Photo of Emily Lienard

Emily Lienard

  • Hosted by Disability Rights Texas
  • Sponsored by Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • Service location Austin, Texas
  • Law school William and Mary Law School
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Emily Lienard will advocate for students with disabilities who have been denied special education services due to Texas’s illegal cap on special education services through direct representation and systemic advocacy.

In 2004, the Texas Education Agency implemented an illegal 8.5% cap on the percentage of students who could receive special education services. This cap prevented approximately 400,000 students from receiving special education services, and many of those students have now dropped out, been referred to the criminal justice system, or remained in school with poor outcomes. After Disability Rights Texas encouraged the Houston Chronicle to investigate this cap, the Texas Legislature overturned the policy. The Department of Education has required Texas to develop a corrective action plan to identify impacted youth and offer compensatory services, but the culture of denial of special education services is still prevalent.

Emily has a brother with disabilities and knows how difficult it was for her parents to navigate the special education system. In her work as a student advocate, she became further motivated to use her personal and professional experience to do this work.

Fellowship Plans

Emily’s goal is for Texas schools to change their practices to identify students with disabilities from all backgrounds who need special education services, including compensatory services to address previous service denials through direct representation, community outreach, and expanding legal services through pro bono partnership.

It is essential that we ensure that students with disabilities are found eligible for special education services to accommodate their disability and become successful members of society.

Emily Lienard /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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