Law of Special Education and School Discipline

Sara Godchaux is a staff attorney with the Loyola Law Clinic in New Orleans where she helped launch the Education Project in 2018 to provide free legal representation for students and families on matters of school discipline and special education. In addition to representing clients, Sara works in conjunction with clinic professor Hector Linares to supervise law student practitioners working on education cases. Prior to joining the Loyola Law Clinic, Sara worked as a staff attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) in New Orleans, primarily focusing on children’s education and mental health care issues. At SPLC, Sara also worked on behalf of Louisiana’s immigrant community and filed litigation to protect the voting rights of naturalized U.S. citizens. Sara is a native New Orleanian and a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where she graduated top of her class and received the Spirit of Ignatius Award for her high academic achievements and demonstrated commitment to community service.

Hector Linares is the Edward J. Womac, Jr. Distinguished Clinic Professor and Director of Skills & Experiential Learning at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where he teaches the Youth Justice section of the law clinic. He received his B.A. from Tulane University and his J.D. from New York University School of Law. He began his career as the Southern Poverty Law Center Special Education Fellow at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana. He also practiced special education law as a Supervising Attorney at Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (now Disability Rights California) in Los Angeles.  Professor Linares is a longtime member and current Co-Director of the Gault Center South and is a member of the National Advisory Board for the Gault Center, a national organization for youth defenders. He has also served on the boards of several non-profit organizations, including the Louisiana Public Defender Board and the Louisiana Mental Health Advocacy Service. He currently serves on the Louisiana State Law Institute’s Children’s Code Committee and the LSBA's Children's Law Committee.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank the small but incredibly tight-knit community of talented special education attorneys in Louisiana who are always willing to share materials, brainstorm, and support one another in whatever way possible. In particular, the authors would like to thank Ashley Dalton, Sophia Mire-Hill, and Lauren Winkler of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Allison Zimmer and Elizabeth Jones of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights; Shannon Barnes, Ron Lospennato, and Debra Weinberg of Disability Rights Louisiana; and our friends in private practice, Melia Cerrato, Christopher Edmunds, and Kimona Hogan. Also, a heartfelt thanks to all of the student practitioners at the Loyola Law Clinic who have helped develop over the years the advocacy strategies and templates included in this chapter.

The material in this chapter is current through February 27, 2023.

Disclaimer: The articles in the Gillis Long Desk Manual do not contain any legal advice.