Ashley Dalton

  • Hosted by Youth Advocacy Foundation
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Boston, Massachusetts
  • Law school Columbia Law School
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Ashley improved educational outcomes for children affected by parental incarceration through direct representation, outreach and training, and policy advocacy.

In Boston, one out of 20 children has had a parent in prison. Parental incarceration deeply impacts a child’s life and can have a major effect on their education as well. With legal representation, families affected by parental incarceration can prevent school exclusion as well as secure appropriate school placements. Policy advocacy can also ensure that schools provide supports to help address the impact of parental incarceration on children’s lives.

Prior to law school, Ashley created a school-based legal clinic program at a legal aid organization in New Haven, CT. At Columbia, she participated in the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic and developed her skills at multiple legal services organizations. Her experiences and her longstanding commitment to criminal justice system reform inspired this project.

Fellowship Highlights

Ashley directly worked with the families of over 100 students in Massachusetts schools. She represented clients in discipline and disability-related proceedings before state agencies and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. She also helped families obtain additional services and appropriate school placements in Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team meetings. Through her work, Ashley helped to establish a collaborative partnership with the state public defender agency to advocate for the education rights of children and families affected by parental incarceration. Ashley also conducted trainings for partners and other service providers, including caseworkers at a local reentry organization, attorneys in the state public defender agency, and community agencies. In response to the dramatic changes in public education that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashley developed and distributed a toolkit of resources, samples, and templates for education advocacy to attorneys and social workers serving families impacted by parental incarceration, as well as Know Your Rights information and other guides for parents and community organizations.

Next Steps

After her fellowship, Ashley will clerk for a federal district court judge. Through her clerkship, Ashley hopes to gain new skills and insights that will enable her to become an even stronger advocate for her clients.

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