The annual conference of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) was held March 6 through 10 in New Orleans, Louisiana. COPAA is an organization of attorneys, advocates and parents who work to protect the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and secure excellence in education for them.
Maureen van Stone, director of the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD), attended the conference, along with Alyssa Navarrete and Mallory Finn, staff attorneys for Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law), a community-based program of MCDD, and Beth Benevides, chair of the MCDD Community Advisory Council. At the conference, van Stone became the chair of the COPAA Board of Directors, a position she will hold for the next two years. Also, van Stone, Finn and Navarrete gave a presentation, “Be Buddies Not Bullies,” which explored legal and practical considerations to address the bullying, harassment and intimidation of students with disabilities.
In addition, MCDD participated in sessions on developing meaningful individualized education programs (IEPs), conducting threat assessments, and the school-to-prison pipeline, among many other topics. Navarrete participated in an intensive two-day pre-conference training on conducting impartial due process hearings in special education cases.
“MCDD was well-represented at the conference, and our team will use what they learned to continue and strengthen our work advocating for individuals with disabilities throughout Maryland,” van Stone says.