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Practice Area Details

Special Education and Students

Since 1999, California lawmakers have sent more than 6,200 bills to the governor's office; over 5,000 were signed, leaving our educational system with a multitude of new definitions, statutes and regulations to grapple with. New laws affecting districts are often confusing and many have conflicting requirements. Laws like No Child Left Behind are under-funded and rarely fully understood. Some of the justifications for these laws are even open to question.

The Special Education and Student Issues practice group of Dannis Woliver Kelley stays abreast of all legal developments across the state – past, present and what we see on the horizon for the future. We place an emphasis on preventive measures to help our clients avoid due process hearings and encourage pre-hearing mediation or IEP meetings when appropriate. We are dedicated to making sure we have the answers to your questions and the information to help you prevent problems before they occur.

DWK serves approximately 70 school districts, SELPAs, county offices of education and mental health departments. With our unparalleled knowledge of California education law, we are best equipped to assist you in the full range of services you need, including:

  • Eligibility determinations
  • 504 compliance issues
  • Preschool issues
  • Assessment
  • IEP meetings
  • Placement
  • Discipline
  • Transition plans
  • Inclusive education
  • Least restrictive environments
  • Mediations
  • Due Process hearings
  • Student expulsion hearings

Student issues often require on-the-spot answers. We answer clients' questions on a daily basis concerning everything from subpoenas for student records and inter-district transfer requests to the right of the district to search student lockers and backpacks for drugs and/or weapons. Each year, we assist our clients in dozens of student discipline hearings and appeals to county offices of education. We are well versed in the rights guaranteed students under state and federal constitutions, and we provide our clients with opinion letters regarding the most troubling student issues of the time.

Our extensive litigation experience has allowed us to effectively represent our clients in U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. We have a great deal of experience litigating against attorneys and advocates who regularly represent parents in special education matters in California. We always strive to provide results-oriented and cost-effective strategies when faced with a decision whether to settle or litigate.

Representative cases include:

  • Achieved ruling that a district had an appropriate special day class program for a severely autistic mentally retarded student. Placement in a private non public school was not necessary.
  • Persuaded the District Court to uphold a Special Education Hearing Officer's ruling in favor of the District that a 16-year-old male student was not eligible for Special Education and that the District was therefore not responsible for sought reimbursement of tuition based on the District's alleged failure to identify the student as emotionally disturbed.
  • Obtained a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining a highly disruptive autistic student from attending a general education class. The Court ordered the parents to place the student in an alternative interim placement offered by the District, pending a due process hearing.
  • Successfully received decision in the Federal Court of Appeals that a California educational agency was not required to provide a special needs child with the same program received under his Individualized Service Plan
  • Persuaded Federal Court of Appeals to hold that a gifted student with ADD and learning disabilities was not eligible for special education and related services under IDEA.
  • Achieved ruling in Federal District Court that school district and county office of education offered a free and appropriate public education to a physically impaired student and were not required to pay for the student’s private schooling.

Training and In-Servicing

Consistent with our commitment to preventative law, Dannis Woliver Kelley offers numerous forms of training for board members and administrators on the ever-increasing and dynamic issues affecting special education and student issues, such as:

  • Bullying Intervention & Prevention
  • Special Education Focus Groups
  • Student Issues Focus Groups
  • Current Law for Educators Annual Workshop
  • Special Education Law In-Services
  • Best Practices for IEP Meetings
  • Student Discipline Workshops
  • A Legal Primer for Special Education Teachers, Specialists and Aides
  • Eligibility Criteria for Special Education
  • Due Process Hearing Procedures
  • A Special Education Primer for Board Members

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