Colleen R. Villarreal

Senior Counsel | Sacramento

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Tel: 916.329.7433
Fax: 916.329.9050
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Colleen R. Villarreal is Senior Counsel in Lozano Smith's Sacramento office and co-chair of the firm's Special Education Practice Group. She represents public schools and other educational agencies in special education issues and litigation. Ms. Villarreal was named to the 2017 Northern California Rising Stars list by Super Lawyers Magazine.


Ms. Villarreal represents school districts in special education matters and has experience with IEP meetings, mediation, manifestation determinations, settlement negotiations, and due process hearings.

While pursuing her J.D., Ms. Villarreal worked with the California Attorney General's Office in the Health, Education and Welfare section and the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office. As a certified law clerk, she worked at the United States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California, prosecuting misdemeanor federal offenses.


Ms. Villarreal earned her J.D., with a concentration in Criminal Justice and a certificate in Advocacy, from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. She earned her B.A. from Dominican University of California (cum laude and Honors Program).

Supreme Court Clarifies Educational Progress Standard for Students in Special Education

By: Sarah GarciaColleen Villarreal-

March 2017 Number 12 In a much anticipated decision, a unanimous United States Supreme Court has ruled that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) must be reasonably calculated to enable a child with a disability to make appropriate educational progress in light of the child's circumstances. (Endrew F. v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. RE-1 (March 22, 2017, No. 15-827) ___ U.S. ___ <

Discipline for Cyber Bullying Gets an Upgrade

By: Thomas MannielloColleen Villarreal-

October 2016 Number 73 On September 21, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two new bills that will become effective January 1, 2017, amending sections 234.2 and 48900 of the Education Code relating to cyber bullying. The new laws expressly include video as an electronic means by which bullying can occur. Students can now also be suspended or expelled if "cyber sexual bullying" is committed, and local education agencies are encouraged to inform students that information and reso...

OCR Issues Guidance to Ensure Gender Equality in Career and Technical Education Programs

By: Edward SklarColleen Villarreal-

July 2016 Number 42 The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) issued a joint "Dear Colleague" letter on June 15, 2016 providing "significant guidance" on how to ensure gender equality in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. The guidance was prompted by data indicating persistent underrepresentation of men and women in fields considered "non-traditional" for their gender (i.e., underrepresentation of...

Ninth Circuit Underscores School Districts' Affirmative Obligation to Initiate Special Education Due Process

By: Summer DalessandroColleen Villarreal-

December 2015 Number 79 Making clear that school districts should not ignore their obligations to initiate due process when parents refuse to consent to necessary components of special education, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed and remanded the decision of a district court on the subject. In I.R. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, (9th Cir., November 17, 2015) 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 19900 (I.R.), the Ninth Circuit held that "school districts in California must comp...

New Immunity for Physicians Prescribing Epinephrine Auto-Injectors Increases Likelihood of Local Educational Agencies Obtaining Prescriptions

By: Colleen Villarreal-

August 2015 Number 46 Governor Jerry Brown recently signed Senate Bill (SB) 738 into law, which provides qualified immunity to physicians who issue a prescription for epinephrine auto-injectors (commonly known as "EpiPens") to a local educational agency (LEA), such as a school district, county office of education, or charter school. The qualified immunity provided would prohibit a prescribing physician from being subject to professional review, being liable in a civil action, or being sub...

Ninth Circuit Holds that Delay in Making Offer of FAPE Constitutes Consent to Private Placement and Requires Reimbursement of Tuition

By: Summer DalessandroColleen Villarreal-

June 2015 Number 33 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the decision of a district court in Hawaii concluding that a student's parents must be reimbursed for the continued placement of their son, Sam K., in a private school due to the Hawaii Department of Education's (DOE) failure to convene an Individualized Education Program (IEP) prior to the start of the school year. In Sam K. v. Hawaii Dep't of Educ., (9th Cir., June 5, 2015) 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 9398, the Ninth Circui...

Bullying of Students with Disabilities Triggers Affirmative Obligations Under Section 504 and the IDEA

By: Sarah GarciaColleen Villarreal-

November 2014 Number 89 The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a "Dear Colleague" letter (OCR Letter) on October 21, 2014, guiding schools on how to respond to harassment or bullying complaints involving students with disabilities who receive special education or related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504). While "Dear Colleague" letters are non-binding, they communicate details regarding ex...

Court Declares Least Restrictive Environment Mandate Applies to Extended School Year Placements

By: Sarah GarciaColleen Villarreal-

April 2014 Number 24 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently considered whether the requirement to serve special education students in the least restrictive environment (LRE) applies to extended school year (ESY) placements. (T.M. ex rel. A.M. v. Cornwall Cent. School Dist. (2d Cir. April 2, 2014) __ F.3d __ 2014 WL 1303156.) The court held the LRE requirement applies to ESY placements, concluding the LRE requirement carries the same force during the summer months as dur...

New Federal Guidance on Effective Communication with People Who Have Communication Disabilities

By: Anahid HoonanianColleen Villarreal-

March 2014 Number 20 On January 31, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, issued guidance entitled "Effective Communication" regarding the American with Disabilities Act's (ADA) requirements for effective communication with people who have communication disabilities (i.e., vision, hearing, or speech impairments), including requirements that went into effect on March 15, 2011. The Effective Communication guidance is available here. Under the ADA, public enti...

State Board of Education Proposes Amendments to Special Education Regulations

By: Sarah GarciaColleen Villarreal-

June 2013 Number 28 The California State Board of Education recently issued a notice of its intent to propose changes to the California Code of Regulations pertaining to special education. (See the notice, proposed regulations, and initial statement of reasons on the CDE website.) The proposed changes relate to the administration of special education instruction and related services for students with individualized education programs (IEPs). The proposed amendments would update and con...