Children's Representation Program
Under federal and state law, children with disabilities are entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). When students face challenges in obtaining the special education services they need in school, securing a program or placement that can meet their needs, or acquiring compensation for being denied a FAPE, they often require the help of an attorney to represent them. Many children struggle with harassment, intimidation or bullying (HIB) in a school setting and need legal assistance to compel the school district to act. Through VLJ’s Children’s Representation Program (CRP), lawyers help children facing these types of problems in school by negotiating settlements or providing representation at a hearing.
who can participate?
Prior experience in education law is not required to volunteer. VLJ pairs lawyers new to this area of law with experienced attorney mentors who can answer questions and provide an overview of the hearing process. VLJ has training materials on special education law and HIB claims, as well as sample pleadings and forms. New volunteers are required to review all training materials prior to taking a case. Attorneys who are interested in taking an education case through the CRP are encouraged to attend VLJ’s upcoming CLE, “The Nuts and Bolts of Representing Children in Special Education Cases,” on March 16, 2016, at Rutgers.
What do volunteers do?
Education cases typically involve negotiating with the district for services to which a student is entitled, an appropriate program or placement, compensatory services for the district’s failure to provide the student with the education it should have, or a finding of HIB. Many times this will require going to a due process hearing in the Office of Administrative Law. Each case referred to VLJ is assessed for merit by an experienced education attorney from a partner organization. The referral packet contains a description of the facts of the case and legal assistance sought, the family’s contact information, and many relevant documents. Attorneys are asked to review the case file, contact the client, and determine whether or not they can take the case within 10 days. Attorneys who have little to no experience in education law will be immediately matched with a mentor who can assist them with the case from start to finish.
How to sign up
Cases are referred via VLJ’s case opportunities list, which is emailed out on the first and third Wednesday of the month. All new volunteers are immediately signed up to receive this email listing of available cases. If you see a case you are interested in, you should email the VLJ staff person on the case list who will then send you conflict information.