Lozano Smith is known for and provides the highest quality special education expertise in California. The firm's special education attorneys have collectively handled matters involving virtually every conceivable legal issue in the field.

For example, Lozano Smith:

  • Was selected to represent CSBA in the mandated cost reimbursement litigation against the State of California that resulted in a $1 billion settlement in favor of the school districts.
  • Has represented districts in countless mediations, due process cases, and numerous appeals to federal District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Has advised Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) throughout California to develop Joint Powers Authorities (JPAs) and local plans, and has advised school districts through the process of becoming single district SELPAs.
  • Developed special education manuals, sample policies and procedures and a variety of forms and checklists.
  • Is often asked to present at local, state, and national conferences, including ACSA's Every Child Counts Conference and LRP.
  • Develops and presents annual Special Education Legal Consortiums and webinar series at numerous locations throughout the state.

Additionally, Lozano Smith represents and advises clients regarding:

  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meetings
  • Section 504 meetings
  • Unilateral placement of students by their parents in nonpublic schools or residential treatments centers
  • IDEA and Section 504 resolution sessions, mediations, prehearing conferences and hearings
  • IDEA and Section 504 discipline issues and hearings
  • Bullying, discrimination and harassment claims and complaints
  • Office for Civil Rights and California Department of Education investigations and complaints
  • Special education issues related to charter school students
  • Interagency disputes
  • Case analysis and preparation
  • Revocation of consent issues
  • Pre-hearing motions, evidence preparation and witness preparation
  • Settlement analysis and agreements
  • Provision of mental health services
  • California Superior Court writs of administrative mandamus
  • California Superior Court applications for temporary restraining orders (removing dangerous students and/or protecting school personnel)
  • United States District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
  • United States District Court claims for attorneys' fees and costs

To minimize client costs, the firm's Special Education Practice Group has created an expansive internal library of special education templates including settlement agreements, presentations, manuals, policies, procedures, forms, pleadings, statutory settlement offers, legal opinion letters and memorandums, prehearing conference statements, opening briefs, witness questions and closing briefs.

Training for Special Education Administrators

Hundreds of special education administrators attend the Lozano Smith Special Education Legal Consortium (SELC) each year. This half-day seminar is conducted throughout the state and for individual clients as requested. It provides in-depth information on a variety of topics. Recent topics include Responding to Parent Requests, Parent Participation, Common Core and Special Education, and the ever-popular Legal Update. Topics for the SELC and all of the firm's workshops are carefully selected to highlight changes in the legal environment in which administrators must work.

In addition to the SELC, we provide in-service trainings to school districts on a wide variety of topics, ranging from student discipline to Section 504 to avoiding disproportionate representation of minority students in special education. Our attorneys have also been invited to make presentations at numerous conferences, such as the ACSA Every Child Counts Symposium, LRP National Institute, and LRP School Attorneys Conference.

Alyssa R. Bivins Associate
Sacramento, Fresno abivins@lozanosmith.com
Eleanor M. Welke Senior Counsel
Kyle A. Raney Senior Counsel
Sacramento, Los Angeles mgutierrez@lozanosmith.com
Roxana E. Khan Senior Counsel
Ryan P. Tung Senior Counsel
Los Angeles, Walnut Creek rtung@lozanosmith.com
Walnut Creek, Los Angeles sgarcia@lozanosmith.com

Governor Newsom Signs Two Bills Aimed to Assist Local Educational Agencies During COVID-19 Crisis

By:Aimee Perry, Angela Okamura -

March 2020Number 19On March 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills, Senate Bill (SB) 117 and SB 89, into law which provide for emergency funding to help fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and help to clarify the law as it relates to school districts. The bills address several issues confronting school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools. SB 117 provides necessary funding, ensuring that local educational agencies (LEAs) may continue to operate, an...

Special Considerations for Students with Exceptional Needs Related to School Closures Due to COVID-19

By:Marcy Gutierrez, Alyssa Bivins, Kelly Dunagan, Erin Frazor, Tilman Heyer -

March 2020Number 16Frequently Asked Questions - Part 2BackgroundThe following updates and expands on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) we issued on March 12, 2020 (available here), which provided general guidance for K-12 school districts in responding to the needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that date, additional statutory and federal and state guidance has been issued, listed below. The information in this document is current through March 24, 2020, ...

Student Attendance Issues in Response to COVID-19

By:Thomas Manniello, Benjamin Brown -

March 2020Number 15The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel respiratory disease that has affected communities worldwide. Cases of COVID-19 have recently appeared in several California communities, prompting a significant number of school closures around the state. In the coming weeks, as schools begin to re-open, they may encounter issues regarding student attendance and exclusions. This news brief provides K-12 districts with general guidance relating to these issues.Excluding Stud...

