Indiana State University Newsroom

Record crowd attends 34th annual School Law Conference

April 16, 2009

The largest turnout in the history of Indiana State University's School Law Conference, which focused this year on state and federal mandates related to special education, has a simple explanation according to its organizers.

"It's a topic that resonates,â€Â said Josh Powers, chair of the department of educational leadership, administration and foundations, which presented the conference. "We've had so much policy change that's come down recently. We're glad to be able to provide a program and service to practitioners in the field that addresses these important issues."

About 200 people attended the 34th annual School Law Conference on Wednesday (April 15).

The federal government recently passed revisions to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) that resulted in changes to Indiana's Article 7, which covers the state's special education laws.

"This is helping them to handle that," said Terry McDaniel, ISU assistant professor of educational leadership, administration and foundations, about the conference. "Every session is related to that."

The conference also had a session on Response to Intervention (RTI), which all schools will eventually have to adopt. RTI is designed to identify a student's learning problems and address them before special education is needed. McDaniel said attendees overflowed that session.

"People want to know about it; they want to do it right," he said.

Ronnie Fox, department chair of special education at South Vermillion High School, attended the conference to stay abreast of new information in her field.

"There are a lot of changes going on," she said. "I'm trying to stay current."

She was interested in sessions regarding implementing Article 7 as well as using electronic individual education plans, which must be created for each child with a disability.

"I think it's very beneficial," she said about the conference.

One keynote speaker, Sharon Knoth, acting director of special education for the Indiana Department of Public Instruction, spoke about coming changes to Article 7. One of the changes is that parents attending a due process hearing would be able to represent themselves. Another is that parents would be able to revoke their consent for services to their child.

"If they want their child out of special education, the federal government says we must allow that to take place," she said, adding it is a complex component of the changes coming to Article 7.

Patty Meadows, an assistant principal at Prince Chapman Academy in the East Allen School District near Fort Wayne, said the focus on special education is what drew her to the conference.

"I wanted to know more about special education law," she said. "Probably one-fifth of our school is special ed."

Listening to the other keynote speaker, David Emmert, general counsel for the Indiana School Board Association, discuss current issues with law was helpful, she said.

"Decisions we make every day, if they are not based on knowledge of policies and common sense, can be a law case," she said.

Powers said through the conference the university tries to help those working in schools.

"There are challenging issues for teachers, principals and superintendents that require creativity to meet the learning needs of students," he said. "When done well, it's good for all students learning."


Contact: Josh Powers, Indiana State University, educational leadership, administration and foundations chair, at 812-237-2900 or 

Terry McDaniel, Indiana State University, assistant professor of educational leadership, administration and foundations, at 812-237-3862 or 

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant direction of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or 


Cutline: Indiana State University's 34th annual School Law Conference drew a record crowd to hear about changes in special education. ISU Photo/Tony Campbell


Cutline: David Emmert, general counsel for the Indian School Board Association, speaks during ISU's 34th annual School Law Conference Wednesday (April 15). ISU Photo/Kara Berchem