Jacqueline Ross

  • Hosted by Equip for Equality
  • Sponsored by Discover Financial Services, Mayer Brown LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Jackie used multi-strategic legal advocacy to help low-income students of color with disabilities gain access to research-based, effective literacy programs, closing the achievement gap for these students and increasing school success.

In Chicago, there are over 50,000 students with disabilities (SWD), 87% of whom are low-income and 90% of whom are children of color. Students with poor reading skills are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, and be the victim or perpetrator of a crime involving violence. Since by the fourth grade, only 15% of SWD achieve basic literacy in Chicago, tens of thousands of children are vulnerable to these outcomes. Despite this critical need, prior to Jackie’s Project there was no public interest attorney exclusively dedicated to helping SWD in Chicago achieve literacy. This gap in legal representation combined with CPS’ non-compliance with state and federal special education law has stagnated the reading achievement of SWD. Jackie’s Project seeks to reverse the current trend in which students are improperly evaluated, given ineffective instruction year after year, and eventually disengage from school. Achieving literacy will help SWD develop the skills and prospects to break the cycle of poverty and violence that has been associated with Chicago for far too long.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Jackie has:

  • Provided free special education legal help to 309 families
  • Won a hearing where she successfully argued a statute of limitations exception should be applied, allowing the complaint to move forward
  • Helped hundreds of clients gain access to effective research-based literacy instruction

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jackie plans to use her experiences to inform her teaching as an Education Law Practicum at her alma mater. Jackie will continue to represent students in special education proceedings while developing education policy and supervising law students clinical work.

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