Notre Dame Law School is launching a new Special Education Law Clinic to serve parents of children with disabilities in the wider South Bend, Indiana area as they advocate for services, accessibility, and accommodations required for their children diagnosed with physical and mental disabilities.
The clinic will also provide ND Law students the opportunity to work with families to ensure their child’s access to education under the law.
Veronica Webb, a 2023 graduate of Notre Dame Law School, has been named the clinic's inaugural clinical legal fellow.
Webb, who is a licensed attorney and an occupational therapist, will work closely with Professor Michael Jenuwine, a licensed attorney and a clinical psychologist, who directs the Applied Mediation Clinic.
Jenuwine emphasized the clinic's interdisciplinary nature, underlining how having a deeper understanding of disability issues, in addition to legal training, can be beneficial.
Webb will receive training in special education law while receiving mentorship from Jenuwine. She will have the flexibility to design a program tailored to the unique needs of the local community.
"We are addressing a genuine need in the community," said Jenuwine. "We are excited to focus on this population, and we believe that Veronica is the perfect candidate for this role."
The clinic is set to launch this spring semester as a pilot experiential learning course with approximately five law students.
The clinic will offer pro bono services and law students will assist parents and children who have a variety of disabilities in special education proceedings. This includes helping parents address challenges in meeting their special education students' needs, working with schools, supporting IEP implementation, participating in mediations, and providing guidance for navigating K-12 school systems.
Webb is in the process of conducting outreach efforts and focus groups to identify specific needs in the community.
Professor Jenuwine emphasized the dual purpose of the clinic, "We want to best serve the community while providing a valuable learning experience for our students, equipping them with the essential skills for this type of representation."
While at Notre Dame she was a Polking Fellow at the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture. This allowed her to collaborate with Michael Waddell from the Autism Studies program at Saint Mary's College and O. Carter Snead, the director of the de Nicola Center. These collaborations revealed the lack of resources and services for parents advocating for children with disabilities, prompting the creation of this dedicated position within the law school.
"I am incredibly grateful to Professor Snead, Professor Jenuwine, and countless others who worked tirelessly to make this fellowship a reality,” said Webb. “I feel very fortunate to work for a university that aligns with my mission and values. I am eager and excited to begin assisting children with special needs and their families."
The clinic is just one of the many experiential learning opportunities for students. As a core part of the Notre Dame Law School curriculum and education, students have the opportunity to work in one of the five clinics at the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center as well as participate in skills courses, externships, and immersion programs.