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Special Education and the Law: A Military Perspective

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 142 minutes
Recorded Date: April 06, 2022
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  • Background of Special Education in the U.S. Air Force
  • Department of Defense Education Activity Schools
  • Interstate Compact on Education Opportunity for Military Children
  • Laws that Protect Students with Disabilities
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • IDEA and IEPs
  • Procedural Protections Under IDEA
  • Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, 137 S.Ct. 988 (2017)
  • Disciplinary Matters
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Mediation
  • State Complaints
  • OCR Complaints
  • Due Process
  • Exhaustion
  • Conclusion/Takeaways
Runtime: 2 hours, 22 minutes
Recorded: April 6, 2022

For NY - Difficulty Level: For experienced attorneys (non-transitional)


During this 3 hour CLE program, seasoned panelists will teach you the ins and outs of special education law for students with disabilities, while also highlighting unique challenges faced by military families traversing the special education process. This course will educate practitioners regarding the requirements of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for individuals whose education is adversely impacted by their disabilities. Attendees will journey from the eligibility and evaluation process through the development of an Individualized Education Program ("IEP") and possible remedies when disputes arise between families and education agencies. By highlighting common issues, participants will learn how to navigate the special education process, avoid common pitfalls, and resolve disputes.

This program was recorded by the American Bar Association on April 6th, 2022.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Brianna M. Crews

PELE Fellow
PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic

Brianna M. Crews is the inaugural PELE Fellow to serve the PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic at William & Mary Law School. In addition to supporting clinic operations, Crews will be overseeing the development and implementation of a new project by the PELE Clinic, the Empowering Virginia’s Military Families in Special Education Project. The project is designed to provide legal assistance to military families located in Virginia on special education matters.

Crews received her B.S. in History and English from Texas A&M University-Commerce Honors College where she spent three years working on the East Texas War and Memory Project, a project dedicated to collecting and preserving the oral histories of Texas veterans from World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Through her work in this project, she developed a deep respect for the military community and the challenges that they bear in service to our country.

Crews graduated from William & Mary Law School where she was a student advocate for two semesters with the PELE Clinic, earning a CALI Excellence for the Future Award for her work during her second semester in the clinic. At W&M Law School, she was a member of the Women’s Law Society and the Christian Legal Society. She is licensed to practice law in Texas.

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Sharon J. Ackah

Chief, Air Force Legal Assistance and Policy
United States Air Force

Sharon Ackah is Chief of the Air Force Exceptional Family Member (EFM) Legal Assistance and Policy Branch, Civil Law and Litigation Directorate. Her mission is to build a special education law capability across the Department of the Air Force. She provides legal expertise on EFM policy matters, expert counsel to attorneys and key stakeholders, and client representation in complex special education disputes. Mrs. Ackah is also responsible for special education law training and developing best practices through innovation and leadership. She is a published author and accomplished speaker who has a 20-year background involving public health, management, policy, training and preventative law.

In 1998, Mrs. Ackah attained a Masters of Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in Management and Policy Sciences. She has since dedicated her career to improving the lives of children and families impacted by exceptional medical and social circumstances. Her public health profession involved program management, field support, training, and outreach related to disease prevention and developmental disabilities. In 2004, Mrs. Ackah earned her law degree from The George Washington University Law School. She then spent more than a decade serving as policy analyst and deputy program manager for Northrop Grumman Corporation. She also served as partner in a private practice focused on medical insurance claims, representation of guardians of disabled persons in cases involving supplemental needs trust, and general civil practice.

Mrs. Ackah became a Department of Defense civilian in 2015 serving as a legal assistance attorney at the United States Military Academy (USMA). She then joined the Office of Soldiers’ Counsel (OSC), where she served as both Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) and Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) counsel for wounded, ill and injured Soldiers. In 2018, Mrs. Ackah received the Office of Soldiers’ Counsel Award for Excellence in Client Satisfaction (ICE Award), an honor bestowed upon her out of 175 attorneys. Mrs. Ackah is a member of the Council of Parents, Attorneys and Advocates for students with disabilities (COPAA), the Military Spouse JD Network (MSJDN), and the Health and Educational Relief Organization (HERO). She is also a volunteer with Child Advocates of San Antonio (CASA). Mrs. Ackah is married to MAJ (Ret.) Kwansah Ackah and has three sons, Xavier, Josiah and Aiden.

