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

Ninth Circuit Requires Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies in Sprawling Distance Learning Lawsuit

By:Kyle Raney, Josh Walden -

October 2022Number 49In a highly anticipated decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Martinez v. Newsom (9th Cir. 2022) 46 F.4th 965, recently determined that a class action lawsuit brought by four students and their parents against all school districts in California lacked jurisdiction to be heard in federal district court, was moot in some respects in light of the return to in-person instruction, and that remaining claims against Etiwanda School District and Chaffey Joint Union High...

AB 2508: Reimagining Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in Schools

By:Sarah Garcia, Kaitlyn Tucker -

October 2022Number 50The COVID-19 pandemic certainly exacerbated, and in some ways highlighted, the challenges posed by student mental health issues.  The problem has received national attention, with many commenters characterizing it as a crisis.  In California specifically, over 284,000 young people cope with major depression, and suicide rates increased significantly between 2019 and 2020.  To combat this crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom announced California’s “Mast...

Ninth Circuit Backs Fellowship of Christian Athletes Over Non-Discrimination Policy

By:Manuel Martinez, Josh Walden -

September 2022Number 42In a recently decided case, Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San Jose Unified School District Board of Education (9th Cir. Aug. 29, 2022, No. 22-15827), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal district court and determined that the San Jose Unified School District’s use of its non-discrimination policy against the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) likely violated the First Amendment.  Consequently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals orde...

California Supreme Court Affirms Public School Districts Cannot be Sued Under Unruh Civil Rights Act for Disability Discrimination

By:Steve Ngo, Jessica Serrato -

September 2022Number 43The California Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court ruling that a public school district is not a “business establishment” and therefore cannot be liable for disability discrimination under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act (Unruh Act or Act).  (Brennon B. v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County (Aug. 4, 2022, S266254) __ Cal.App.5th __.)  The Court concluded that the Unruh Act, as currently written, cannot reasonably be interpreted...

New Pathway to Diploma and Other AB 181 Impacts on Special Education

By:Jennifer Baldassari, Alyssa Bivins -

August 2022Number 39Assembly Bill (AB) 181, signed into law June 30, 2022, makes a number of changes to California special education laws impacting students, families, and local educational agencies (LEAs).  AB 181 became effective immediately.New Pathway to Diploma for Students Taking Alternate AssessmentsAmong other changes, AB 181 creates an alternate pathway to a high school diploma for students with significant cognitive disabilities.  With AB 181’s addition of section 51...

U.S. Department of Education Releases Guidance on Disciplining Students with Disabilities

By:Mark Waterman, Monica Batanero, Stephanie Holtz -

August 2022Number 38The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance reinforcing the obligations of public elementary and secondary schools to provide the services, supports, interventions, strategies, and modifications to policies, all to address disability-based behavior of students with disabilities, including behavior that could lead to discipline.  Considering the significant challenges students with disabilities have faced and will continue to ...

Updates Regarding CDPH Guidance for Schools and Student Vaccine Mandates Heading into the 2022-2023 School Year

By:Sloan Simmons, Alyssa Bivins, Davis Adams -

August 2022Number 37The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently updated its COVID-19 related guidance for K-12 schools for the 2022-2023 school year, which addresses and updates guidance on masking requirements, reporting, and paid leave.  In addition, there are several related updates on the student vaccines front: Senate Bill (SB) 871 was withdrawn; Governor Newsom’s vaccine mandate has been delayed until at least July 1, 2023; and vaccination requirements enacted ...

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.