Selene Almazan has represented students and families for over 30 years. Selene is a former Supervising Attorney for the Legal Aid Bureau of Maryland where she represented children in the foster care system, including representation in special education matters. For nearly 23 years, Selene represented parents in special education matters with a primary focus on least restrictive environment (LRE) issues at the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education. Since September 2014, Selene has been the Legal Director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) where she supports the work of the Amicus Committee as well as works on federal and local policy issues. In this position she writes appellate amicus briefs for appellate courts as well as the United States Supreme Court. Since May 2015 Selene maintains a private practice focusing on parent and student representation in special education matters, including LRE. Selene represents families at IEP team meetings, state complaint proceedings, mediations, due process hearings, suspension/expulsion proceedings and federal court proceedings, including matters involving violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. She has extensive experience training families, teachers, school administrators, attorneys and advocates on legal issues related to special education law as well as disability discrimination issues.
Tanya A. Alvarado, Esquire is a Senior Shareholder at McAndrews Law Offices. She was born in Ecuador, South America and is fluent in Spanish. A graduate of Cornell University and Boston University School of Law, Ms. Alvarado has two disabled siblings and has dedicated her legal career to assisting children and adults with disabilities. Ms. Alvarado has assisted numerous children obtain independent educational evaluations, appropriate special education programs, private school tuition, inclusion, as well as other remedies to which students with special needs are entitled. In federal court, Ms. Alvarado has successfully litigated special education decisions, challenged discriminatory policies that limited the rights of persons with disabilities, obtained reasonable accommodations, and challenged retaliatory practices. Ms. Alvarado is continuously inspired by her clients’ perseverance in their pursuit to learn and become independent, contributing adults in their communities.
Maria Blaeuer, J.D. (Maryland)
Maria Blaeuer is a Staff Attorney at Advocates for Justice and Education, the District of Columbia’s federally designated Parent Training and Information Center.
She has spent most of her legal career in private practice focusing on special education law and the needs of students with disabilities in low-to-moderate income communities. As part of that practice, she has provided professional development and continuing education about special education to attorneys, teachers and other service providers in the District of Columbia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois and Pennsylvania. In her current role, Ms. Blaeuer works with schools and families to ensure that students receive the best education possible under the law. She brings a unique perspective to this role, having participated in the IEP and special education process as a student with an IEP herself, as a teacher of students with disabilities, as a parent, and now at AJE, as an attorney for students and families.
She obtained her Bachelor’s degree with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University, earned her law degree from Howard University School of Law and is pursing a Master’s degree in Education Policy. Ms. Blaeuer is a native of the Washington D.C. region, and serves as an appointed member of the Montgomery County, MD Commission on Juvenile Justice, and the Lawyer Assistance Committee of the D.C. Bar. She is also on the board of a small charter school serving at-risk, and over-age and under-credited students.
Ms. Blaeuer lives near Montgomery County, MD’s agricultural reserve with her husband, three children, and the family’s cats, dogs, and chickens.
Matt Cohen is founder of Matt Cohen and Associates and is well known for his work in special education law. Prior to starting the current firm, Matt was a partner in Monahan & Cohen, from 1990 to 2011. In addition to his special education and disability rights work, he has extensive experience in health care and mental health law. He has been the principal litigator in a number of important special education cases and is the primary or collaborating author of several amendments to the mental health and special education laws of Illinois, as well as working on legislation at the federal level. In 1997, he was invited to the White House to participate in the signing ceremony for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, in recognition of his participation in the process leading to the passage of that legislation. Matt has lectured frequently, both locally and nationally, on many special education topics, as well as on mental health and confidentiality law.
He has conducted presentations in 47 states and abroad For many years, Matt was an adjunct professor of law at Loyola University Law School and has also taught at Northwestern University Law School.
Matt Cohen served as President of the Board of Directors of the national Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (CHADD) organization from July of 1999 to June of 2000, serving on the board from July of 1995 to June of 2002. He was a founding board member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the national special education advocacy organization, where he served on the Executive Committee from 1999 to 2003 and continues to serve on the Board. He has been the chair of the nationally unique Illinois Attorney General’s Special Education Advisory Committee for over 25 years. He has also participated in colloquia, task forces or work groups of the U.S. Department of Education, the US Centers for Disease Control, and the Illinois State Board of Education.
