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California Special Education Law 2017

Speaker(s): Christine A. Scheuneman, Deborah R. Jacobson, Elizabeth F. Eubanks, Gloria Perez-Stewart, Juliet Barraza, Maggie Roberts, Maronel Barajas, Roberta S. Savage
Recorded on: Oct. 4, 2017
PLI Program #: 181010

CHRISTINE A. SCHEUNEMAN is a Partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in its Los Angeles office.  Ms. Scheuneman represents many of the nation’s leading corporations and financial institutions, as well as many preeminent international companies. She represents clients in complex business, class action and commercial matters, including financial services, antitrust and unfair business practices, and securities litigation.

A litigator and trial attorney, Ms. Scheuneman regularly represents clients in class action matters and has published and spoken extensively on issues affecting class action litigation.  Most recently, she was recognized in Legal 500 US, Antitrust – Civil Litigation/Class Actions (2016).

Ms. Scheuneman has served a number of public and private entity clients as outside counsel supervisor of their litigation and other matters nationally.  As a core team member of Pillsbury’s Crisis Management Team, Ms. Scheuneman works with clients to strategically manage liability crisis events.

Ms. Scheuneman has an active pro bono practice, leading the firm’s work and projects for the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (“DV LEAP”).  The firm recently received the LEAP for Justice Award (2016) from DV LEAP. In addition, she was of record on two amicus briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States supporting the prevailing parties in opinions issued on June 27, 2016, in Voisine v. United States (representing DV LEAP, Aequitas: the Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women, and Future Without Violence) and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (representing sixteen leading historians whose research focuses on the lives of women in the United States.  The brief provided historical perspective on laws purporting to protect women, highlighting that such laws have often had the effect of restricting women’s choices and constraining their liberty and equality – the “Historians Brief”).

Ms. Scheuneman serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Real Estate at the University of California – Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.  She serves on the Board of Trustees of Cottey College, an independent liberal arts and sciences college for women, and its Institute for Women’s Leadership, Social Responsibility and Global Awareness. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of Orange County, where she is member of the Executive Committee.  Ms. Scheuneman has achieved the designation of Governance Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD).

Ms. Scheuneman is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, the University of Kansas, and Cottey College.  She is admitted to the bars of Illinois and California.

Gloria Perez-Stewart is a special education advocate and community organizer who has organized both parents of children with disabilities and Latinas/women of color around reproductive justice, special education, anti-violence and disability issues.  She founded the grassroots collective--Latina Mami--which has chapters in both Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas. She also co-founded Ichi Villa Alliance for Autism, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit focused on families supporting young adults with autism.

In addition to organizing for Latina Mami, Gloria has been an organizer for National Council of La Raza on nationwide and statewide Latino policy issues, One-LA around housing issues, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-TX), as an advocate and organizer on their School To Prison Pipeline Project. She has also worked for Disability Rights Texas and Cirkiel and Associates Law Firm as a special education advocate. 

Currently, Gloria serves as vice president of The People’s College of Law in Los Angeles, on the board of the Latino Health Care Forum in Austin and the board of Community Lawyers, Inc. in Compton. She is also a commissioner for the California Advisory Board on Special Education.

Gloria has been recognized for her grassroots efforts by progressive foundations, Latina Magazine, Univision, and her organizing work has been written about and studied in academic journals.

Gloria graduated with a J.D. from The People’s College of Law. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.

Juliet Barraza is the parent of two young boys, one of whom has developmental disabilities and epilepsy. Raised with Spanish as her primary language, she started translating at a very young age for members of her family and has continued to use her language skills as an active volunteer in the area of translation and special education. She assists Spanish–speaking families to understand and access services for their children by providing support and technical assistance as well as attending IEP Meetings over the last 13 years. She also has expertise on culturally appropriate services and supports for Latino families.

Barraza has been a consultant for the Regional Centers of the East Bay and Valley Mountain. She is also an active member of the Council of Parents Advocates and Attorneys and serves as a trainer for the Special Education Advocacy Training (SEAT) focusing on race, culture, poverty and language.

Barraza has served on the Board of Directors for Congreso Familiar where she has been a presenter since 2005. At the Castro Valley Unified School District, she participated actively in Ability Awareness Day, serves on the School Site Council, and is a Past President of the Special Education PTA. Juliet has been an advocate with DREDF since 2005 where she started as a volunteer.

Maronel Barajas is the Director of Litigation at the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC).  Ms. Barajas supervises all litigation efforts by DRLC. Throughout her career, Ms. Barajas has worked on complex civil rights cases in the areas of disability law, housing, education and employment. She has been litigating disability rights cases exclusively for approximately 10 years. A former Adjunct Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Ms. Barajas taught an upper division special education and the law course and regularly lectures on education law and policy.  She participates in legislative and regulatory comment on disability rights issues. Ms. Barajas also oversees DRLC’s Education Advocacy Program, Community Advocacy Program and Inland Empire Program.

Ms. Barajas is a 2003 graduate of Columbia Law School and 2000 graduate of the University of California, Irvine. While in law school, she was actively involved with Columbia’s Tenants Rights Project and the Unemployment Action Committee. Ms. Barajas was also a member of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and the Columbia Journal of Gender and the Law. She graduated magna cum laude and with departmental honors from the University of California, Irvine, where she received two Bachelor of Arts degrees. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Golden Key National Honor Society.

