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.

Ethnic Studies to Become a Required High School Course

By:Chelsea Olson Murphy, Joshua Whiteside -

November 2021Number 42On October 8, 2021, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 101, which will require all local educational agencies (LEAs) including charter schools, serving high school students to provide a full-year course in ethnic studies to high school students by the 2025-26 school year. AB 101 also will require completion of a one-semester course in ethnic studies as a high school graduation requirement for students graduating in the 2029-30 school year and beyond.A sim...

Ninth Circuit Refuses to Enforce OCR's "Dear Colleague Letters" as Binding Law in Disability Discrimination Suits for Money Damages

By:Sloan Simmons -

November 2021Number 38Since their initial release in 1994, school officials have looked to “Dear Colleague Letters” (DCLs) issued by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) as guidance on the implementation of federal special education and disability laws. Further, such DCLs have been relied upon by parents and their advocates and attorneys to support claims of wrongdoing by school officials. In September 2021, in Csutoras v. Paradise High S...

New Excused Absences Added to the Education Code; and Designation of September 11th as 'Remembrance Day'

By:Thomas Manniello, Claire Chang -

October 2021Number 34Governor Newsom has signed two bills—Assembly Bill (AB) 516 and Senate Bill (SB) 14—that will modify the Education Code to extend its existing list of excused school absences by adding cultural ceremonies or events and expanding illnesses to include mental or behavioral health. The Governor also signed SB 254, designating September 11 as “September 11th Remembrance Day.”Assembly Bill 516AB 516 adds participation in a cultural ceremony or event as a...

AB 309 & SB 224: Addressing Student Mental Health in The Wake of COVID-19

By:Sarah Garcia, Kaitlyn Tucker -

October 2021Number 35Amid growing concern regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ mental health, legislation was introduced in both the California State Senate and Assembly to provide for increased school-based mental health services. Assembly Bill (AB) 309 and Senate Bill (SB) 224 were signed by the Governor on October 8, 2021, requiring the creation of model referral protocols and the addition of mental health instruction in California schools.BackgroundSchools ofte...

Assembly Bill 167 Further Details Independent Study and Attendance Accounting Requirements

By:Ruth Mendyk, Carrie Rasmussen, Allison Hernandez -

October 2021Number 31Governor Newsom signed another education omnibus budget trailer bill on September 23, 2021, Assembly Bill (AB) 167. This legislation further modifies independent study and ADA apportionment requirements for the 2021-2022 school year. AB 167 follows the Education Omnibus Budget Trailer Bill (AB 130) approved in July 2021 that made significant changes to independent study. (See Client News Brief Number 14.) A brief summary of AB 167’s provisions that impact instructio...

California Public Records Act Balancing Exemption Protects COVID Information

By:Manuel Martinez, Sophia Cohn -

September 2021Number 29Not all information held by the government is open to public inspection. The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District, in Voice of San Diego v. Superior Court of San Diego County (2021) 66 Cal.App.5th 669, ruled in favor of the County of San Diego (County), which successfully asserted that on balance, the public’s interest in withholding the names and addresses of businesses where COVID-19 outbreaks occurred clearly outweighed the public’...

Ninth Circuit Finds COVID-19 Limits on Public School In-Person Learning Permissible, but Not for Private Schools

By:Sloan Simmons, Kaitlyn Tucker -

September 2021Number 27The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion in Brach v. Newsom (9th Cir. July 23, 2021, No. 20-56291) __ F.3d __, holding that the 14th Amendment rights of public school students and their parents were not violated when the State of California prohibited in-person learning in counties with high rates of COVID-19. However, the Ninth Circuit’s rationale did not extend to private school students and their parents, finding that the limitations p...

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.