4 Back-To-School Tips from Education Attorneys

Do you know your child’s education rights?

Our Education Advocacy Program (EAP) attorneys are here with a few pointers for parents of diverse learners who are eager to help their children succeed.

With the new school year in full swing, the Moran Center’s Education Advocacy Program (EAP) is available to help you and your student navigate the special education system, individualized education programs (IEPs), school discipline, and more.

What do Moran Center education attorneys do?

We provide legal advice and representation to families and students in Evanston and Rogers Park facing:

  • inadequate special education/diverse learner services;
  • suspension, expulsions, and other discipline issues;
  • bullying, harassment, and discrimination;
  • compensatory education and recovery services issues; and
  • other school-related issues

We also offer Know Your Rights trainings on the special education/diverse learner system and school discipline rights for both families and community organizations in Evanston and Rogers Park.

Can we help your child?

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you want the Moran Center to offer a Know Your Rights training to your organization or families you serve to learn more about parents’ and students’ basic education rights.

Families interested in our services or with questions about your child’s education can call our main line (847-492-1410) to complete an intake. We can also support non-English speaking families through a language line or a Spanish-speaking attorney. 

Our Advice for the School Year

To start the year off right, see below for some of our top tips to support your student this school year.

1. Communicate (via email and/or phone) with your child’s teachers and service providers at least every one to two weeks to get updates regarding your child’s progress.

2. Schools must provide parents/caregivers with draft IEPs and evaluations reports at least three (3) school days prior to a child’s IEP meeting—make sure the IEP team sends you these documents in time so you have time to review before the meeting

3. During your child’s IEP meeting:

  •  take notes, or bring someone with you to help take notes;
  •  ask the team to start the meeting with your child’s strengths;
  •  bring someone to support your viewpoint;
  •  ask questions!
  • don’t be afraid to disagree, but come to the meeting open to creative and collaborative solutions.
  • The bottom line: you are the most important member of your student’s IEP team

4. If it’s not written down, it didn’t or won’t happen! Be sure any agreements you make with your child’s IEP team are included in the IEP document.

We look forward to working with you this year and providing more families with holistic, community-based educational advocacy in Rogers Park and Evanston!

The Moran Center Education Advocacy Team is:

The EAP team is Luca Guacci (he/they pronouns) Managing Attorney, and Sarah Frudden (She/they pronouns) - Staff Attorney, Evanston, and Andy Froelich (he/him pronouns) Staff-Attorney, Rogers Park

Historic IL Supreme Court Ruling to End Cash Bail Dismantles Economic Barriers to Justice

July 18, 2023

Today, Illinois became the first state to eliminate cash bail. 

“The Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling today is a victory for all Illinois citizens and we support the Court’s decision,” Tom Verdun, Director of Legal Services at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, said.

“It means that most individuals and families in Illinois will not have their lives upended if an individual or a family member is charged with a criminal offense.”

The Moran Center for Youth Advocacy works to build a restorative community, and champions a more equitable criminal legal system. The Moran Center is proud to have served the Evanston community since 1972 and acknowledges that since our founding, the rate of pretrial detention (jailing someone before they go to trial) has multiplied more than 5x what it was forty years ago.

The Pretrial Fairness Act is one step toward correcting the disparate impact of wealth-based jailing, disproportionately impacting Black families in Illinois. Ending money bonds disrupts the system of jailing individuals before trial because of their own economic status, which has been shown to lead to inequalities in justice and affect opportunities for success after incarceration.

To quote the Illinois Record for Pretrial Justice, “[g]iving people the opportunity to stay in their communities while awaiting trial will enable them to keep their jobs, housing and custody of their children, making us all safer. In 2020, Illinois collected more than $120 million in bond money. Ending wealth-based jailing will ensure that families are no longer forced to forego paying rent or to pool funds together to free their loved ones from county jails and will keep desperately needed resources in our communities.”

The Moran Center is committed to providing Evanston youth and their families with the support to successfully emerge from challenging legal situations, tools to make positive life choices, and the ability to thrive in the community.  We are grateful for the passionate network of advocates, legal and mental health professionals, community leaders, and allies who amplify this effort to champion justice and build a more restorative community.

