Tovah Pentelovitch

  • Hosted by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Texas Access to Justice Foundation
  • Service location Austin, Texas
  • Law school The University of Texas School of Law
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2015
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Tovah curbed problematic use of Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs in Austin and underserved regions through outreach and representation of most at-risk students in school disciplinary proceedings.

Placement into Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEP) often serves as a defining push down the school-to-prison pipeline for at-risk students. DAEPs in Texas are associated with high recidivism and school dropout rates, as well as juvenile justice system involvement. The Texas Education Code requires students be placed in DAEPs only under limited circumstances and also limits the bases for discretionary removals to DAEPs. Yet, the vast majority of removals in Texas are for discretionary reasons, indicating that many students are being placed into oft-problematic and under-performing DAEPs when other less extreme and alienating disciplinary measures are available. Disciplinary proceedings themselves can be confusing and overwhelming for students and parents. Representation will help demystify the process while ensuring fair and legal hearings with the best possible educational outcomes for students.

Fellowship Highlights

During Tovah’s Fellowship, Tovah:

  • Activated a network of service providers to build a client base in Austin, Texas and begin building a network in Laredo and Del Rio using contacts already established by regional TRLA attorneys
  • Developed and disseminated user-friendly “Know Your Rights In School Disciplinary Proceedings” material
  • Began providing direct representation in school disciplinary proceedings in Austin

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