2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Travis Silva

Travis Silva

City, State: San Francisco, California
Issue area: Education/Special Education, Immigrant Populations
Sponsors: Anonymous

The Project

Travis advocated for immigrant children in underserved parts of Silicon Valley to ensure their full and equal access to public education while challenging systemic barriers to educational equity in the region.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Children from an immigrant background struggle to access public education in the Golden State. California’s broken, one-size-fits-all English “immersion” program leaves behind far too many students who, despite starting school in the U.S., still lack the English proficiency needed for high school graduation. In many school districts, immigrant youth are suspended and expelled at higher rates than their U.S.-born peers. Some school districts fail to provide the translation, interpretation, and parent education services that immigrant parents need to meaningfully participate in their children’s education. This project addressed these areas by providing direct services and advocacy aligned to these legal needs.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Travis has:
• Defended students in expulsion proceedings to ensure that his clients obtained fair and adequate educational placements.
• Collaborated with other legal services providers to launch an expulsion defense network, marshaling the resources of the private bar to provide high-quality pro bono services to at-risk students in the San Francisco Bay Area.
• Challenged school districts’ failures to provide immigrant parents with second-language access to written and verbal materials.
• Investigated school districts’ exclusion of English learners from the mainstream curriculum.
• Brought litigation against the California Department of Education to challenge its failure to disclose the number of students struggling to acquire English proficiency despite being enrolled in U.S. schools for over six years.
• Advised immigrant parents on effective means of lobbying school districts for improved programs and services for immigrant children.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Travis plans to:
• Continue addressing educational inequity as a member of the private bar
• Render substantial pro bono service to individual clients and to organizations dedicated to educational equity.

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