Symposium 2022

Special Education Law Symposium Success (June 19-24, 2022) 

Now in its third decade, Lehigh University’s recent, annual, week-long Special Education Law Symposium swelled its registrations to 352, surpassing even last summer’s record registration. Registrants for this third virtual symposium via Zoom webinar hailed from 35 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Attendees included 22 Lehigh students enrolled for graduate credit.

The symposium faculty included 28 prominent special education attorneys (both sides) from 19 states and the District of Columbia, providing a careful balance of school and parent viewpoints, a traditional strength of the symposium.

Registrants included front-line educators and school administrators, charter school officials, parent advocates, attorneys (both sides), and state officials and hearing officers.

Registrants self-selected either a Legally Experienced track or a Legally Basic one, the latter studying in-depth foundational IDEA and Section 504 topics: child find and eligibility, FAPE, LRE, discipline, remedies, and PA’s Chapter 14 regulations.

Featuring yet another stellar program that surveyed this special education legal landscape, for the Legally Experienced track, the symposium offered three-hour “hot topics” at the heart of the latest IDEA federal court decisions and state developments: dyslexia, abuse of and by students with disabilities, settlement strategies, compensatory services and compensatory education, “stay put,”  “dueling attorneys,” and also Section 504, the increasingly important anti-discrimination disability statute.

An important goal of the symposium is that an understanding of the legal parameters of the IDEA and Section 504 will guide school officials and parent team members in their design of appropriate, individualized special education programs in the least restrictive setting, reduce disagreements, and obviate the need for expensive litigation.

The overlapping, but separable Section 504 Coordinators Institute again registered nearly a hundred professionals with school district Section 504 responsibilities and featured several of the nation’s leading Section 504 attorney and non-attorney experts: Jose Martin (Texas), Lehigh alum Kathleen Sullivan (Colorado), Judith Nedell (Connecticut), and Lehigh’s Dr. Perry Zirkel, university professor emeritus of education and law.

Lehigh alum Thomas Mayes (Iowa Department of Education) and David Rubin (New Jersey) offered an interactive session exclusively for attorneys: “Ethics and the Special Education Attorney.”

A continuing theme of the symposium was the impact of COVID-19 upon the education of students with disabilities, including an informative keynote lecture by Laurie VanderPloeg, former Director, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education.

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

Symposium sessions were recorded for later registrant viewing, this nearly doubling the available content and allowing the Legally Basic registrants to move on post-symposium to the more complex presentations.

Dr. James Newcomer and Dr.  Zirkel are the symposium co-directors, ably assisted by Shannon Weber, Donna Johnson, Megan Cook, Candace Means and Denise Campion (technical support).