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Christina M. Jones

Director & Professor of the Practice
PELE Special Education Advocacy Clinic

Christina Jones is a Professor of the Practice at William & Mary Law School, where she has served as the Director of the Parents Engaged for Learning Equality (PELE) Special Education Advocacy Clinic since May 2017.

In the PELE Clinic, she teaches and oversees law students advocating for children with disabilities in eligibility, individualized education program (IEP), and disciplinary meetings. Christina also spearheads the PELE Clinic’s Institute of Special Education Advocacy (ISEA), which educates attorneys and lay advocates across the United States. Recently, she led a weeklong training to military attorneys, paralegals, and Exceptional Family Member Program staff on protecting the rights of military children in special education. She has presented for groups including the National Allies for Parents in Special Education, Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center, William & Mary School of Education’s Twice Exceptional Conference, as well as local special education advisory committees and nonprofits.

Currently, Christina serves on the Board of Directors of The Arc of Greater Williamsburg. In Spring 2020, she received a William & Mary Diversity Recognition Award for her involvement in the university’s Daily Work of Justice series on Ability & Disability. Additionally, she has previously assisted with William & Mary Law School’s admissions department and taught Legal Argumentation at Beijing Normal University as part of a two-week faculty delegation to China. Christina was invited to join the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 cohorts of the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Reform Leaders’ Summit, a network of leaders promoting parental rights and equity in education.

A native of Silicon Valley, Christina holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame Law School, where she was awarded the David T. Link Award for outstanding service in the field of social justice, and the Dean’s Award in Disability Law. Christina also received the A. Harold Weber Moot Court Award for outstanding achievement in the art of oral argument, and as a member of the Moot Court Board’s Showcase Team, she competed in national and international moot court tournaments. Her past experience includes work at The Arc of the United States in Washington D.C., Equip for Equality in Chicago, Legal Aid at Work in San Francisco, the Alliance for Catholic Education at Notre Dame, and the Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section in Washington D.C. Her close relationship with her cousin Jennifer, a young woman with autism, fuels her advocacy efforts.

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Cheri Belkowitz

Attorney at Law
Belkowitz Law, PLLC

Cheri Belkowitz is an education attorney who practices throughout Virginia and in Washington, D. C. Cheri is a sought-after presenter, and she speaks multiple times a year on various topics related to special education. Cheri is a zealous advocate for children with disabilities and their families in all school-related matters. She represents families in special education law matters arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Cheri was invited by the Secretary of the Air Force as a civic leader to participate in the National Security Forum at Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, to share perspectives with senior military officers on strategic leadership, national security and global security. Cheri has also presented at Exceptional Family Member Program events and has served as a moderator in the PELE Clinic’s Military Boot Camp through William and Mary Law School.

Cheri is active in the special needs community, and she served four terms as Chair of the Fairfax County Public Schools Advisory Committee for Students with Disabilities (a school district with approximately 28,000 students with disabilities). She also served as a member of the Fairfax Equity Stakeholders Committee and as a Director on the Board of The Arc of Northern Virginia. Cheri was recently appointed to the Fairfax County Police Civilian Review Panel and currently serves on the Board of the Fairfax Special Education PTA (“SEPTA”). Among other recognitions, Cheri received the JCC of Northern Virginia Finkelstein Award for her service, leadership, and program development in the special needs community and the SEPTA “Community Champion Award” in 2020 for her exceptional commitment to the special needs community in the public schools.

Cheri graduated cum laude from Brandeis University, and she earned her Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Syracuse University College of Law. Cheri served as Notes and Comments Editor of The Syracuse Law Review and was a member of the Justinian Honorary Law Society. At graduation from law school, Cheri was awarded the Dean’s Most Outstanding Contribution Award.

Cheri grew up in Livingston, New Jersey, and she currently lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia. She and her husband, Harold, have three children and two dogs.

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Brenda M. Maloney Shafer

Partner, National Vice-Chair, Health Law Practice Group
Quarles & Brady LLP

Brenda Maloney Shafer focuses her practice on health care regulatory, compliance, and transactional matters for a wide variety of providers, including pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers, and drug wholesalers; hospitals and physician groups; and long-term care facilities. A particular area of focus is counseling clients regarding compliance with the 340B Drug Pricing Program.

Her time as a United States Army Nurse Corps officer gives Brenda a unique perspective on the challenges of health care, further informing how she guides her clients through the full range of legal and business challenges they face.

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