Ameil Kenkare

The Project

Ameil (he/him/his) will fight for actualized student potential in the classroom by combatting exclusionary discipline policies at the individual and systemic levels in the return to in-person learning era of Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Black and Brown students were six times more likely to be expelled or suspended than their White, CPS peers. Among these exclusions, charter schools were responsible for 19 of the top 20 expulsion rates in CPS in 2018. This was happening before COVID-19 laid bare disparities for CPS and low-income students, particularly students of color. Because of the substantial learning equity issues raised during the remote learning period, many CPS schools may feel pressure to ‘play catch-up’ through harsh policies meant to cut down on distractions. Return to in-person learning cannot be a return to business-as-usual practices with exclusionary discipline, and specifically within charter schools, which have more autonomy to practice punitive measures.

Ameil taught U.S. History and English on the Westside of Chicago at a public charter school for four years. He also served as a four-year advisor to a male advisory and coached the boys’ soccer team.

Fellowship Plans

Ameil will represent students directly, working with community and legal organizations to gain a stronger understanding of the post-COVID-19 landscape in learning and disciplinary policies. Additionally, he will conduct Know Your Rights trainings for families, engage in policy advocacy, and potentially bring complaints of widespread rights violations to state and federal government oversight bodies.

Media

Combatting Exclusionary Disciplinary Policies Towards Students

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.

The Project

Alyssa advocated and provided legal assistance for the educational rights of homeless students in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs through outreach, community education and direct representation.

Homeless students face significant obstacles in accessing education, forced to transfer schools numerous times, and an inability to get transportation to school. The suburbs of Chicago have seen a dramatic increase in poverty rates that accounted for almost half the statewide increase. Due to the needs and demand the Law Project’s ability to serve suburban homeless students and ability to serve students trying to access selective enrollment schools and preschools is limited.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Alyssa has:

  • Conducted 42 trainings about educational rights for homeless youth at schools, shelters, townships, youth service providers and transitional housing programs
  • Assisted 124 students with immediate enrollment in school, access to transportation services to and from school, preschool programs, financial aid, fee waivers and credit recovery
  • Distributed over 31,596 informational materials on educational rights for homeless youth and children throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs
  • Attended 58 community outreach events and back to school fairs where she engaged with community members and school personal

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Alyssa plans to continue her project’s work as the Education Attorney at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Alyssa will continue to advocate for the educational rights of homeless students in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs with an emphasis on access to preschool and option schools including selective enrollment, charter and magnet schools.