In 2009, Matt authored the book A Guide to Special Education Advocacy: What Parents, Clinicians and Advocates Need to Know, published by Jessica Kingsley Press. Matt also has been an online legal commentator for LDOnline and has had many articles published in various books, journals and magazines. He is also the author of Barriers to Inclusion in Local Schools in Illinois: A Blueprint for Change, funded by a grant from the Illinois Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities.
While engaged in private law practice continuously since 1981, Matt served as the Executive Director and Corporate Counsel of a large psychiatric services corporation from 1985 to 1990. Matt received his law degree from the University of Minnesota (1981) and his bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College (1977).
Matt has two terrific sons, Daniel and Nathan.
Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
William Culleton, J.D. (Pennsylvania)
William Culleton has served as an impartial special education hearing officer for the Pennsylvania Office for Dispute Resolution for the past twelve years. Previously he had been an advocate for individuals diagnosed with physical and mental disabilities for twenty-seven years in New Jersey. His undergraduate degree is from St. Joseph’s College and his J.D. is from Washington University in St. Louis. He is certified by the National Association of Hearing Officials (NAHO).
Prior to becoming a Pennsylvania hearing officer, Mr. Culleton served as trial and appellate counsel in state and federal courts. His cases ranged from civil commitments and the standards for appropriate treatment of persons diagnosed with mental disabilities to class action law reform litigation and administrative appeals of statewide regulations. He served on New Jersey statewide panels for reform of the mental health system and served as an administrator in his state government advocacy office for seven years.
Andrew Faust, J.D. (Pennsylvania)
Andrew Faust is a partner with the law firm of Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams, LLP. He has represented public school entities throughout Pennsylvania in special education and civil rights litigation since 1986, appearing at every level of the state and federal judiciary and in hundreds of administrative due process proceedings. He has spoken widely on special education, student services, and civil rights to audiences of educators, attorneys, college students, and parents and has appeared as an expert witness on special education.
Stephen R. Fogerty, a partner in the law firm of Fogarty & Hara, is an attorney whose practice includes the representation of over 65 public and private schools state-wide. He is a member of the New Jersey Bar, the New York Bar, the United States Supreme Court Bar and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Fogarty has litigated numerous special education matters before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, District Court, State Court and the Office of Administrative Law, involving eligibility, evaluation, program and placement, related services, private school placements and discipline arising under the IDEA. He has also litigated cases under other laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Mr. Fogarty has lectured and provided professional development on these topics to the many school district he represents and is a frequent presenter for Seton Hall School Study Council, Bergen County Association of School Administrators, Bergen County School Business Administrators, Bergen County Association of School Business Officials, Essex County Association of School Business Officials, NESBIG Insurance Agency, North Jersey Special Education Administrators Association, New Jersey School Boards Association and New Jersey Personnel Administrators Association. He is currently an adjunct professor in the doctoral program at Caldwell University, where he lectures on Law and Ethics in Education that includes Children with Disabilities and Equity, Nondiscriminatory Evaluations, Procedural Safeguards and Student Discipline.
Ms. Freeman is a member of Council of Parent and Attorney Advocates (“COPAA”); has been awarded the Community Partnership Award from the Family Resource Network and Family Support Center of New Jersey (2012); former Vice President of Learning Disabilities Association of New Jersey; member of ASCEND: Asperger & Autism Alliance for Greater Philadelphia: Executive Board (2010-Present); Learning Disabilities Association of New Jersey (Professional Advisory Board) (2009-2012); Quest Autism Programs: Human Rights Committee (2009-2010); New Jersey State Bar Association, Elder and Disability Law Section (2008-present); Member of International Dyslexia Association (2006-present); Member of COSAC/Autism New Jersey (2005-present). Send her an email at Hillary@freemanlawoffices.com.
Gabrielle C. Goham joined Raffaele Puppio in 2010 as a Partner and Chair of the Special Education Department. She represents school districts, charter schools, private schools and intermediate units in special education matters.
Prior to joining Raffaele Puppio, Gabrielle handled special education law matters as an Associate Attorney at Wisler Pearlstine, LLP in Montgomery County, Pa. She served families on the federal court level for an additional five years as a Senior Shareholder with McAndrews Law Offices in Berwyn, Pa., leading to several precedential decisions from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which she argued. She has also prepared Memoranda presented to the United States Supreme Court and is a frequent lecturer and sought-after authority across Pennsylvania on special education issues.
