Name of Host Organization: Disability Law Center
City, State: Boston, Massachusetts
Issue area: Education/Special Education, Disability Rights
Sponsors: Equal Justice Works Text-To-Give Fellowship
Teresita provided legal services to low-income, immigrant Hispanic children with disabilities in Lawrence, MA. Her work addressed widespread denial of education rights and empowered parents to enforce their rights through culturally competent advocacy training.
Need Addressed By Project
Lawrence Public Schools is among the poorest school districts in Massachusetts. 86% of Lawrence students come from low-income families. The district is composed of 90% Hispanic families, mostly of Puerto Rican and Dominican origin. Half of the children are English language learners, and 25% of all students receive special education services. Lawrence is the first district in Massachusetts to be declared a failing school system and placed in receivership. A superintendent, appointed in 2011, has been tasked with turning around this system that serves 13,000 students. The district’s turnaround plan seeks to address numerous shortcomings, but special education students, especially those with dual special education and English language learner (ELL) eligibility, have received little attention. Lawrence has no legal services organizations providing special education services. As a result, families with special needs children, especially low-income immigrant families, face extreme challenges in asserting their right to special education services.