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 provides comprehensive legal representation to school districts, area education agencies, colleges and universities, and other municipal entities in the state of Iowa. She provides counsel and represents clients in mediation and litigation in a variety of matters, including employment, special education, and student rights. 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 also assists a variety of entities by conducting or assisting with internal investigations.
Prior to law school, Miriam dedicated three years to teaching middle school on Chicago’s south side through Teach for America. 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 also 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.
- 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
Super Lawyers Great Plains - Rising Star: Schools & Education (2018-2019)
Chambers USA - Litigation: General Commercial - Associate to Watch (2015-2016), Up and Coming (2017)
Order of the Coif
Honorary Order of the Barristers
Miriam's most recent speaking engagements include:
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
Ahlers & Cooney, Special Education Client Seminar, "A New Standard for FAPE: Navigating Endrew F", "Restraint and Seclusion" with Katherine Beeneken, "Evaluation and Eligibility: Something Old, Something New", February 2018
Iowa Council of School Board Attorneys, Bi-Annual Meeting, "It's Raining Cats and Dogs: Service and Therapy Animals in School," July 2017
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)
Iowa State Bar Association – Young Lawyers Division, District 5C Representative (2014-2016)
Iowa Legal Aid, Volunteer Intake Attorney
Volunteer Judge, Drake Moot Court Program