Education Law Clinic

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Co-requisite Class: Education Advocacy & Systemic Change: Children at Risk Clinical Seminar (2 Fall credits). Clinic and class enrollment is bundled. Enrollment in one component (e.g. clinic) will automatically enroll you in the other component (e.g. class).
Early Add/Drop Deadline: September 4, 2012.
LLM Students:This clinic is open to LLM students through an application process.
Orientation: Students must attend a mandatory orientation session before the beginning of classes on September 8, 2012 from 9am - 2PM.

The Education Law Clinic is part of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI), a collaboration between HLS and Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the mission of which is to ensure that all children traumatized by exposure to violence and other adverse childhood experiences succeed in school. Students will engage directly in TLPI’s ongoing multi-strategic advocacy campaign to create safe and supportive school environments where all students can learn. They will simultaneously represent the family of a vulnerable student in the special education system.

TLPI’s model of systemic change advocacy is grounded in the actual experiences of real children and parents who encounter the education system firsthand everyday. Clinic students become the “eyes” and “ears” of the project as they represent individual clients in the special education system to see up-close how schools are impacting some of our most vulnerable children. Law students learn how to use the legal tools contained in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Medicaid Act, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other laws, to advocate for individual remedies that will help their clients’ children make effective progress in school. Clinic students learn a combination of litigation and negotiation skills as they prepare either to represent their clients at a Team Meeting – the first level adiministrative hearing in special education – or to file an administrative appeal at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. In this process, clinic students also learn to effectively employ the advocacy strategy – pioneered by the clinic – of bringing to the table (in sensitive and appropriate ways) a clinical understanding of the role traumatic experience may be playing in the disability-related educational challenges of their clients’ children. Students utilize the latest research from psychology, neurobiology, and education about the effects of trauma on learning and behavior as part of their representation.

Having seen the education system from the perspective of an individual family, clinic students then bring the voices of their clients into the policymaking arena as they participate in TLPI’s system-wide advocacy. In 2011-2012, clinic students advocated at the Massachusetts legislature for a bill that grew from the work of the Clinic – An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools – that would require all schools in the state to implement plans for creating safe and supportive environments. Students met with legislative aides to discuss the provisions of the bill and how their own clinic clients would benefit from its passage. They also participated in redrafting the langauge of the bill and testifying at a hearing on the bill before the Joint Committee on Education. In the coming semesters, clinic students will play an active role in TLPI’s systemic advocacy, which may include participation in the next steps of TLPI’s legislative campaign, advocacy at the federal level regarding the reauthorization of the IDEA, and/or other activities designed to move the TLPI agenda forward. A key learning goal of the clinic is for law students to understand lawyers’ unique role in the long-term, multi-strategic, interdisciplinary advocacy necessary to effect change in institutions as complicated as public education.

Subject Areas: Family, Gender & Children's Law , Procedure & Practice , Regulatory Law .