A former teacher in the Delaware County public school system, Gabrielle enjoyed a federal clerkship after law school with the Honorable Robert F. Kelly, Sr., United States District Judge. In addition, she clerked for the Honorable Frank T. Hazel of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas and the Honorable Stephen P. McEwen, President Judge Emeritus of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Early in her legal career, Gabrielle was an intern with the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.
From 2013-2016, Gabrielle has been named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters, published annually in Philadelphia magazine. Every publication year from 2006 – 2011, she was listed among the publication’s Super Lawyers Rising Stars, representing the top 2.5% of Pennsylvania lawyers under the age of 40 or with less than 10 years of experience.
Gabrielle obtained her Bachelor of Arts from St. Joseph’s University in 1992, Masters in Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1993, and Juris Doctorate from Villanova University School of Law in 1999.
Gabrielle volunteered her time as Legal Advisor for the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education from 2010 through 2013. She resides in Delaware County with her husband and three young sons.
Lisa Hardcastle, M.S. (Texas)
Lisa Hardcastle, Coordinator of Section 504 and Dyslexia, Clear Creek Independent School District in League City, TX has 19 years of experience in public education. She began her career as a pre-school teacher, then worked as a dyslexia specialist in elementary schools, as well as high school before assuming the role of coordinator in Clear Creek ISD, a large (41,000 students), suburban school district south of Houston. Ms. Hardcastle has an undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University, as well as a Master of Science in Reading from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Ms. Hardcastle has presented on topics including ADHD, dyslexia, homebound services and Section 504 across Texas.
Claudia Huot concentrates her practice in the area of School Law. Ms. Huot is a partner at Wisler Pearlstine, LLP, where she represents school districts, charter schools and educational management organizations, particularly in the areas of special education and student rights. She advises clients in many aspects of school law and special education law, including representation in administrative proceedings, appeals and litigation in state and federal court. Ms. Huot has appeared on behalf of school districts in numerous due process hearings and board hearings. She has successfully defended her school district clients in federal court appeals addressing a variety of special education issues, including the statute of limitations under the IDEA. She regularly makes legal presentations to school district clients, prepares written materials and plans and presents at seminars regarding school law matters. Ms. Huot has extensive experience in general litigation, having tried cases to verdict in federal and state courts in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Jacobson is a founding member of Jacobson & John, LLP, an education law firm that represents families of children with special education needs. For nearly two decades Dr. Jacobson has presented extensively on both special and general education topics across Pennsylvania to educators, parents, attorneys and hearing officers. Originally from Colorado, Dr. Jacobson graduated cum laude from Colorado State University with a degree in Psychology in 1991. In 1998, Dr. Jacobson earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology cum laude from Widener University, and concurrently earned a law degree cum laude from the Widener University School of Law. In 2014, Dr. Jacobson helped launch the PBA’s campaign “Have a Voice In Your Exceptional Child’s Education”, a State-wide bar association initiative to provide parents throughout Pennsylvania with an overview of special education rights. From 2011-2016 Dr. Jacobson also served as Vice-Chair of the Exceptional Children Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
Hollie John, J.D. (Pennsylvania)
Hollie John is a founder and partner of Jacobson & John LLP, where she represents families in all aspects of special education matters, from providing consultation, to attendance at meetings, to due process hearings and federal court litigation, and everything in between. Ms. John was previously a shareholder in a Bucks County, Pennsylvania law firm where she spent a decade of her legal career representing public school entities throughout Pennsylvania. Ms. John’s legal career also includes service as Law Clerk to The Honorable William J. Furber, Jr. of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, and as Assistant District Attorney for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office. She received her J.D. from Villanova University School of Law.
Ms. John has been an active member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Legal Services for Exceptional Children Committee, where she served as Vice Chair, and more recently, as Chair. Ms. John speaks throughout the state to parents, educators, Ph. D. candidates, college students, and attorneys on special education and other education law related topics.
Michele Kule-Korgood, J.D. (New York)
Michele Kule-Korgood has devoted over twenty-two years in private practice to representing parents of children with disabilities in order to secure an effective education for their children. While studying psychology as an undergraduate, Michele became a personal care assistant for a classmate with cerebral palsy. Her classmate’s refusal to be defined by his disability inspired Michele to pursue a career in teaching special education. Years later, as a special education teacher, Michele’s efforts to help a student obtain assistive technology, so he could have a voice in the world, again changed the course of her life. In order to effect change for a greater number of people, she decided to attend law school and become a legal advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. Michele has successfully handled thousands of matters in special education, ensuring that every child receives equal access to the high quality education to which he or she is entitled.
