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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


Special Education

Equip for Equality launched a statewide Special Education Clinic to promote parental involvement in educational decisions that affect their students and to empower them to be more effective advocates for their students working in partnership with their schools.  When parental advocacy is not sufficient, the clinic provides hands-on legal help in school negotiations, administrative hearings and, in rare instances, in court.

The National Council on Disability, in a 2011 report to the president and Congress, recognized the Parent Helpline at the Special Education Clinic as a promising state practice.  The council and others see the clinic design as having promise for other states seeking innovative ways to support parents of special education students so they can improve the lives of their students and do so at lower cost.

Recent case highlights and accomplishments

  • Staying in school with the help he needs:  A 16-year-old student, who recently underwent surgery and required feeding tubes, was able to remain at his local school —  rather than at a segregated residential placement recommended by the school district —  because they did not have a one-on-one nurse available. His parent advocated for his rights with the school with advice provided by the Parent Helpline.
  • Preventing unnecessary segregation of young girl:  A 6-year-old girl with autism was able to remain in her neighborhood kindergarten classroom — instead of the school district’s recommended segregated school 30 miles away — after the clinic represented her in a due process hearing.
  • Spanish-language support provided:  The clinic helped a 3-year-old student with a developmental delay receive Spanish support and an extra year of speech and language therapy to make up for the time he went without critical native language help.
  • Keeping a student in school: An eighth-grade student with depression was being expelled by his school for behavior related to his disability. The clinic was able to have the expulsion hearing dismissed, and the boy was able to remain at the school.  By participating in a follow-up individualized education program meeting, the clinic ensured that the student had an appropriate school placement and the proper help to succeed.
  • Protecting students at Chicago charter schools:  The clinic found that most Chicago charter schools failed to comply with discipline protections, violating the rights of students in special education. The clinic negotiated with the charter schools and Chicago Public Schools, which now comply with the law.
  • Pre-school reforms secured at the Lake Zurich school system:  The clinic helped a preschool student obtain a blended preschool program in Lake Zurich so she could have an inclusive education. Then we negotiated for broader reforms. Lake Zurich agreed to create a permanent, blended preschool program so all students may benefit from this educational setting in the future.


Last updated: May 04, 2018

This website is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.

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