? Betsey Helfrich and Josh Douglass, former chief attorney of OCR’s Region VII, will share their tried and true strategies on establishing the law of the case, using FOIA to your advantage, and negotiating agreements. They’ll highlight key sections of OCR’s Case Processing Manual to follow and detail practical tips for presenting evidence in response to data requests in the most effective manner through the use of case scenarios. Don’t miss this session chock-full of expert insights.
1 - 4 p.m.

Managing Behavior in the LRE: What Does a School Attorney Have to Do With It?

Wright Brandon K. Wright, Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller, Ltd., Monticello, Ill.

Student behavior issues tend to be the most litigated, especially when they involve a change of placement to a more restrictive setting. From IEPs to behavioral intervention plans and functional behavioral assessments, Brandon Wright will point out the red flags associated with the IDEA's least restrictive environment requirement in the context of student behavior. He'll detail what the law and regulations say about behavior and how the case law has interpreted these requirements. And, as district counsel, you’ll learn how to prepare for behavior-related litigation, including stay-put, documenting changes of placement in the IEP, and key evidence to persuade hearing officers and courts.
8 - 10 a.m.

The Year in Review 2019 (and a Look Ahead to 2020)
Tomsky Jan Tomsky, Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, Oakland, Calif.

This highly popular, fast-paced session offers an instructive and entertaining overview of the most important cases decided during 2019. Jan Tomsky will share her expert insights on the potential impact of the cases for special education practitioners and her predictions for hot litigation trends in 2020 and beyond.
10:15 - 11:15 a.m.

Striving to Eliminate Bias, Discrimination, and Harassment in the Practice of Special Education Law

Wright Brandon K. Wright, Miller, Tracy, Braun, Funk & Miller, Ltd., Monticello, Ill.

The Model Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit a lawyer from engaging in activity that he or she knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination in conduct related to the practice of law. But what conduct constitutes discrimination or harassment, and what does conduct related to the practice of law entail, particularly as school attorneys defend against claims of discrimination? Brandon Wright will answer these questions and more while focusing on the controversial rule designed to eliminate bias and enhance diversity in the courtroom, office, at social functions, or even bar association meetings.
11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Guiding Schools Through the Legal Aspects of Virtual Instruction

Helfrich Betsey A. Helfrich, Mickes O’Toole, LLC, St. Louis, Mo.

The benefits of virtual learning and utilizing technology to facilitate and expand educational opportunities for students with disabilities are innumerable — and the potential legal missteps can be just as infinite. Betsey Helfrich will examine the legal aspects school attorneys must consider when advising clients regarding implementing virtual, blended, or “flipped” learning for special education students. You’ll leave with tools and tips for assisting clients in maintaining compliance with the IDEA and Section 504 and avoiding the legal pitfalls that can arise with digital learning environments.
1:45 - 3 p.m.

SROs in an Election Year: What Politics, Federal Guidance, and Experience Teach Us in 2020

Haase Karen Haase, KSB School Law, PC, LLO, Lincoln, Neb.

Many have responded to school tragedies by calling for more police officers on campus, while others express alarm about a surge in criminal charges against students for problem behavior. One area of agreement is that members of law enforcement often are unaware of both the unique needs of students with disabilities and districts’ obligation to serve these students. Karen Haase will review federal guidance and relevant court cases to help you advise your clients on how to navigate the tension between protecting the rights of special education students and state review officers striving to keep schools safe. Gain a solid understanding of how FERPA, the IDEA, and the ADA all come into play this election year.
3:15 - 4:30 p.m.

Strategies for Handling Litigation With Difficult Opposing Counsel, Pro Se Parents, and Stubborn Clients

Pearlmutter Miriam M. Pearlmutter, Walter/Haverfield LLP, Cleveland, Ohio

All too often, the collaborative team-based process envisioned by the IDEA veers off course because of counterproductive opposing counsel, misguided pro se parents, or challenging clients. Miriam Pearlmutter will provide strategies for handling the growing trend of “file due process first, investigate the facts later,” the ever-increasing fee demands, and parties who lack a true understanding of the remedies available under the IDEA. This session will gear you up for litigation gamesmanship.
8 - 9:15 a.m.

A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Transition, Please!

Karen Haase Karen Haase, KSB School Law, PC, LLO, Lincoln, Neb.

“Transition services” — a coordinated set of activities designed to help a student with a disability move from high school to post-high school life — are a key feature of both the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act. They’re also a frequent source for litigation for many districts that struggle to understand the legal requirements for postsecondary transition planning. Karen Haase will explore these requirements, diving into issues such as IEP development and documentation, implementation, and discipline. She'll also analyze decisions that address the procedural and substantive requirements for transition planning and the remedies awarded to parents and students with disabilities when those plans fall short.
9:30 - 10:45 a.m.

Make It Clear: How to Put the Brakes on Transportation Disputes

Tomsky Jan Tomsky, Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, Oakland, Calif.

IEP teams must consider a variety of issues when determining whether transportation between school and other locations is necessary for a student with a disability to receive FAPE and, if so, whether the student requires supports or modifications to access such transportation. Through an overview of recent case law, Jan Tomsky will examine the evolving legal landscape and discuss key areas that must be considered when creating the IEP or Section 504 plan — including eligibility, least restrictive environment, designing and implementing services, behavior on the bus, and more. You’ll take away best practices that help your district clients recognize, respond to, and reduce transportation disputes.
11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

IEE … I-E-I-O: Betting the Farm on IEE Request Responses

Truhe Bobby Truhe, KSB School Law, PC, LLO, Lincoln, Neb.

School districts often interpreted a request for an independent educational evaluation as magic words requiring them to spring into action. But as Bobby Truhe explains, districts should take the time to formulate a strategic response that is legally compliant. And typically, that strategic response starts with legal counsel. Learn the key elements your clients should include in policies and practices that place reasonable limitations on IEEs as well as the pros and cons of filing for due process in response to an IEE request. Referencing regulatory requirements, OSEP guidance, and recent case law, Bobby will map out methods for defending IEP team decisions if a dispute arises.
1:30 - 2:30 p.m.

Shaking in My Boots: Ethically and Effectively Preparing Reluctant School Witnesses for Due Process

Garner David D. Garner, Osborn Maledon, P.A., Phoenix, Ariz.

Most special educators look forward to having their work put under the microscope and picked apart by parent attorneys and hired experts in due process hearings — NOT! On the contrary, special educators often bristle at the idea that they would be required to testify. It’s your job to prepare reluctant, conflicted — and sometimes even over-confident — witnesses for a hearing. While effective witness preparation can make the difference between success and failure in due process, the path of preparation is fraught with ethical traps for the unwary. David Garner will explore these hazards and equip you with key strategies for navigating ethical quandaries, as well as provide witness preparation tips in defending the school’s position. You’ll explore best practices and be confronted with real-world hypotheticals designed to help schools put their best foot forward in due process hearings.
2:30 - 3:45 p.m.

Emotional Disturbance: Stay Calm and Break It Down

Heaton Hall Rebecca Heaton Hall, Weiss Burkardt Kramer, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Emotional disturbance is one of the most complex and misunderstood disability categories. Rebecca Heaton Hall will analyze national case law trends and operationalize interpretation of the five ED characteristics and elements of the federal definition of the term. Plus, she'll discuss legally defensible assessment and identification practices and point out the impact that factors such as race, gender, truancy, hospitalizations, and various educational settings have on federal courts.

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