December 11, 2023
Master of Jurisprudence trains non-lawyers to navigate legal aspects of special education advocacy
As the need for special education advocates grows, the St. Mary’s University School of Law announces a new Master of Jurisprudence (M.Jur.) degree concentration in Special Education Advocacy, the first M.Jur. in the country focused on special education advocacy. The program has begun enrolling students for Spring 2024.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 14.7% of students between the ages of 3 and 21 in the United States qualified for special education services during the 2021-2022 academic year. Percentages varied by state, from 11.7% in Texas to 20.5% in New York, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment of special education teachers and advocates is projected to grow 3% between 2020 and 2030.
Assistant Dean for Graduate Law Programs Shannon Sevier (M.P.A. ’21, J.D. ’07)
“As the destination for advancing legal education, St. Mary’s recognizes the critical need for grassroots advocates in our schools and champions the training of professionals in special education advocacy to shape policymaking,” Sevier said.
The M.Jur. is a nonprofessional degree program that offers non-lawyers the opportunity to gain an understanding of the law. This new graduate degree concentration can aid school personnel, service providers and those advocating on behalf of students with disabilities and their families in gaining a greater understanding of the law in this area. It is the first and only such program to receive acquiescence from the American Bar Association. The M.Jur. degree requires the successful completion of 30 credit hours that can be completed in two semesters if enrolled full time.
“Rooted in our rich Marianist traditions, this innovative initiative at St. Mary’s exemplifies our commitment to fostering relevant discourse in social advocacy and embracing the powerful intersection of servant leadership with professional agency,” said Assistant Dean for Graduate Law Programs Shannon Sevier (M.P.A. ’21, J.D. ’07).
St. Mary’s Law M.Jur. student Patricia Howey, who is completing her degree online from her home in Westpoint, Indiana, said her journey began when her youngest child was born with a severe disability, leading to her creating a special education advocacy practice. As the author of Special Education: Plain and Simple and a series of books centered on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Howey originally enrolled under the Education Law concentration, but recently declared her concentration as Special Education Advocacy.
“I hope others will join me and enroll, taking one step toward making special education advocacy a true profession,” Howey said.
Special Education Advocacy M.Jur. students will gain a general knowledge of the law and will graduate with the ability to better understand legal issues, such as statutes, regulations, contracts and employment matters. Sevier said this innovative concentration is just one example of how the St. Mary’s University School of Law is working to shape the legal community for the better.
“As the destination for advancing legal education, St. Mary’s recognizes the critical need for grassroots advocates in our schools and champions the training of professionals in special education advocacy to shape policymaking,” Sevier said. “In a world where inclusivity and equitable education are paramount, this concentration not only fills a void but also propels our graduates to become catalysts for positive change.”