Friday, October 16, 2009

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) is a resource every parent with a child who needs special school services should know about. COPAA was founded in 1998 and its members are attorneys, special education advocates, and parents who are advocating on behalf of their own child. COPAA is actively and specifically pro-child. It will not accept as a member anyone who works or who has recently worked for a state or local department of education or who is on a school board that is involved in legal action against a parent.

Although it offers special services and information to its members, the COPAA website has numerous public resources that can be helpful to families. Perhaps most useful is its "find an attorney or advocate" feature which lets parents locate COPAA members in each state who can represent families seeking services from their local school district, help with "Carter" funding, or help with other educational issues, such as school disciplinary procedures.

COPAA is also an active voice in special education advocacy, and the public areas of its website contain information about its "friend of the court" briefs in legal matters and the work of its Washington, D.C. office in helping Congress shape legislation that will help our children. There is also an extensive list of resources that parents, advocates, and attorneys will all find helpful.

COPAA is holding its next conference in St. Louis in March. There will be training sessions for all levels of knowledge and opportunities for networking with others who share a commitment to helping children. If you decide to attend, look for our own Susan Yellin, an attorney and the Yellin Center's Director of Advocacy and Transition Services, as well as a proud COPAA member.

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