Miriam Van Heukelem
100 Court Avenue, Suite 600
Des Moines, IA 50309-2231
J.D. (Highest Honors), Drake University, 2009
B.A., The George Washington University, 2003
Miriam comes from a long line of public school teachers – beginning with her great-grandfather, who taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Kansas – so she knows firsthand the value of a high-quality education. Prior to embarking on her legal career, she dedicated three years to teaching middle school on Chicago’s south side through Teach for America. The inspiration and challenges she experienced as a classroom teacher led her to the field of education law.
Miriam provides comprehensive legal representation to school districts, area education agencies, community colleges, and universities throughout Iowa. She provides counsel to and represents clients in litigation and dispute resolution in a variety of areas, including employment law, Title IX, IDEA and Section 504, student rights, and board governance. Her practice also includes drafting and negotiating contracts, policies, and procedures to assist her clients with maintaining legal compliance in their day-to-day operations. Miriam assists a variety of public and private entities by conducting or assisting with internal investigations, including Title IX investigations.
Miriam continues her passion for teaching by presenting at numerous conferences, meetings, and staff trainings on education and employment-related topics. She is an adjunct professor for Viterbo University and is on the faculty of the Iowa Superintendents Finance and Leadership Consortium Conference and the Iowa School Business Management Academy.
Miriam currently leads the firm's public sector Board Governance Practice Group and serves as chair of the firm's Recruitment Committee. While at Drake University Law School, she served as Articles Editor for the Drake Law Review and was selected as a member of the Order of the Coif, the Order of the Barristers, the C. Edwin Moore Inn of Court, and the National Moot Court team. Miriam was named one of the Des Moines Business Record’s "Forty Under 40" in 2020.
- Successful defense of school district and area education agency in civil action arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in which the student’s parent challenged virtually every aspect of the student’s special education program. Bohn v. Cedar Rapids Cmty. Sch. Dist. and Grant Wood Area Educ. Agency, 116 LRP 48692 (N.D. Iowa Nov. 18, 2016).
- Successful defense of school district and area education agency in appeal of parent’s claim seeking reimbursement for out-of-state tuition reimbursement under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Sneitzer v. Iowa Dep’t of Educ. et al., 796 F.3d 942 (8th Cir. 2015).
- Obtained summary judgment in favor of school district and individually-named defendants in federal lawsuit alleging employment discrimination. Duarte v. Colo-NESCO Community School District et al., no. 4:12-cv-00456 (S.D. Iowa Mar. 27, 2014).
- Successful defense of school district in federal lawsuit brought by a parent claiming violations of constitutional due process and equal protection. Schmidt v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 655 F.3d 811 (8th Cir. 2011).
American Bar Association
Iowa State Bar Association
Polk County Bar Association
National School Boards Association, Council of School Attorneys
Iowa Council of School Board Attorneys
Polk County Women Attorneys
Best Lawyers in America©
- Education Law (2022)
- Litigation - Labor and Employment (2021-2022)
Super Lawyers Great Plains - Rising Star: Schools & Education (2018-2019)
Chambers USA - Litigation: General Commercial - Associate to Watch (2015-2016), Up and Coming (2017)
The Business Record's Forty Under 40 (2020)
Order of the Coif
Honorary Order of the Barristers
Miriam's most recent speaking engagements include:
Iowa State University, Iowa School Business Management Academy, “Parent & Student Rights,” April 2021
Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Webinar, "Final Chapter 103 Rules Adopted," with Katherine Beenken, Elizabeth Heffernan, and Carrie Weber, December 2020
Iowa State Bar Association, Labor and Employment Virtual Seminar, “COVID-19 Case Law and Legal Issues (ADA Accommodation Issues)," November 2020
Iowa Association of School Boards, 2020 Employee Relations Digital Conference, “Implementing Title IX Changes in a Historic Time,” October 2020
Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Title IX Virtual Training Workshop for Clients, June 2020
- "Title IX Coordinator Training"
- "Title IX Investigator Training," with Ann Smisek
- "Training on Supportive Measures and Informal Resolution," with Carrie Weber
Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Webinar, "New Title IX Final Regulations, What You Need to Know for K-12s and Higher Education," with Rebecca Reif, May 2020
Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Webinar, "Chapter 103, Restraint and Seclusion: How Proposed Rule Changes Will Affect District Practices," with Katherine Beenken and Carrie Weber, November 2019
Ahlers & Cooney, Employment Law Client Seminar, "Investigations," with Emily Kolbe, November 2019
Iowa State University, Iowa School Business Management Academy, “Legal Perspective: Mental Health Issues in Our Schools,” May 2019
Iowa Civil Rights Commission, Annual Symposium, "Navigating the Legal Landscape of Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities,” April 2019
Ahlers & Cooney P.C., Webinar, "New Proposed Regulations under Title IX," January 2019
Iowa Public Employer Labor Relations Association (IaPELRA), Winter Conference, "Transgender Issues in Employment," December 2018
Iowa Association of School Boards, Employee Relations Conference, "Investigating Allegation of Sexual Harassment & Assault in the #MeToo Era," October 2018
Iowa Association of School Business Officials, Payroll Conference, "Public Employer Garnishments," October 2018
Iowa Department of Education, Special Education Symposium, "Legal Update," June 2018
Professional, Community and Civic Leadership
Ashcraft Library Project, Board Secretary (2015 - present)
Polk County Juvenile Drug Court Collective, Board of Directors (2015 - present)
Polk County Women Attorneys, Board of Directors (2013 - present, President 2019)
Iowa State Bar Association – Young Lawyers Division, District 5C Representative (2014-2016)
Volunteer Judge, Drake Moot Court Program