Vivian Narehood (1940-2023) was, for many years, a beacon of hope and a lifeline for countless parents of children with special needs whose school districts were not heeding their or their child’s cries for help. Vivian felt injustices deeply. When she concluded that a school district was failing a child and, despite being confronted with that failure, had refused the required course change, she made it her aim to bring to light the specifics of that failure in ways too compelling to ignore and sought tangible redress for it. She combined fierce intelligence and a piercing wit with a remarkable capacity for hard, unglamorous work. She painstakingly reviewed, tabbed, digested and made sense of her clients’ school records, no matter how voluminous. Her belief that what she was doing mattered to struggling children and their families gave her the tolerance and patience to process mounds of educational data to find and lift out the facts that powerfully conveyed a child’s educational trajectory and challenges. She never wavered from her belief that education does work – and that students with differences/disabilities really can flourish with appropriate educational support. She had tremendous compassion for her clients, and when she took on a case, the client understood that she/he now had an ally who would do her best to make certain her/his child would receive the education best suited to address the child’s special needs. Because of that, Vivian’s client testimonials of what she meant to their family were myriad and heartfelt. And based on the reports of those in the special education law community, there is no doubt Vivian commanded the highest respect in that specialized legal community. Sadly, that community lost one of its brightest stars when she was no longer able to practice.
To honor Vivian, ELC-PA is accepting contributions in her memory in recognition of her many years of service to, and collaboration with, the Education Law Center-PA. Vivian was a huge supporter of ELC-PA’s work, serving not only as an ELC board member but also as informal advisor and, at times, local counsel. Vivian was never too busy to answer a request for help — with her trademark thoroughness, humor, and complete commitment to doing the right thing for children and families.