Since 2001, the Whittier Special Education Legal Clinic has enabled over 1000 families of persons with developmental disabilities to receive educational advocacy on an ongoing basis. The goal of the clinic is to empower parents of children with disabilities by assisting them as both a counselor and an advocate to obtain appropriate educational services for their children as mandated by law. The clinic is also a resource to families and service agencies by providing information regarding statutory and case law as well as regulations governing special education.
This spring, students enjoyed a presentation by professor Kate Diesfeld, Esq., from Waikato Law School entitled: Designing Legal Services for Disabled People: New Zealand Perspectives. (See pictures of Kate, and students Cory Shackelford and Steven Stewart.) It was fascinating to learn about the similarities and differences in U.S. and New Zealand disability legal services.
Many students have participated in the special education clinic since its inception in Fall 2001. They do an outstanding job and have been able to provide services in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, American Sign Language, Farsi, Armenian, Vietnamese as will as English. Students’ specific areas of interest and experience has included autism, ADHD, transition of older students into the workplace and independent living, early intervention services for toddlers, and adaptive physical education. The work is very satisfying to the student advocates because they can often see immediate benefit for their clients due to their efforts.
“My experience working at the clinic was the best part of attending Whittier! I was given an opportunity to utilize what I was learning in law school with a hands-on approach. I was able to talk to clients directly and assist them in resolving their issues. I was given the opportunity to directly advocate for clients. I received guidance and experience of what it is like to work in a law office. I was treated with respect by all Directors and staff members. I did legal research and writing and filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights on behalf of one of our clients. The experience I received at the clinic helped me to prepare for other external clerk positions. My experience at the clinic assisted me with being prepared for the Bar exam and increased my self-confidence to take the Bar. Ultimately, my experience at the Clinic lead me to my current position as the Orange County Client Rights Advocate for Protection and Advocacy, Inc. The Clinic helped me to keep my sanity in law school.”
Jacqueline Miller, 2003 Special Education Legal Clinic Student
Disability Rights California (DRC) Office of the Clients’ Rights Advocacy, Garden Grove, CA
“Participation in the Special Education Clinic was the most rewarding experience that I have had in law school. The Clinic provides each student the unique opportunity to work in a real world environment with clients. In addition, the practice of Special Education law is rapidly growing and the need for lawyers in the field is overwhelming.”
Bryan Winn, 2006 Special Education Legal Clinic Student
Newman, Aaronson and Vanaman, Encino, CA