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Hetali Lodaya

  • Hosted by Legal Aid of North Carolina
  • Sponsored by Latham & Watkins LLP
  • Service location Durham, North Carolina
  • Law school The University of Michigan Law School
  • Issue area Disability Rights, Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2022
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Hetali (she/her/hers) will pilot a two-pronged approach to improving special education service delivery in North Carolina schools, combining direct representation of students and families with community-based lawyering strategies.

In North Carolina, close to 80% of students with disabilities are not performing at grade level in math or reading. The achievement gap for students of color with disabilities is twice that of their non-special education peers. These students also face the most significant barriers to accessing appropriate educational services during the pandemic and are at the greatest risk of continuing to fall –or be pushed– through the cracks. While a robust network of legal and advocacy organizations focused on K-12 students exists in North Carolina, most special education legal advocacy focuses on individual cases. Often, the remedies won send students right back into the schools and systems that failed them initially.

Fellowship Plans

Hetali will represent individual students and families in Wake, Durham, and Robeson Counties in matters related to special education testing, identification, and service delivery. She will also engage with community-based organizations in these three counties to support them in identifying, articulating, and executing goals related to serving special education students, using tools like listening sessions, community workshops, and collaborative problem-solving frameworks. By developing expertise regarding the special education landscape in just these counties, she will be able to better serve both individual and organizational clients in achieving their goals.

All children deserve schools where they feel safe, welcome, and able to develop and go after their dreams. I am honored to serve North Carolina students, families, and community organizations as we build power in pursuit of what our state constitution promises: a sound basic education for all.

Hetali Lodaya /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Sarah Bellinger

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Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation

Stephen Tollafield

Host: Disability Rights Advocates

Sponsor: Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy, Law Office of Guy T. Saperstein