Hall of Fame nominee advocates for special-education law

Story and Photo by Iman Palm

The co-director of the Learning Rights Center, Janeen Steel has been nominated for Hall of Fame 2018.

After facing her own learning disabilities, she went on to become a co-founder and co-executive director of a law firm in Los Angeles. Now this former LBCC student is being inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame.

Janeen Steel is the co-founder and co-executive director of the Learning Right Law Center located in Downtown Los Angeles, which launched in 2005 and was founded by Steel while she attended law school.

Steel works as an attorney who represents cases involving students with disabilities.  “We decided that there was a need for a nonprofit that was dedicated to education,” said Steel.

Steel did not always picture education being a part of her future.

“Part of my story is that I did not think I was going to be educated,” said Steel. “I kinda drop out of high school. I got an adult school diploma. I went to beauty school and I did not think I was gonna go to college.”

During her secondary education, Steel never felt entirely connected with the school and for most of her life and did not know why.

“I knew something was going on because I felt like there was this part of me that was pretty bright but another part of me that was not. I just couldn’t figure it out,” said Steel. “A teacher at Long Beach City College called me in. He said, ‘I think you have some form of a learning disability. You should go get tested.’”

From there, Steel went to the office of student disabilities and that is when they officially diagnosed her with having a writing disorder. During her time as an undergrad, Steel also found out she had a reading disorder.

“It made sense,” said Steel. “It was a lot of work because I literally had to start from scratch. I had to learn how to learn again.”

Steel is diagnosed with a learning disability in the area of reading and writing which is similar to dyslexia.

“When I would listen to tapes my scores would be really high; when I would listen to the questions and answer them but when I visually do it, it was really low,” said Steel. 

Steel graduated from LBCC in 1990, San Francisco State University in 1993, and went on to UCLA Law School graduating in 1999.

With having a disability, Steel has a personal connection to the work she does.

“For families that have children that have disabilities or education access issues, school-related civil rights issues, there wasn’t any place out there for them,” said Steel. “The work we do is working with students that have disabilities or not accessing the right programs that they are entitled to.”

Steel has also taught at USC Law School, UCLA Law School, Loyola Marymount University, and Claremont Graduate University. Teaching a variety of law courses like ethics, special education law, and special ed law portion of an autistic program.

Her teachings lead her to become involved with embedding a special education curriculum for principles trying to obtain an administrative credential.

Co-founder and co-executive director Ines Kuperschmit shared her opinion on Steel.

“She is a tedious, hardworking, competent and creative lawyer,” said Kuperschmit. “She has a gifted memory.”

Development manager Azra Variscic has worked with Steel for four and a half years and describes her as being a passionate lawyer.

“She inspires all of us to be better and make our communities better for our children. She will do anything for children and to avenge justice,” said Variscic.

Steel along with other LBCC alumni will be inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame on Oct. 17, at 5:30 p.m. at the Grand Long Beach Events Center.