Leslie Alvarez

  • Hosted by Disability Rights Texas
  • Sponsored by Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • Service location McAllen, Texas
  • Law school St. Mary’s University School of Law
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Leslie advocates on behalf of children with disabilities in South Texas to ensure access to Early Childhood Intervention and Special Education services.

A child’s education is the backbone of their intellectual and social development, and it may determine the quality of life they will get to enjoy as an adult. The supports and services a child with a disability receives before and during their K-12 education are critical to their development. Despite the importance of these services and the rising numbers of children with disabilities, there has been a significant decline in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) funding per enrolled child. Additionally, special education services in Texas have had a history of being underfunded and under-supported. Children with disabilities in South Texas are more vulnerable to the negative systemic effect of the underfunding of services because of the language and cultural barriers that exist in a predominantly Hispanic community.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

So far during the Fellowship, Leslie has:

  • Helped over 20 families of very young children with disabilities have access to appropriate special education supports and services
  • Filed and successfully settled a due process complaint in a special education matter in which a child with a disability was being denied access to services
  • Developed and published an entire page of Early Childhood Intervention information and resources in English and Spanish on Disability Rights Texas’ website (www.disabilityrightstx.org/en/category/eci/)
  • Collaborated with the community and statewide organizations to conduct presentations on Early Childhood Intervention and Special Education, reaching over 1,000 attendees including parents of children with disabilities, school staff who work with students with disabilities, ECI program staff, other professionals who work with young children with disabilities and low income, immigrant communities
  • Collaborating with 12 groups, including pediatric hospitals and other non-profits serving the immigrant and disability community, to expand the reach and impact of the project

Next Steps

In the next year, Leslie plans to:

  • Represent more families in special education meetings and due process proceedings, as well as file a systemic complaint
  • Continue to partner with local and statewide organizations to expand outreach by conducting presentations and distributing resources

Media

Texas Access to Justice Commission honors St. Mary’s Law for pro bono service

My brother has taught me how to embrace diversity and differences through compassion and service, and my family’s experience with my brother’s disability has taught me the power of being relentless in the pursuit of justice.

Leslie Alvarez /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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