2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Lee Robbins

Lee Robbins

Name of Host Organization: Equip for Equality
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Issue area: Education/Special Education, Children/Youth
Sponsors: The Chicago Bar Foundation

The Project

Lee provided representation and outreach to low-income elementary school-age children with mental health needs in Illinois to ensure appropriate educational and behavioral services for life-long success.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Up to 20% of Illinois students face emotional or behavioral issues that impact school success. In low-income areas that number climbs to 50%. As many as two-thirds of children are exposed to trauma, violence, abuse, or chronic stress, putting them at higher risk for developing mental health issues. Many of these Illinois children with mental health needs do not receive critical supports and services to succeed in school. Even though mental health issues may be addressed through special education services, many families face challenges in accessing these supports. Children with mental health needs are often treated as behavior problems and subject to school discipline rather than provided the supports that they need. This results in a range of tragic consequences including increased learning difficulties, school failure, and court involvement. Even where a mental health issue is not preventable, children who receive early intervention and support can lead lives less impacted by these issues. This project provided focused advocacy to ensure children received these vitally important educational and behavioral services.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Lee has:
• Provided legal assistance to over 200 families of children with mental health needs in Illinois by providing direct representation at school-based meetings, due process and school disciplinary proceedings, and in federal court
• Provided training to over 800 parents, service providers, and advocates serving children with mental health needs
• Spearheaded the creation of a pipeline of 30 pro bono volunteers to provide assistance to the project
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Lee plans to:
• Continue to advocate for appropriate special education services for children in need of these supports
• Serve as a Guardian Ad Litem Education Staff Attorney at Children’s Law Center in Washington, DC

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