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20th Annual School Law Institute

Speaker(s): Amy Leipziger, Dawn Yuster, Deusdedi Merced, Jesse Cole Cutler, M'Ral Broodie-Stewart, Maria C. McGinley, Matthew Lenaghan, Rebecca Shore, William M. Meyer
Recorded on: Jul. 30, 2020
PLI Program #: 277599

Amy Leipziger is a senior staff attorney at Queens Legal Services. Her practice includes both Education Law and Social Security Disability Law. She is dedicated to representing the educational needs of children with special needs and their families, and advocating around the issues of education, poverty, and discrimination. She maintains an active docket of special education cases, social security cases for children, and is currently co-counsel on two federal lawsuits against the NYC Department of Education alleging constitutional and federal statutory claims, including gender and national origin discrimination. Amy is co-coordinator of a pro-bono partnership that provides legal assistance to Asian-American parents to help them advocate for educational needs of their children. She is formerly the chair of the Education Law Committee of the New York County Lawyers Bar Association. She received a J.D. from CUNY Law School, an M.A. in Women’s Studies from George Washington University, and a B.A. from the University of Oregon.

Dawn Yuster is the Director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children of New York (AFC).  The School Justice Project provides legal representation to students with mental health challenges, facing disciplinary issues, involved in the juvenile/criminal justice system, and engaged in or being bullied to help them get the academic and mental health supports, services, and schools they need.  She also manages AFC’s systemic work to end the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Yuster serves as a member of the New York State Education Department Safe Schools Task Force, New York State Education Department Court-Involved Youth Transition Liaison Advisory Committee, New York City School Safety Community Partnership, and Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline.  Yuster conceived and co-authored AFC’s report, Children in Crisis: Police Response to Students in Emotional Distress. She was co-counsel with the Legal Aid Society in J.G. v Mills, a class action lawsuit involving claims that the New York City Department of Education failed to provide appropriate educational services to students with and without disabilities in, and returning from, court-ordered settings. 

Before joining AFC in 2013, Yuster was a staff attorney fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, a consulting attorney at the New York Civil Liberties Union, a public defender at the Legal Aid Society, and First Deputy Director of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ Research and Investigation’s Legal Unit. 

Yuster graduated with honors from Northwestern University School of Law and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania.

Deusdedi Merced is the Managing Member of Special Education Solutions, LLC (SES). Since 1997, Deusdedi’s legal career has been dedicated to special education. After a period as an attorney with the Office of Legal Services with the New York Board of Education, he spent several years representing parents of children with disabilities and their children before serving as an IDEA hearing officer, mediator, and facilitator in hundreds of matters. He was appointed to serve as Chief Hearing Officer for the District of Columbia for approximately three years and played a key role in assisting the District in being released from court supervision.

Deusdedi has presented training programs for hearing officers/Administrative Law Judges at LRP’s National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities, LRP’s School Attorneys Conference, the Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers, as well as the Lehigh Special Education Law Symposium: ALJ/IHO Institute. He has also presented numerous individualized training programs for various state educational agencies and is currently under contract on a long-term basis with the states of New York, Illinois, and Hawaii.

As a result of his broad experience in special education litigation, training, and oversight, Mr. Merced has a deep appreciation for the unique perspectives of school districts, parents, and hearing officers. Mr. Merced has first-hand knowledge of the challenges hearing officers face in presiding over due process hearings. His extensive knowledge and experience have made Mr. Merced a sought-after speaker at nationally recognized conferences on special education. He has been a featured speaker at LRP’s National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities, LRP’s School Attorneys Conference, as well the Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers at Duke Law School and Seattle University School of Law.

Jesse Cole Cutler’s practice focuses on advocating, mediating and litigating on behalf of children with special education needs. He has significant experience litigating every aspect of administrative hearings under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Jesse also has extensive appellate experience in federal appellate courts. He currently supervises and manages the litigation and resolution of tuition reimbursement claims and heads his firm’s appellate division.

Jesse is a member of the American Bar Association; the New York State Bar Association; the Association of The Bar Of The City Of New York; the American Trial Lawyers Association; the Education Law Association; the Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates, and the Federal Bar Council.

Jesse received his JD from Brooklyn Law School and graduated cum laude from the University of Albany, SUNY. 

Jesse regularly lectures on special education policies, procedures and litigation strategies to parent and attorney groups.  He has published decisions on the federal and state level.

Jesse lives in Brooklyn Heights with his wife, an editor and author of children’s books, and his two sons.

