2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Katherine Gladson

Katherine Gladson

Name of Host Organization: LAF
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Issue area: Children/Youth, Education
Sponsors: Albert & Anne Mansfield Family Foundation

The Project

Katherine protected the educational rights of low-income students impacted by school closings and other district restructuring in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through direct representation and community education.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
School closings and other forms of district restructuring destabilize communities and directly impact the educational experiences of affected students. More specifically, closings and other school actions lead to increased student mobility and create a significant risk that services for students with special needs will be disrupted, delayed, or discontinued. Overall, CPS’s restructuring has consistently impacted students that are already among the city’s most academically vulnerable and economically disadvantaged. Katherine’s project aimed to ensure that the educational rights and opportunities of impacted students were protected and that students were able to transition safely and productively into new learning environments.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Katherine has:
• Provided legal assistance, through brief advice and direct representation, to nearly 70 students in matters involving special education, school discipline, enrollment, and school records issues.
• Coordinated the joint submission of comments to CPS’s guidelines for school actions in 2014 and 2015 with seven other Chicago legal service providers.
• Created a searchable summary of the 54 hearing officer reports from the 2013 school closings and fact sheets about the school action process and CPS public hearings and distributed these resources to advocates and community groups.
• Authored and presented a white paper about the issue of school closings and strategies for representing impacted students at a national special education conference for parents, attorneys, and advocates.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Katherine plans to:
• Continue representing foster children and students from low-income backgrounds in education matters as a Staff Attorney at her host organization, LAF.
• Continue collaborating with local community groups and legal aid organizations regarding school closings and other educational equity issues.

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