Special education advocate

Andrew Wollaston, EDU ’13, LAW ’16, transformed his love for teaching into another opportunity to support children with disabilities. 

image of Andrew Wollaston.
Photo credit: Joseph V. Labolito

I went from teacher to lawyer because... I wanted to work in the School District of Philadelphia, and I found there were a lot of amazing teachers and classmates who were already doing that, and I thought maybe there was another way to help folks out and represent their rights.

My clients are... children with disabilities. I am primarily working to protect their rights in the classroom. I also work to protect students’ free speech rights and the rights of homeless students. 

On avoiding litigation... It’s expensive for everybody involved. And it’s not really the best way for the child to get what they need. A lot of the time it’s about educating folks on what their rights are, and the best way to help the school district understand what services they’re obligated to provide.

My teaching experience helps... when we’re dealing with parents who have students with disabilities, who are having trouble in the classroom. We’re able to relate.

On filling a niche from Lancaster... Special education attorneys focus around Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. There isn’t really anyone who represents children in the middle of the state. Parents aren’t really aware their children have certain rights. I envision myself working more with those parents, working with those communities and schools that don’t have many resources.

—By Kyle Bagenstose, KLN ’11