New Notre Dame Law clinic focused on helping parents advocate for children with special needs

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The golden dome at the University of Notre Dame (IL file photo)

A recent Notre Dame Law School graduate will work with the director of the school’s Applied Mediation Clinic on a new project designed to serve parents as they advocate for the rights of their children diagnosed with physical and mental disabilities.

Notre Dame Law School announced Oct. 26 the upcoming launch of its Special Education Law Clinic to serve parents of children with disabilities in the South Bend area as they advocate for services, accessibility and accommodations required for their children.

The clinic is set to launch in the 2024 spring semester as a pilot experiential learning course with approximately five law students.

It will offer pro bono services, and law students will assist parents and children who have a variety of disabilities in special education proceedings. That includes helping parents address challenges in meeting their special education students’ needs, working with schools, supporting individualized education plan implementation, participating in mediations and providing guidance for navigating K-12 school systems, according to the law school.

Veronica Webb

Veronica Webb, a 2023 graduate of Notre Dame Law School, has been named the clinic’s inaugural clinical legal fellow.

Webb, who is a licensed attorney and an occupational therapist, will work closely with professor Michael Jenuwine, a licensed attorney and clinical psychologist who directs the Applied Mediation Clinic.

According to the law school, Webb worked as an occupational therapist in a private pediatric sensory integration clinic in Southern California prior to attending Notre Dame.

Through her new position at the special education clinic, Webb will provide legal advice, advocacy and representation to families.

In a news release, Jenuwine emphasized the clinic’s interdisciplinary nature, highlighting how having a deeper understanding of disability issues, in addition to legal training, can be beneficial.

“We are addressing a genuine need in the community,” Jenuwine said in the release. “We are excited to focus on this population, and we believe that Veronica is the perfect candidate for this role.”

Webb will receive training in special education law while receiving mentorship from Jenuwine. She will have the flexibility to design a program tailored to the unique needs of the local community.

She is currently in the process of conducting outreach efforts and focus groups to identify specific needs in the community.

Professor Michael Jenuwine

Jenuwine also emphasized the dual purpose of the clinic, stating, “We want to best serve the community while providing a valuable learning experience for our students, equipping them with the essential skills for this type of representation.”

While at Notre Dame, Webb was a Polking Fellow at the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, which allowed her to collaborate with Michael Waddell from the Autism Studies program at Saint Mary’s College and O. Carter Snead, the director of the de Nicola Center. Those collaborations revealed the lack of resources and services for parents advocating for children with disabilities, prompting the creation of her dedicated position within the law school.

“I am incredibly grateful to Professor Snead, Professor Jenuwine, and countless others who worked tirelessly to make this fellowship a reality,” Webb said in the news release. “I feel very fortunate to work for a university that aligns with my mission and values. I am eager and excited to begin assisting children with special needs and their families.”

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