Nationally, Michele speaks frequently on special education law and policy. She has chaired many conferences, and presented on various topics in special education law at numerous conferences, including those held by the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), the New York State Bar Association, the Practising Law Institute, and Lehigh University, and at various agencies which provide education and advocacy services. Michele is the Immediate Past Chair of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and serves on its board, as well as the board of the Center for Learning Differences. Michele has argued and presented cases involving novel issues in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Eastern and Southern District Courts, the Appellate Division and state Supreme Court (including as lead counsel, along with Greenberg, Traurig, in the landmark decision of Mr. and Mrs. A v. N.Y. City Dep’t of Educ. (S.D.N.Y. 2011), holding that the exercise of rights under IDEA cannot be made to depend on the financial means of a disabled child’s parents, and extending the right for direct tuition payment to schools for parents without economic means, pursuant to the Burlington/Carter analysis). She has a number of published decisions in various courts in special education and additional education-related areas of law.
Isabel Machado, J.D. (New Jersey)
Isabel Machado is the founding partner of the Machado Law Group and has devoted her distinguished legal career to the practice of education law. By listening and asking the right questions, Isabel has developed a unique ability to truly partner with clients on creative problem solving. Her collaborative approach fosters understanding and identification of goals and potential obstacles to achievement.
Isabel’s practice involves all aspects of education law, including litigation at all levels of state and federal courts and administrative agencies. She has an in-depth background in special education law, board policy, and administrative matters. Isabel focuses primarily on counseling and litigating on behalf of school districts with respect to employment and contract matters, labor negotiations, and special education.
Isabel is a dynamic and sought-after author and public speaker, who routinely conducts workshops and in-service programs for board of education members, school administrators and staff, and industry organizations, including the New Jersey Association of School Administrators (NJASA), New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA), Seton Hall University’s Superintendent Study Council and LRP Publications, Inc.
In 2008, Isabel was recognized by the New Jersey Law Journal and NJBIZ as one of its “40 Under 40” and a Super Lawyers Rising Star. Isabel is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and New York. Isabel also holds a Certificate of Eligibility as a School Business Administrator.
Gerry McMahon founded The Law Offices of Gerry McMahon, LLC, 10 years ago. Prior to that she was a partner in a prominent Michigan law firm, Howard & Howard Attorneys, PC. She has extensive litigation experience dating back to 1987 in state and federal courts in New York, Connecticut, and Michigan, which she parlayed into her current special education and civil rights private practice. She is admitted to practice in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the Connecticut Federal District Court, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She is an active member and presenter of COPAA. She is a regular presenter in Connecticut and New York on special education and civil rights law. She is a member of the New York Bar Association and Connecticut Bar Association. She is also an Advisory Board Member for the Villa Maria School in Stamford, Connecticut.
James R. Newcomer, Ed.D. (Pennsylvania)
James Newcomer taught high school English, taught in a residential school for students with blindness in Pittsburgh, and served as an itinerant teacher of visually impaired students for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit. During this time, Dr. Newcomer was twice elected as the national chairperson of the country’s orientation and mobility specialists. He also provided staff training in community living arrangements for clients with multiple disabilities, including blindness, who were transitioning from institutions back into their communities. Dr. Newcomer later served for over 20 years as an administrator in the Quakertown Community School District in Bucks County as its Director of Special Education, Director of Pupil Personnel Services, and Assistant Superintendent. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Lebanon Valley College, received a master’s degree in special education from the University of Pittsburgh, and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Lehigh University. His research dissertation and resultant journal articles dealt with special education litigation. During his nearly 40-year career in public education, Dr. Newcomer experienced the development and impact of special education law as a teacher, school administrator, and peer monitor for the PA Department of Education. He has served as Co-director of the Special Education Law Symposium with Dr. Zirkel for over 20 years.
Ms. Say is the Chair of the firm’s School Law Group and practices in the areas of education (school) and employment law. In her school practice, she has developed expertise in advising school districts in special education, gifted, discipline, labor and employment, and civil rights matters. She counsels her clients through internal compliance audits and defends them in administrative hearings and federal litigation. Ms. Say also provides legal support to private and public employers on a variety of personnel issues, particularly on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Wage and Hour laws, and Unemployment Compensation law. She represents school districts and employers before various administrative bodies, including the Bureau of Special Education, Office for Dispute Resolution, Office of Civil Rights, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, and in federal and state court.
