Inaugural Symposium Puts a Spotlight on Education Law


Fordham Law hosted its first-ever Education Law Symposium, which brought together lawyers, advocates, educators, and policymakers to discuss disability law and other issues.

The virtual symposium, which drew more than 200 people on Feb. 13, was due to the efforts of students Carrie Plover ’24, Samantha McCarthy ’24, and Matthew Winter ’25.

The three students are board members of the Fordham Suspension Representation Project (SRP), a student-run group which provides advocacy for public school students in superintendent’s suspension hearings and helps safeguard their right to education. They hatched a plan last summer to expand the scope of their work and make Fordham a hub for education lawyers.

“Matthew came to us last year [as a 1L]and said, ‘I want to host Fordham’s first annual education law symposium,’ and it happened, which is so incredible,” said McCarthy, SRP’s co-president. “And it couldn’t have happened without Carrie’s really hard work over the last eight months.”

“Sam, Matthew, and I all aspire to practice education law one day, so naturally I wanted in,” Plover added. “After agreeing to act as this year’s symposium coordinator, I developed this year’s overarching theme based on my knowledge of anti-discrimination law and disability law, having studied those subjects under the tutelage of Professors Kimani Paul-Emile and Mary J. Goodwin-Oquendo.”

Co-sponsored by SRP and the Education Law Collaborative, the First Annual Education Law Symposium commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and examined how federal disability law affects people with disabilities. Panelists explored the right to shelter and the educational rights of migrant children and challenges faced by migrant students in the New York City public school system, particularly those with disabilities or limited English proficiency.

Susan Scheer, senior director for Healthcare Access at VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon ’90 delivered keynotes. Scheer shared personal experiences with disability advocacy, emphasizing the ongoing challenges in securing accessibility and equal rights, while Simon discussed the importance of advocacy and the legal system in safeguarding disability rights, including challenging outdated biases and stereotypes and updating disability regulations.

Plover said she considers the Rehabilitation Act to be a “watershed piece of legislation that rarely gets the attention it deserves.” “Empirical evidence and my anecdotal experience as a suspension representation advocate both reflect that students of color who have disabilities are disproportionately likely to experience exclusionary disciplinary practices, like suspension,” she added. “Such exclusionary practices increase the likelihood that students will repeat a grade, drop out, or enter the criminal justice system.”

She said her hope was that attendees would leave the symposium with “a better sense of how advocates can harness both federal disability law and non-legal resources to combat discrimination that prevents students with marginalized identities from receiving the education and support they deserve.”

Dean Matthew Diller expressed excitement for the inaugural program and gratitude to the student organizers whose vision came to fruition, “The Suspension Representation Project is an example of Fordham Law students coming together in order to make our world a better place and to provide vitally needed assistance and representation to marginalized individuals and communities.”

“I can’t imagine an occasion more worth celebrating than the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act—truly one of the groundbreaking historic pieces of legislation in our nation,” said Dean Diller. “The issues dealt with by the Rehabilitation Act continue to be of urgent importance, particularly in the educational context.”

Reflecting on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: 50 Years of Progress and Pitfalls (02.13.24) from Fordham Law School on Vimeo.


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