Kel O’Hara

  • Hosted by Equal Rights Advocates
  • Sponsored by Intel Corporation, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
  • Service location San Jose, California
  • Law school University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  • Issue area LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Kel expanded support for LGBTQ student survivors of gender-based violence and harassment by bridging the gap between Title IX and queer youth justice through direct representation, outreach, and education.

Queer and trans students sit at the dangerous intersection of higher risks of gender-based violence and lower levels of institutional empathy. While the federal Educational Amendment known as Title IX requires schools to respond to allegations of sexual violence, many institutions are failing to meet their obligations under the law. This project increased legal support for LGBTQ students in the Santa Clara Unified School District and California State University system, and created a model for Title IX legal advocacy that can be replicated at schools across the country.

Kel’s Title IX advocacy started in response to their undergraduate institution mishandling sexual violence investigations. As a queer nonbinary survivor of campus violence and a former crisis counselor, they believe that meaningful, trauma-informed school remedies can empower students who have experienced harm and create an effective alternative to the legal system.

Fellowship Highlights

During Kel’s two-year EJW Fellowship, they:

  • Succeeded in getting Equal Rights Advocates to serve 400% more LGBTQ+ students over the course of their project than in the two years prior.
  • Supported federal litigation challenging the 2020 Title IX regulations that successfully struck down provisions excluding essential evidence and forcing nonparties to submit to cross-examination, benefitting up to ~8 million undergraduate survivors.
  • Created robust Title IX guides and LGBTQ+ education resources for student survivors and allies that will reach an estimated ~40,000 students online and ~150,000 students in schools over the next year.
  • Worked with Sacramento Unified School District to develop a comprehensive Trans and Gender Non-Confirming Student policy that will benefit the district’s ~40,000 students and serve as a model for other districts, as well as accompanying informational materials to assist district staff in educating teachers and parents on the importance of inclusive policies.

Next Steps

Kel will be staying on at Equal Rights as a staff attorney focused on supporting LGBTQ+ students under Title IX and exploring the use of alternative justice models to respond to sexual misconduct. They will expand their work to include survivors of other forms of gender-based discrimination and harassment at work and school, starting with advocacy to oppose legislation across the country that prohibits K-12 students who are transgender from participating on athletic teams that align with their gender identities.


Pandemic Lawyering: A Year in Review

Weinstein trial is a milestone for #MeToo and a moment of wrenching truth for survivors

What does Queer Justice look like?

Stepping Up Efforts to Support LGBTQ+ Clients in the COVID-19 Era

Reimagining Queer Justice

This Fellowship is a chance to be the advocate my friends and I never had.

Kel O'Hara /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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