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
Haley  Fagan Senior Counsel
Walnut Creek hfagan@lozanosmith.com
Joshua  Whiteside Senior Counsel
San Luis Obispo jwhiteside@lozanosmith.com
Walnut Creek, Sacramento, San Diego krezendes@lozanosmith.com
Kendra G. Tovey Senior Counsel

New Excused Absence for Student Participation in Political or Civic Event and Other School Calendar Updates

By:Ruth Mendyk, Robert Lomeli -

March 2023Number 14There have been several recent updates regarding authorized student absences and school calendars.  First, California Senate Bill (SB) 955 adds engagement in a civic or political event as an authorized excused absence for middle school or high school students, effective January 1, 2023.This bill modifies Education Code section 48205 and defines a civic or political event as including, but not limited to:votingpoll workingstrikespublic commentingcandidate speechespoliti...

Legislative Update: New Requirements for COVID-19 Testing Plans and New Rules for Supplemental Vision Services for Students

By:Kyle Raney, Brooke Bolton Tiutan -

March 2023Number 13Two important bills, Senate Bill (SB) 1479 and Assembly Bill (AB) 2329, signed by Governor Newsom in September 2022, require school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to have a plan for COVID-19 testing in schools and authorize local educational agencies (LEAs) to provide supplemental vision services for students, in addition to those already required by law.SB 1479: COVID-19 Testing Plan Requirements SB 1479 added section 32096 to the Education Cod...

Ninth Circuit Holds Four-Month Delay in Autism Assessment Plan was not a Violation of IDEA

By:Jennifer Baldassari, Josh Walden -

March 2023Number 11In its recent opinion in D.O. v. Escondido Union School District (9th Cir. Jan. 31, 2023, No. 21-55498), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal district court and determined a four-month delay in proposing to assess a student for autism was neither a procedural nor substantive violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).BackgroundThis case contained an extensive factual and procedural history about a student “experiencing...

Senate Bill 997 Gives Students a Voice in the LCAP Process

By:Daniel McElhinney, Haley Fagan -

February 2023Number 9Senate Bill (SB) 997 requires that, by July 1, 2024, all school districts and county offices of education serving students in middle or high school include students in the local control and accountability plan (LCAP) update process.BackgroundThe Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) refers broadly to the methods that primarily determine the level of funding California school districts receive from the State.  As a component of the LCFF system, local educational agenci...

New Law Authorizes School Staff to Administer Emergency Anti-Seizure Medication

By:Jennifer Baldassari, Amanda Cordova -

December 2022Number 55Current law allows for the administration of prescription medication to students at school, and specifically authorizes local educational agencies (LEAs) to use trained, non-medical school personnel to administer or assist with the administration of emergency epinephrine autoinjectors, emergency naloxone hydrochloride or another opioid antagonist, glucagon, and inhaled asthma medication.  New law now adds anti-seizure medication to this growing list. Seizure Sa...

New Legislation Provides Assistance to High Mobility High School Students

By:Roberta Rowe -

December 2022Number 57On September 30, 2022, Senate Bill (SB) 532 was enacted with the purpose of improving educational outcomes for certain “high mobility” high school students who transfer between schools.  SB 532 seeks to provide efficient transfer procedures for these students.  The bill assists students who are in foster care, homeless, recent immigrants, migrant students, former juvenile court school pupils, or from a military family. Fifth Year Option for Tra...

Legislative Update: Changes in DOJ Background Checks and Expansion of the Statewide Immunization Database

By:Michelle Cannon, Sophia Cohn -

November 2022Number 54Two important bills, Senate Bill (SB) 731 and Assembly Bill (AB) 1797, were enacted in September, impacting the information available to school districts conducting background checks, and expanding the use of a Statewide immunization database.SB 731The Education Code prohibits local educational agencies (LEAs) from hiring staff who have been convicted of controlled substance abuse offenses, serious felonies, violent felonies, or sexual abuse offenses, unless the applican...

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.