Matthew Lenaghan has been the Deputy Director of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) since December of 2006. In his twenty years at AFC, he has become a recognized leader in New York City's education and special education law fields. As Deputy Director, he works with the Executive Director to coordinate the day-to-day operations and program management of the 50-staff organization. Matthew also supervises the staff in case work and participates in AFC’s ongoing class action lawsuits seeking education reform. Matthew is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at the NYU School of Law and previously taught at the Cardozo School of Law.

A longtime member of AFC's staff, Matthew joined the agency in 1999 as a NAPIL (now Equal Justice Works) Fellow. Prior to becoming Deputy Director, Matthew served as AFC’s Director of Legal Services, where he was responsible for the supervision of all direct legal services provided to hundreds of clients each year.  

Before attending law school, Matthew was a high school teacher and baseball coach with Teach for America in the Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas. Matthew holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

William Meyer is a special education attorney and partner at the Law Offices of Regina Skyer and Associates, L.L.P., a premier special education law firm in New York City.

Will has advocated for students with disabilities in educational matters since 2004. He has represented New York families for the past fourteen years, first as a staff attorney at Advocates for Children of New York and since 2012 at Skyer Law. He practices in administrative and appellate arenas on behalf of parents. He leads trainings and speaks at legal education seminars for parents, attorneys, educators, and clinical professionals.

Will is a member of the Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates. He holds a law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University and a Bachelors of Science from Emerson College.

For over forty-five years, Advocates for Children of New York (“AFC”) has worked with New York City low-income families to secure quality and equal public education services for their children. AFC provides a range of direct services, including free individual case advocacy, such as representing children and families in proceedings under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and also works on institutional reform of educational policies and practices through advocacy and litigation.

Rebecca Shore has served as the Director of Litigation at AFC since 2008.  After clerking in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, she was a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP where she worked on numerous special education cases and class and individual lawsuits involving disability discrimination.  Immediately prior to joining AFC, Rebecca was a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & AIDS Project, working on disability discrimination lawsuits against corporate and governmental entities.  As AFC’s Director of Litigation, Rebecca oversees all impact litigation, including class actions, individual and group lawsuits, IDEA appeals and fees complaints, and state and federal administrative complaints.  She has served as counsel in, among others, L.V. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., D.S.  v. New York City Dep’t of Educ.E.B. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., C.D. v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., and J.L. v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Educ

M’Ral Broodie-Stewart is a senior staff attorney in the Education Advocacy Unit at Staten Island Legal Services. While a student at Georgetown Law, M’Ral participated in the Juvenile Justice Clinic and the Street Law: High School Clinic. Her experiences representing youths and teaching in the D.C. Public School System led to her committing to education law. Prior to joining SILS, M’Ral worked at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program where she researched a number of issues including those involving the school-to-prison pipeline. She received her BA from Wellesley College and is a graduate of the New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute.

Maria McGinley joined Mayerson & Associates in 2009 and became a partner in 2015.  As the firm’s managing attorney, Maria works on all aspects of firm management and supervision.  Prior to law school, Maria was employed by the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) as a special education classroom teacher.  Initially hired to be an “ABA teacher” providing individual pull-out ABA sessions for young children with autism in a District 75 special education school, she went on to teach in multiple 6:1:1 District 75 “autism” classes as well as 15:1 high school classes.  Maria also provided early intervention services through a private agency.  While Maria loved being a teacher, she recognized that many NYC students were not receiving appropriate services and support to meet their individual needs.  Maria’s experience as an educator is an invaluable asset to her clients. 

Maria has represented hundreds of families and is an expert litigator with an excellent track record at both the administrative and federal levels.  Maria has authored many articles on a variety of special education topics and frequently presents at local, national, and international conferences as well as continuing legal education seminars. Maria has been interviewed by the media regarding special education and safety issues.  Maria is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the NJ Chapter of Autism Speaks and sits on the Development Board of QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community).

Some of Maria’s notable federal cases include Doe v. Darien, a matter involving the sexual abuse of a student by a paraprofessional, S.A. v. New York City Department of Education, awarding compensatory education services, T.Y. v. New York City Department of Education, awarding tuition reimbursement, services, and support, T.K. v. New York City Department of Education, a landmark bullying case, T.M. v. Cornwall Central School District, a landmark least restrictive environment “LRE” case, C.F. v. New York City Department of Education, a matter involving a student’s need for 1:1 ABA instruction, R.E. v. New York City Department of Education, a landmark decision regarding what evidence can and cannot be used at hearing, P.K. v. New York City Department of Education, a matter involving a student’s need for 1:1 ABA instruction and additional services, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE 1 (as amicus), the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision adopting a robust FAPE standard, Ermini v. Vittori, (as amicus), a case involving an international custody dispute brought under the Hague Convention involving a student’s need for ABA therapy, and C.L. v. New York City Department of Education, (as amicus), a matter involving a student who required 1:1 instruction to learn.