In 2014, the Central Penn Business Journal named Brooke one of Central Pennsylvania’s Forty Under 40 business people and in 2015, The Legal Intelligencer named her one of Pennsylvania’s Lawyers on the Fast Track.
Ms. Say has been selected by her peers and Law and Politics magazine to the Pennsylvania Rising Star list for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. This honor is awarded to only 2.5% of all Pennsylvania attorneys considered in the selection process.
Michael Stafford, J.D. (Delaware)
Michael Stafford specializes in education law issues facing both private and public schools for the Delaware firm of Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor, including special education, student rights and discipline, school policies and procedures, and staff termination issues. In particular, Mr. Stafford has represented public school districts in special education disputes in both administrative due process hearings and federal and state courts. Similarly, he has handled numerous student rights’ issues, including complex disputes over students’ free speech rights, discipline issues such as search and seizure, and expulsion hearings and appeals. In addition, Mr. Stafford works with school administrators to develop and revise policies and procedures. He provides school staff development and training on a wide variety of topics. Mr. Stafford is a 2003 graduate of Duke University School of Law.
Julie J. Weatherly, Esq. is the owner of Resolutions in Special Education, Inc. with offices and attorneys in Alabama and Florida. Julie is a member of the State Bars of Alabama and Georgia, and for over 30 years, has provided legal representation and consultation to school agencies across the country in the area of educating students with disabilities under IDEA and Section 504/ADA. She has been a member of the faculty for many national and state legal institutes and is a frequent speaker at special education law conferences. Julie has developed a number of training programs that support special education legal compliance and has been published nationally as a part of her trainings, workshops and seminars. She is the author of the legal update article for the National CASE quarterly newsletter and is a member of LRP’s Special Education Attorneys Advisory Council. In June of 1996, Julie appeared with Leslie Stahl on CBS news program “60 Minutes” to discuss the cost of meeting the legal requirements of the IDEA. In 1998, she was honored by Georgia’s Council for Exceptional Children as the Individual who had Contributed Most to Students with Disabilities, and in April 2012, Julie received the Award for Outstanding Service from the National Council of Administrators of Special Education.
Deborah Ziegler, Ed.D., is the Director for Policy and Advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), one of the world’s premier education associations.
Dr. Ziegler has broad public policy experience at the international, national, state, and local levels. She works to further the overall goals of CEC through improving policies affecting children and youth with exceptionalities and the professionals who work on their behalf, at all levels of government. In her position, she is responsible for providing leadership and direction for the association’s public policy agenda, including policy development, implementation, and analysis; information collection and dissemination; and maintaining a grassroots network of Children and Youth Action Network (CAN) Coordinators. She works closely with the White House, the United States Congress, and the Federal Agencies including the U.S. Department of Education to advocate for policies that support high quality education and early intervention services for children and youth with disabilities and gifts and talents.
Dr. Ziegler works with several international disability organizations, whose focus is the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She is the editor of Inclusion for All: The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a publication of the IDEA program of the Open Society Institute. Dr. Ziegler has worked since 1994 in providing technical assistance and training on behalf of nongovernmental/governmental organizations in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East to assist programs in implementing policies and practices in early childhood education and inclusive education for children with disabilities.
Dr. Ziegler has worked as a special education teacher, special education administrator and faculty at the university level. She has consulted widely and written extensively in the policy arena.
Perry Zirkel, Ph.D., J.D., L.L.M. (Pennsylvania)
Perry A. Zirkel is university professor emeritus of education and law at Lehigh University, where he formerly was dean of the College of Education and more recently held the Iacocca Chair in Education for its five-year term. He has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut, and a Master of Laws degree from Yale University. He has written more than 1,500 publications on various aspects of school law, with an emphasis on legal issues in special education. He writes regular columns for Principal magazine and NASP’s Communique, and did so previously for Phl Delta Kappan and Teaching Exceptional Children. Past president of the Education Law Association (ELA) and co-chair of the Pennsylvania special education appeals panel from 1990 to 2007, he is the author of the CEC monograph The Legal Meaning of Specific Learning Disability; the more recent books, A Digest of Supreme Court Decisions Affecting Education and Student Teaching and the Law; and the two-volume reference Section 504, the ADA and the Schools, now in its third edition. In 2012, he received the Research and Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the Excellence in Research Award from AERA’s Division A (Administration, Organization & Leadership). In 2013, he received the University Council for Educational Administration’s Edwin Bridges Award for significant contributions to the preparation and development of school leaders. In 2016, he received the ELA’s Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law.