Cases of note include:

  • Peter Johnson et al. v. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department et al., USDC Case No. CV 08-03515 DDP (SHx) (a successfully settled class action currently in the monitoring stage on behalf of individuals with mobility impairments to obtain program and physical access while detained in the Los Angeles County Jail);
  • Ochoa et al. v. City of Long Beach et al., USDC Case No. CV 14-04307 DSF (FFMx) (a class action challenging the City of Los Angeles' failure to maintain pedestrian right of ways, including sidewalks and curb ramps for people with mobility disabilities);
  • C.S. v Public Safety Academy of San Bernardino and San Bernardino Unified School District, EDCV-14-00941- RGK (DTBx) (successfully settled case of first impression in California federal court challenging charter school’s use of a 2.0 grade policy to exclude students with disabilities); and
  • C.C. v. Cypress School District et al, USDC Case Number CV 11-00352 AG (RNBx) (successfully settled case of first impression in federal court allowing a student with autism to attend school with his service dog; preliminary injunction motion granted in favor of Plaintiff).

Maggie Roberts has been practicing disability law in California for twenty-five years. She has a private law practice in Oakland, CA specializing in representing children with disabilities in special education cases. Her work email address is

Prior to establishing her own special education law practice, Maggie worked for Disability Rights California for fourteen years, first as a Staff Attorney, then as an Associate Managing Attorney.  She provided legal representation to children and young adults with disabilities on a variety of issues, including special education rights, civil rights, and access to community based services. She performed policy work and gave multiple training presentations across California to protect the rights of children with disabilities. She also represented children and young adults in administrative and court cases, including impact litigation. Before joining Disability Rights California, Maggie had her own law practice in San Francisco specializing in representing individuals with disabilities in benefits claims and appeals.

Maggie graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in 1990. She completed a summer clerkship with the Honorable Dolores Sloviter of the Federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and a year-long clerkship with the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Prior to attending law school, Maggie worked as a counselor supporting youth and families.

This is Maggie’s fourth year co-facilitating a full day Special Education Law training program through PLI.

Deborah is a special education attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area currently representing families and students against school districts throughout Northern California. She is extremely passionate about her work and the rights of children with disabilities. Deborah is an active member of the educational community and works with parents, service providers and local organizations to support the needs of vulnerable youth.

Deborah has spent her entire legal career working on behalf of children with disabilities. As a law student, she worked as a legal intern and special education advocate for Disability Rights California and Bay Area Legal Aid. As a first year attorney, Deborah became the managing associate at a special education law firm in the District of Columbia where she represented dozens of low-income families and children in special education cases. Prior to relocating back to the Bay Area, Deborah co-founded The School Justice Project, a legal services and advocacy organization serving older students with special education needs who are involved in Washington DC’s justice system. In 2013, Deborah founded Jacobson Education Law in Berkeley, California. JEL’s mission is solely dedicated to helping families with children with disabilities in individual and systemic cases. In addition to her private practice, Deborah has worked as both co-counsel and a contract attorney for Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund on special education cases seeking systemic relief for students and families.

Deborah has effectively and compassionately represented hundreds of clients in special education matters. She is a frequent presenter at state and national conferences, and provides trainings to local advocacy and parent groups.

Elizabeth received her Juris Doctorate from Pepperdine University School of Law and a Certificate in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. After graduation, Elizabeth worked in private practice, advocating for parents of children with disabilities in regional center, school district, and health insurance matters. From 2012 to 2018 she was the Inland Empire Regional Director at Disability Rights Legal Center. As Regional Director, Elizabeth was responsible for special education advocacy and civil rights litigation within San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, specializing in disability discrimination cases. 

Elizabeth is an adjunct professor at the University of La Verne College of Law. She is the Director of the Law School’s Disability Rights Clinic and she teaches coursework in special education and disability rights law.

Elizabeth has presented seminars at national conferences, including at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the American Bar Association. She has been the co-chair of Practising Law Institute’s annual Special Education Law Conference since 2012. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Autism Society, Inland Empire. 

While working as a behavior analyst, Ms. Savage frequently witnessed parents having difficulties obtaining appropriate special education services for their child with a disability.  There were severe inconsistencies in the information provided to parents concerning their rights, the rights of their child, and service options available to meet the educational needs of their child.  This injustice is what drove her to law school and continues to be a motivating factor for her every day.

Ms. Savage has dedicated her career to representing children with disabilities against school districts in program disputes.  This is often a stressful and exhausting process for families.  The goal of her work is to help parents and students navigate through the process of obtaining a free appropriate public education as smoothly as possible.

  • California Association for Parent-Child Advocacy (CAPCA), Chair, Northern California
  • Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), Member
  • Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) Advisory Committee Member 2008-2010
  • Admitted to 9th Circuit Court, Northern District California, Southern District California, Eastern District California
  • Member of the California State Bar, 1999
  • Juris Doctorate, UC Davis School of Law (King Hall), 1999
  • Master of Arts - Educational Psychology, UC Santa Barbara, 1995
  • Bachelor of Arts – Psychology, UC Santa Barbara, 1992
  • Law Office of Roberta S. Savage, 2004
  • Varma and Clancy – Attorney, 1999-2004
  • Ruderman, Varma, and Clancy - Law Clerk, 1998-1999
  • Protection and Advocacy, Inc. – Law Clerk, 1997
  • Legal Services of Northern California – Law Clerk, 1997
  • Holdsambeck and Associates – Behavior Analyst, 1992-1996
  • UCSB Autism Research and Training Center – Staff Member, 1991-1995