Course Information

Course Description: Disability Rights Clinic

Law student working with elementary student

The Disability Rights Clinic (DRC) serves families needing legal services identified primarily through a medical-legal partnership with Dell Children’s Medical Group. The partnership has been developed to serve under-resourced rural communities in and around Central Texas.  Law students gain first hand experience by working directly with parent clients to understand the educational needs of each child. Students formulate case strategies in an effort to put necessary educational services in place.

Through hands-on interactions, DRC students assist their clients with a broad variety of matters, including:

  • Representing students with autism or other neurodivergence to secure appropriate special education services
  • Ensuring that students whose conduct is driven by a disability-related need are not expelled or otherwise segregated from nondisabled peers
  • Pursuing nursing and other related services and therapies to further full the inclusion of students with disabilities
  • Working with experts to develop behavioral intervention plans to reduce the use of physical restraints
  • Advocating for the dismissal of criminal and civil charges brought against students with disabilities to stem the flow of the school to prison pipeline
  • Mediating cases with school lawyers to bring about positive changes in school programming and compensate students for past legal violations
  • Conducting hearings in cases in which mediation has been unsuccessful

The basics of federal and state special education law will be taught through the assessment of a school districts’ potential liability. Students will also practice the skills involved in building trust with their client families, empowering parents to push for appropriate services at meetings with district personnel, negotiating informally on behalf of families with school district counsel, and litigating or formally mediating special education matters. The Clinic emphasizes creativity, problem-solving, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the practice of making the law accessible to nonlawyer parents.

Graduates of the Disability Rights Clinic have worked as lawyers in nonprofit settings representing persons with disability or their families, in larger law firms supporting special education work as a pro bono focus, in mid-size firm practice representing school districts, in juvenile and criminal defense work involving special education issues, and in governmental entities requiring expertise in education or disability law.

The Clinic meets as a class once per week for two hours, and students also meet with the director individually or in teams to discuss cases and projects. Students work in teams on one to three cases, depending on their areas of interest, client need, and capacity. Grading is on a pass/fail basis. There is no final exam or paper. Students should expect to spend 10-15 hours per week on clinic work, including class time. Students will occasionally travel to meetings outside of Austin.