The certificate will be offered through AC’s Legal Studies Program.
The grant also will support periodic workshops, seminars and expert panel discussions for sharing vital information with the public about the rights of special-needs children and their parents.
Robin Malone, coordinator of AC’s Legal Studies Program, says the Special Education Advocacy Certificate will meet a growing demand among both AC students and the surrounding community.
The Amarillo Independent School District, for example, reports that 4,258 students are currently receiving accommodations for a primary disability, and parents are commonly required to attend Admissions Review and Dismissal (ARD) meetings as a regular part of the special-education process.
For parents equipped with a Special Education Advocacy Certificate – or represented by a trained advocate – these often-complex ARD meetings are more readily navigable.
“Under the Texas Education Code, a trained non-attorney advocate can help parents and children navigate the complexities of the public school special education process,” Malone said. “This new certificate represents an additional option not only for parents, but for our legal studies students.
“Those who are interested in specializing and advocating in the area of special education, who perhaps don’t necessarily want to pursue law school, can follow this pathway.”
Additionally, legal studies students who obtain the credential can share their new knowledge with parents of special-needs children at the AC Legal Clinic, which offers free (non-criminal) legal services for AC students. Approximately 40 percent of all AC students also are parents.
The clinic, which is staffed by legal studies students and supported by licensed lawyers, has provided pro-bono services over the past four years to more than 560 individuals, who saved close to $3 million in in-kind expenses.
“Once again we are thankful for the generosity and support of the Texas Bar Foundation,” Malone said. “The addition of a certificate focused on special education advocacy greatly benefits our students and our community.”
AC education majors can benefit from the new certificate, too, Malone said, because it will give them the ability to identify students in need of special assistance – or even advocate for them – once they enter the workforce.
Since its inception in 1965, the Texas Bar Foundation has awarded more than $22 million in grants to law-related programs. Supported by members of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Bar Foundation is the nation’s largest charitably-funded bar foundation.
For more information about the Legal Studies Program at Amarillo College, the new certificate program, or the grant obtained from the Texas Bar Foundation, please contact Robin Malone at (806) 345-5671.