Symposium 2021

Special Education Law Symposium: New High Notes (June 21-25, 2021)

Lehigh University’s recent, annual, week-long Special Education Law Symposium swelled its registrations to 339, a 70% increase over its last (2019) on-campus iteration. Registrants for this second virtual symposium via Zoom webinar hailed from 38 states and the District of Columbia.

One unique feature of the symposium is its careful balance of school and parent viewpoints during each session. The symposium faculty included twenty-three prominent special education attorneys (both sides) and three non-attorneys from 21 states and the District of Columbia, the symposium’s most geographically diverse faculty to date.

Featuring arguably the best program in its three decades, the symposium offered three-hour “hot topics” at the heart of the latest IDEA federal court decisions: ADHD, autism, extended school year (ESY), creative remedies, low incidence disabilities, “dueling attorneys,” and also Section 504, the increasingly important anti-discrimination disability statute.

“Legally experienced” individuals (self-identified) comprised the audience for these topics and were state education officials, hearing officers, attorneys (both sides), school administrators, school psychologists, charter school officials, and parent advocates.

“Legally basic” individuals, including twenty Lehigh graduate students taking the course for graduate credit, studied in depth foundational IDEA and Section 504 topics.

The overlapping, but separable Section 504 Coordinators Institute nearly doubled (over previous symposia) its registrant numbers to 98 and featured several of the nation’s leading Section 504 attorney and non-attorney experts: Jose Martin (Texas), Dr. Summer Whitmore (Louisiana), and Lehigh’s Dr. Perry Zirkel, university professor emeritus of education and law.

Recorded sessions are available for later viewing by registrants, thus nearly doubling the available content. The sessions offered closed captioning for accessibility by individuals with hearing impairments.

An overarching theme of the symposium was the impact of COVID-19 upon the education of students with disabilities, including an informative keynote co-presentation by U. S. Senator Chris Murphy and attorney Cathy Holahan. The Murphys highlighted federal legislative and executive branch policies and disability initiatives.

Dr. Zirkel concluded the symposium with the annual “National Case Law Update,” based upon his case law research, and added a special session: “A Legal Snapshot of COVID-19 Issues for Public Schools, with the Primary Focus on Special Education.”

Lehigh alum Thomas Mayes (Iowa Department of Education) offered an interactive session exclusively for attorneys: “Ethics and the Special Education Litigator: The Question of Bias.”

For more information about the symposium content and faculty, see the brown banner at the top of this page.

Dr. James Newcomer and Dr. Zirkel are the symposium co-directors, ably assisted by Shannon Weber, Donna Johnson, and, crucially again this year, Denise Campion (technology). Rahil Doshi provided additional technical support.

The 2021 Special Education Law Symposium faculty included the following twenty-three attorneys (both sides and from across the country): Jean Adams (California), Steven Aleman (Texas), Laura Anthony (Ohio), Jason Ballum (Virginia), Hope Blackburn (New Jersey), Matt Cohen (Illinois), Andrew Faust (Pennsylvania), Brian Jason Ford (Pennsylvania), Kate Gerland (Colorado), Justin Gilbert (Tennessee), Craig Goodmark (Georgia), Eileen Hagerty (Massachusetts), Eric Herlan (Maine), Rachel Hitch (North Carolina), Isabel Machado (New Jersey), Jose Martin (Texas), Thomas Mayes (Iowa), Dr. Anne McGinnis (New York), Catherine Michael (Indiana), Frances Shefter (Maryland), Parris Taylor (Louisiana), Jessica Varn (Florida), Dr. Perry Zirkel (Pennsylvania), as well as school administrator Edward D’Addio (Massachusetts), and Dr. Summer Whitmore, Executive Director, EDSCLA (Louisiana).

The next (virtual) Special Education Law Symposium is tentatively scheduled for June 19-24, 2022.