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Law School hosts annual conference on special education advocacy

  • ISEA Conference
    ISEA Conference  Attendees of the ISEA conference joined Professor Patricia Roberts (far left) at William & Mary Law School to receive training in special education advocacy.   Photo by David F. Morrill
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William & Mary Law School recently hosted the third annual Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA), a national conference co-sponsored by the school’s Special Education Advocacy Clinic, Wrightslaw, and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center.

Nearly 70 lawyers, clinical law professors, law students and experienced special education advocates from across the nation attended the week-long event, which began on Sunday, July 28. Leaders in special education advocacy provided training on applicable laws, ethics, best practices in advocacy, strategies for working with parents and schools, and dispute resolution procedures. All of the speakers generously donated their time, and funds raised from ISEA support the Law School’s Special Education Advocacy Clinic.

The conference was organized by Patricia Roberts, clinical associate professor of law and director of the Law School’s clinical programs. Roberts founded the Special Education Advocacy Clinic in 2009 and serves as its managing attorney.

Under Roberts’ supervision, law students assist families of children with special needs in child-study, eligibility, individualized education program (IEP), and Sect. 504 meetings in order to ensure they receive the education to which they are entitled under the law. Roberts and the law students also participate in mediation, due process, and formal complaint procedures, and engage in community education and outreach sessions that empower parents with legal information and advocacy strategies, all on a pro bono basis.

This fall, the clinic will expand its efforts to include participation in the Legal Education Advocacy in Pediatrics (LEAP) medical-legal partnership with Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia. The clinic is part of the Law School’s Parents Engaged for Learning Equality (PELE) Initiative.

“Our annual conference has become a forum for expert instruction and a robust exchange of ideas among faculty and attendees,” said Roberts. “It is gratifying that the event continues to expand the number of special education attorneys and advocates available to help families in an educated and ethical manner, and that ISEA has become a springboard for helping other law schools establish special education legal clinics.”

Next year’s ISEA dates have already been set for Aug. 3-8, 2014, and applications will be accepted starting in February 2014. For more information about the conference or clinic, please call 757-221-5735 or email