Sarah L.W. Sutherland is a Shareholder in the San Diego office and chair of the firm’s Students and Special Education Practice Group. She is an advocate for public education, and has dedicated her career to serving school districts, county offices and special education local plan areas (SELPA). Sarah’s legal experience on behalf of school districts includes petitioning and responding to requests for due process, due process hearings, appeals of special education due process hearings, student discipline proceedings, policy development and revision, student transfers, and student’s first amendment rights and responsibilities. She is also well versed and experienced in legal issues surrounding charter schools, including petition review, oversight, special education compliance, student rights and discipline, and revocation. Sarah litigated one of the longest due process hearings in the history of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), has successfully compelled charter school compliance with special education and other laws, and guided authorizers through charter revocations where needed.
She has also proven successful in practical, results oriented representation and dispute resolution, and effectively represented special education local plan areas and county offices of education involving cutting edge charter school and special education cross-over issues. Sarah’s expertise in student, special education and charter school issues uniquely poises her to deal with the complex issues that require in-depth knowledge and experience in each area. While at the University of Hawai’i she was actively involved in the community, serving various non-profit organizations and government agencies. She became interested in charter schools when working at the Governor’s Office in Hawai’i, and special education and student issues while working at the San Diego Unified School District. Her interest was piqued because both areas allowed her to work directly with educators on issues involving education.