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 Senior Counsel
Sacramento, Fresno abivins@lozanosmith.com
Los Angeles, San Diego acordova@lozanosmith.com
Erin  Frazor Senior Counsel
Joshua  Whiteside Senior Counsel
San Luis Obispo jwhiteside@lozanosmith.com
Walnut Creek, Sacramento, San Diego krezendes@lozanosmith.com
Kendra G. Tovey Senior Counsel
Kyle A. Raney Senior Counsel

UPDATE: Ninth Circuit Finds Lawsuit Regarding COVID-19 Limits on In-Person Learning Now Moot

By:Sloan Simmons, Kaitlyn Tucker -

August 2022Number 36The plaintiffs in Brach v. Newsom (9th Cir. June 15, 2022, No. 20-56291) __ F.4th __, originally filed a case in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, challenging various orders, including the 2020-2021 Reopening Framework, issued by California government officials concerning the operation of both public and private schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The District Court denied the plaintiffs’ request to prevent the State from enforcing t...

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Maine Law Prohibiting Tuition Assistance to Religious Private Schools

By:Sarah Kaatz, Kevin Serrano -

July 2022Number 35In Carson v. Makin (2022) ___U.S.___ [141 S.Ct. 1987], the United States Supreme Court, by a 6-3 decision, ruled that Maine’s tuition assistance program, which prohibits funding to nonsectarian schools, violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. BackgroundIn 1981, Maine enacted a program of tuition assistance (Program) for parents who live in school districts that do not operate a secondary school of their own.  Under the Program, parents could desi...

Assembly Bill 181 Includes Significant Changes to Independent Study Requirements for the 2022-2023 School Year

By:Ruth Mendyk, Kendra Tovey, Andrew Fausto -

July 2022Number 34Governor Newsom signed the Education Omnibus Budget Trailer Bill (AB 181) on June 30, 2022, which was effective immediately and includes significant changes to independent study requirements.  These changes directly impact board policies and independent study agreements between families and local educational agencies (LEAs), which must be legally compliant for the LEA to collect attendance apportionment for students participating in independent study.Below is a brief ov...

New Case Highlights Interplay Between Special Education and Sexual Harassment Laws

By:Michelle Cannon, Sarah Fama -

May 2022Number 22A recent U.S. District Court decision out of Washington State provides clarification regarding how school districts are to apply their sexual harassment policies and analyze conduct as it relates to students with disabilities. Specifically, the decision in Berg v. Bethel School District (W.D. Wash., Mar. 16, 2022, No. 3:18-CV-5345-BHS) clarifies that a school district is required to protect students with disabilities from sexual harassment, even if the student does not specif...

2022 Updates: Annual Notice of Parental Rights and Responsibilities

By:Claudia Weaver -

May 2022Number 23As a reminder, school districts and county offices of education should update their parental annual notices (Annual Notices) for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year. The following is a summary of considerations for updating Annual Notices, including one mandatory change and other optional/advisable changes.BackgroundExcused Absences – Cultural Events and Behavioral or Mental HealthThe Governor signed Assembly Bill (AB) 516 and Senate Bill (SB) 14 in 2021. AB 516 expanded...

Emotional Distress Damages Unavailable in Section 504 Actions

By:Jennifer Baldassari, Amanda Cordova -

May 2022Number 20On April 28, 2022, the United States Supreme Court narrowed the scope of damages available under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), ruling that emotional distress damages are not recoverable in private actions to enforce Section 504 and other similar Spending Clause antidiscrimination statutes, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Title VI, and Title IX.BackgroundPlaintiff Jane Cummings is deaf, legally blind, and communicates primarily in Americ...

Ninth Circuit Holds that "Specific Learning Disability" Evaluation and IEP Satisfied FAPE for Dyslexic Student

By:Mark Waterman, Kyle Raney, Selina Ayala-Patlán -

February 2022Number 10In Crofts v. Issaquah School District No. 411 (9th Cir. Jan. 12, 2022, No. 19-35473)   F.4th   , the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a school district properly assessed a student for dyslexia when it conducted an evaluation for a “specific learning disability,” as provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The court said that, under the circumstances, no formal evaluation for dyslexia was r...

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.