At Ahlers & Cooney, we counsel and advise our K-12, college and university clients on a wide range of sensitive and uniquely challenging student issues. It is our goal to provide the highest quality of representation in partnership with our clients to assist them in carrying out their mission of providing students with a superior education in a safe and well-managed environment. Our attorneys are leaders in this field and have authored numerous presentations, guidebooks and policy primers relating to student issues.

With our extensive background in the many aspects of education law, we have the knowledge and expertise to advise clients on issues from the typical to the unusual, from enrollment to graduation, and everything in between. The types of issues we may encounter are vast, including but not limited to:

  • Residency, admission and enrollment requirements
  • Attendance policies
  • Educational programs and participation
  • Student conduct and discipline, both on and off campus
  • Student searches and seizures
  • Constitutional issues, such as student expression and freedom of religion
  • Student search conduct regulations
  • Weapons and violence in the school
  • Disability rights, including issues arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (see more below)
  • “Protected class” discrimination and harassment
  • Title IX compliance
  • Clery Act and Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) compliance (higher education only)
  • Bullying and cyberbullying
  • Student records, grades and transcripts
  • Transportation and bussing issues, behavior on busses
  • Nutrition, such as school lunch programs, food allergies
  • Health issues, vaccinations, medications, and the obligations of school districts
  • Student injuries on school property
  • Environmental issues within school property
  • Use of technology in schools
  • Social conduct regulations and dress codes
  • Inter-scholastic athletics, other extra-curricular and co-curricular activities, and special activities (e.g., Homecoming, Prom)
  • School-sponsored trips
  • Graduation activities, participation, and other issues

Our attorneys routinely represent our clients in student disciplinary hearings, appeals before the U.S. and Iowa Departments of Education and other state and federal administrative agencies, and in state and federal court. We are also available to assist clients with internal investigations to ensure compliance with Title IX, IDEA/504, and the various non-discrimination statutes applicable to students of all ages.

Special Education Issues

Within our Student Issues Practice Group, we have a team of attorneys with significant experience in special education and student disability law. In this high-stakes and rapidly-evolving area of law, our firm prides itself on the depth and breadth of experience of our attorneys in navigating difficult disputes and obtaining positive outcomes for our clients.

Our firm emphasizes a collaborative approach to resolving special education disputes, recognizing the important roles of the parent and the school in partnering together to serve the needs of students with disabilities. We advise clients at every stage of the process from initial suspicion of disability and evaluation through development of the Individualized Educational Program (“IEP”) to exiting the student from special education services. We assist clients in developing high-quality, defensible IEPs and frequently attend IEP meetings around the state of Iowa. When less formal efforts at dispute resolution are unsuccessful, our team has represented clients in hundreds of mediations to reach legally-binding agreements between the school district, AEA, and parents. While it is always our goal to avoid needless litigation, our firm has successfully represented numerous clients in IDEA and 504 due process hearings and in state and federal court.

Representative Projects

  • Successful defense of school district and area education agency on appeal following a ten-day administrative hearing in which numerous violations of the IDEA were alleged to have occurred over a number of years. Defendant education agencies prevailed on all claims.  Bohn v. Cedar Rapids Cmty. Sch. Dist. and Grant Wood Area Educ. Agency, slip op., No. 15-cv-106, 2016 WL 6828207 (N.D. Iowa Nov. 18, 2016).
  • Successful defense of school district and area education agency in IDEA dispute involving a costly out-of-state residential placement.  Sneitzer v. Iowa Dep’t of Educ. et al., 796 F.3d 942 (8th Cir. 2015).
  • Successful defense against parent request for provision of excluded medical service as a “related service” under the IDEA.  B.T. v. Waukee Cmty. Sch. Dist. and Heartland Area Educ. Agency, 116 LRP 35822 (SEA Iowa 2013).
  • Successful defense of placement of student in a special school for students with disabilities against non-custodial parent challenge.  Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. and Heartland Area Educ. Agency 11, 114 LRP 28802 (Nov. 1, 2011).
  • Successful defense against parent request for costly out-of-state residential program.  In re: Student with a Disability, 110 LRP 28587 (SEA Iowa 2010).