Nina Terebessy

  • Hosted by Legal Aid Chicago
  • Sponsored by AbbVie Inc., Kirkland & Ellis
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Nina provided legal representation to students in grades K–12 who experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault.

An investigation into Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2018 uncovered a widespread failure to identify and appropriately address sexual misconduct and violence perpetrated against students. School-related gender-based violence can significantly affect a student’s mental and physical health, often negatively influencing academic outcomes. Nina’s project addressed the educational rights of these students through direct representation in Title IX and related matters. Because young people who have experienced sexual harassment and violence often have overlapping legal needs related to their trauma, Nina also provided support around special education and school discipline issues. As Title IX is often misunderstood or overlooked in K–12 educational settings, this project addressed a significant gap in legal services in the Chicago area.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Nina:

  • Provided direct representation and brief legal services to nearly 60 students, including working with schools to create or redevelop IEP/504 Plans and safety plans, advocating against push-out to alternative schools, assistance with the Title IX grievance process, representation in state court for students seeking protective orders, and support during remote learning
  • Designed and launched a project analyzing the policies and procedures of public school districts in Cook County to evaluate for compliance with Title IX
  • Offered Title IX trainings to students and other advocacy organizations and presented at a national education conference

Next Steps

Nina is now a staff attorney at Legal Aid Chicago, where she will continue practicing in the areas of education and sexual violence.

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