Special Considerations for Students with Exceptional Needs Related to School Closures Due to COVID-19

By:Marcy Gutierrez, Deniss Escorcia Dimas -

March 2020Number 14Frequently Asked QuestionsBackgroundCOVID-19 is a novel form of coronavirus which causes respiratory disease that has affected communities worldwide, and cases of COVID-19 recently appeared in California communities, prompting concerns about student wellness, attendance, instruction, and school operations. This FrequentlyAsked Questions (FAQ) sets out general guidance for K-12 school districts as they respond to the needs of students with disabilities in the wake of COVID-1...

California Supreme Court Sides Against School Districts in State Mandates Case

By:Sloan Simmons, Nicholas Clair -

February 2020Number 11In California School Boards Association v. State of California (CSBA), the California Supreme Court has allowed the Legislature to avoid appropriating new funding to cover the costs of state mandated programs. Instead, the Legislature is now able to point to existing, unrestricted state funding to satisfy the Constitutional requirement that it identify funding for such programs. In light of the court's holding the Legislature may be incentivized to create new state manda...

California Passes New Law To Increase Protection And Safety Of Special Education Students In Nonpublic Schools

By:Marcy Gutierrez, Brenda Arzate -

January 2020Number 3Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1172 this fall, which imposes additional requirements upon nonpublic schools (NPSs), as well as the local educational agencies (LEAs) that place students in NPSs, in order to increase the safety and protection of students in NPS placements. This legislation was passed following the high profile death of a 13-year-old special education student, who passed away after being placed in a prone restraint at an NPS.AB 1172 places ne...

School District Cannot Avoid Responsibility For Residential Placement Despite Availability Of Financial Assistance From A Non-Educational Agency

By:Claudia Weaver, Roxana Khan -

December 2019Number 78In a significant special education case published earlier this year, the California Court of Appeal ruled that a school district was responsible for funding the costs of residential placement for an adopted former foster child, despite funding assistance provided for the placement by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).BackgroundB.H., a former foster child with significant disabilities, lived with his adoptive parents within the boundaries of the Manhat...

Representative Cases

Represented CSBA in the mandated cost reimbursement litigation against the State of California that resulted in a $1 billion settlement in favor of the school districts.
Represented districts in countless due process cases, mediations and numerous appeals to federal District Court, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
G.M. v. Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 12‐ 17242. In 2014, on appeal, the Ninth Circuit issued an unpublished Memorandum affirming an OAH due process hearing in favor of the District. The Ninth Circuit panel affirmed the U.S. District Court’s grant of summary judgment in the District’s favor on the plaintiff’s section 504 claims, as well as an award of attorneys’ fees sanctions against the parent’s attorney.
F.S.D. v. Santa Barbara Unified School District, U.S.D.C. Central District of California, Case No. 2:13‐cv‐03191‐RGK‐PJW. Received a favorable decision for the district on an appeal of a due process decision, coupled with various civil rights claims under section 1983, section 504 and the ADA. Lozano Smith represented the district successfully during the underlying due process decision and appeal of same, defending OAH’s ruling, which the Court affirmed in full. As a result of that victory and elimination of any remaining viable theories for the plaintiff’s civil rights claims, plaintiff ultimately stipulated to dismissal of the remaining causes of action in the litigation.
Alex G. v. Board of Trustees (E.D. Cal. 2004) 332 F.Supp.2d 1315. Lozano Smith attorneys successfully defended Davis Joint Unified School District on all counts in federal civil rights litigation arising out of a special education dispute. Most notably, the District's successful motion to dismiss resulted in one of the first published decisions applicable in California to stand for the proposition that a plaintiff cannot predicate a suit for damages under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 on alleged violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Alex G. v. Bd. of Trustees (E.D. Cal. 2005) 387 F.Supp.2d 1119. Lozano Smith successfully moved for partial summary judgment on behalf of the District, resulting in one of the first published decisions applicable in California to stand for the proposition that a plaintiff seeking to impose liability under Section 504 "must show that the educational decisions relating to the student were so inappropriate as to constitute either bad faith or gross misjudgment."
Huerta v. San Francisco Unified School District (N.D. Cal. 2011). Lozano Smith successfully opposed a parent's appeal of the OAH's denial of a very expensive stay put placement.
J.F. v. Magnolia School District, U.S.D.C. Central District California, Case No. CV14‐01136‐JVS-AJWx. On behalf of the District, Lozano Smith obtained a victory before OAH regarding a student’s placement, which was subsequently appealed to federal district court. Lozano Smith successfully obtained resolution of the matter, through mediation and a written settlement agreement, resulting in the student’s private placement coupled with a waiver of all claims, and certainty for the district going forward.
In the case In re Q.N., Sacramento County Superior Court Juvenile Division, Lozano Smith successfully opposed a motion for joinder of Sacramento City Unified School District (Minute Order Apr. 1, 2010). In the juvenile matter, a minor attempted to join multiple school districts, alleging they were responsible for his special education out-of-state residential placement to which he was referred by the County Mental Health Department, while housed in juvenile hall. Lozano Smith successfully demonstrated that so long as the student remained in juvenile hall, the County Office of Education, and not any individual school district, had responsibility for placement.