Students and Special Education


The Students and Special Education Issues practice group of Dannis Woliver Kelley is dedicated to helping school districts, county offices of education, special education local plan areas, community colleges, and other local education agencies to improve the lives of the students and families they serve through quality public education programs.  We recognize the importance of understanding the districts’ obligations to all students, in addition to understanding particular obligations to students with disabilities, foster youth, homeless youth, and other special populations of students that public schools serve daily.  This understanding and perspective enables us to provide practical, efficient, and results-oriented legal services that promote better outcomes for students and the schools that educate them.

Our group stays abreast of all legal developments across the state – past, present and future – so we can best assist you in accomplishing your mission to educate our state’s children, teens and young adults.  We strive to identify issues and address them early and efficiently.  We believe public school resources are best spent in the classroom and investing in our educators, educational programs, and students, and not in legal fees or our judicial system.  We are at the same time keenly aware of the need to resolve important issues through litigation while also spending resources wisely with those outcomes in mind.  As attorneys who exclusively represent educational agencies, we are first and foremost dedicated to making sure we add value to your team and your mission.

We are also zealous advocates for public schools, educational agencies, and the service they provide our students.  When necessary, we are poised to litigate important issues involving students and their educational programs; however, we place emphasis on preventive measures to ensure our clients avoid spending resources on litigation unnecessarily.  This is accomplished through our trainings and solid, reliable, and quickly available counsel that empowers administrators, teachers and staff to navigate difficult situations and provide better outcomes for students, without the need for litigation.

DWK serves over 200 school districts, SELPAs, county offices of education and community college districts.  With our unparalleled knowledge of California education law, we are best equipped to assist your district in a complete range of services, including:

  • Student rights and responsibilities
  • Student discipline
  • Student transfers
  • Student records
  • Uniform complaints
  • NCLB requirements and compliance
  • IDEA and Section 504 requirements, training and compliance
  • Mediations
  • Due process hearings and other administrative procedures and remedies
  • Federal and state court litigation
  • Interagency obligations, complaint handling and coordination: CDE, SBE, OCR, DOJ, OAH, OSEP
  • Constitutional rights and responsibilities
  • Foster and homeless youth rights
  • Parent rights and responsibilities
  • Charter school obligations and relations

We also recognize that legal issues involving students often require quick, on-the-spot answers and practical solutions. The breadth and depth of our knowledge and experiences allow our attorneys to often answer our clients’ questions over the phone, without the need to spend hours researching and analyzing the issues first.  On a daily basis, we answer questions concerning everything from subpoenas for student records and inter-district transfer requests, the right of the district to search student lockers and backpacks for drugs and/or weapons, to discipline, First Amendment rights, and IEP planning and disputes.  Each year, we assist our clients in dozens of student discipline hearings and appeals to county offices of education, and just as many due process procedures, compliance complaints, and other administrative hearings and litigation involving students.  We are well versed in the rights guaranteed students under state and federal constitutions, and we provide our clients with opinion letters regarding current, challenging student issues of the time.  We also anticipate problems before they arise, so as to assist the District in pro-actively addressing potential issues before they become a liability for the District.

Our extensive litigation experience has also allowed us to effectively represent our clients in administrative hearings and complaints with various agencies that oversee school district operations, state court, U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. We always strive to provide results-oriented and cost-effective strategies when faced with a decision whether to settle or litigate.