TAESE organizes popular Tri-State Law Conference

October 22, 2012 by Sue Reeves

Two days filled with discussions of case law may seem dull to some people, but the participants of the Tri-State Regional Special Education Law Conference are eager to soak up every word. The conference is organized by the CPD’s Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE).

“The stakes are high,” said Martin E. Blair, TAESE associate director. “If legal information is wrong, lawsuits can result, but more importantly, it affects services that children receive. If (administrators) get it wrong, kids may not get what they’re entitled to get to be successful in school. We want to address that.”

The conference is designed for general and special education administrators and teachers, service providers, parents, advocates, lawyers and others involved in developing and supporting special education services for children with disabilities and their families.

“One of the things we do is organize professional development conferences and events,” Blair said. “We work with the state office of education or any other group to put together their conferences, get the speakers, advertise the event, and do on-site management.”

TAESE has been organizing law institutes for more than a dozen years in Utah and other states, Blair said. Nebraska was doing its own conference, but organizers decided about eight years ago they wanted to attract national-level speakers. Soon Iowa and Kansas expressed interest, and the Tri-State Law Conference was begun.

Blair said the law conferences continue to grow, even though the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has not been reauthorized by Congress since 2004.

“The law hasn’t changed, but interpretations by school districts and the courts continue to change the way we interpret special education,” he said. “Special educators and administrators are hungry for the newest information. They want to provide the best and most legally appropriate services to children and their families.”

This year, participation in the conference was capped at 600 and registration closed a month early. There are dozens of names on the waiting list. About a third of the participants are from Nebraska, about a third from Kansas and the rest from other states.

“People love it,” Blair said. “There are national level speakers. Attorneys come back year after year to present on case law, mediation and special education legal issues.”

For more than 30 years, TAESE has been the technical assistance division of the CPD at Utah State University. TAESE provides technical assistance in special education and to build the capacity of State Departments of Education, school districts, and charter schools to better serve infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.

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