“Today’s ruling is a tremendous legal victory for our clients and community,” Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Executive Director of the Moran Center said. “Pre-trial liberty will not just be a privilege of the wealthy in the State of Illinois.” ∎

My First 30 Days at the Moran Center

A Restorative Start for this Director of Development & Communications

By Rachel J. Solomon (she/her)

image of woman with brown curly hair smiling and wearing a red shirt, this is rachel the author of this piece

I’m honored to introduce myself as the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy’s new Director of Development & Communications!

I’m an advocate, dog and cat lover, hip-hop head, and Rogers Park-transplant by way of Richmond, Virginia. My passion is raising funds and awareness for drivers of positive social change, having supported remarkable programs in the past that ensure fair housing opportunity, build families through adoption, advocate for survivors of violence, protect animal welfare, and elevate independent media.

I began at the Moran Center on June 1 and an inspiring 30 days followed, introducing me to both the Moran Center and the needs and history of the Evanston community as a whole.

My first week, I was introduced to Evanston Cradle to Career – our community’s collective impact organization. Visiting Evanston’s community hub at 2010 Dewey Street, I marveled at the volume of community-based lifelines centralized in the Foster School building. Weeks later, we celebrated the site dedication for the 5th Ward’s new school, a triumph in educational access for Evanston children.

While youth and emerging adult defense is the cornerstone of the Moran Center, I quickly learned about the breadth of other legal services as well as the agency’s integrated mental health and restorative justice services. The holistic model at the Moran Center recognizes that families can face multiple legal challenges at once, often while still processing traumatic experiences.

The Moran Center’s School-Based Civil Legal Clinic represents families confronting destabilizing events like eviction and child custody disputes. The Criminal Record Relief team removes barriers to employment, housing, and education to support individuals achieve a fresh start.

 “Meet clients where they are” is a restorative mantra at the Moran Center, and I learned that it’s been adopted as a literal approach, too. Adapting to the pandemic lockdown, Moran Center Social Workers began offering (and still offer) “therapeutic walks” to make mental health support more accessible to Evanston youth.

In advocating for individualized learning, evaluations, and environmental accommodations, the Education Advocacy Program gives children managing learning disabilities, mental health challenges, and/or trauma real access to the classroom. Also – this Evanston program is being piloted in my neighborhood!

My month of discovery ended with a three-day staff retreat and training on restorative practices. I learned that relationships are at the core of restorative practices and they are definitely at the core of the Moran Center. ∎


Rachel J. Solomon (she/her) is the Director of Development & Communications at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. With more than a decade of experience in nonprofit fundraising, media and community engagement, Rachel’s purpose is to fuel community advocacy through philanthropy. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and AFP Chicago; and AFP Chicago’s LGBTQIA+ Affinity Group. Rachel volunteers as a therapy dog handler with individuals managing PTSD and substance use recovery, and loves exploring Chicago’s restaurants, music venues, and independent movie theaters.

Moran Center Education Attorney to be Awarded Chicago Bar Fellowship

Andy Froelich, Equal Justice Works Fellow at the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, will receive the prestigious $25,000 Kimball R. Anderson and Karen Gatsis Anderson Public Interest Law Fellowship from the Chicago Bar Association and Chicago Bar Foundation.

Froelich and six other awardees will be publicly acknowledged at the CBA & CBF Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon at the Hilton Chicago on Thursday, July 20, 2023 at 12:00 p.m. CT.

Each year the CBF partners with The Chicago Bar Association to recognize exemplary attorneys in the Chicago legal community. The CBF annually awards one Public Interest Law Fellowship, selecting an individual who demonstrates a commitment to public interest work, academic achievement in law school, and outstanding character & integrity.

“Andy’s big heart is uniquely coupled with his keen legal and community organizing skills,” Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Executive Director of the Moran Center, said. “This has resulted in both personal victories for young people and tangible programmatic achievements to the advancement of restorative justice.”

Starting as a Law Clerk at the Moran Center in January 2020, Froelich was selected for an Equal Justice Works fellowship in 2021 to fund the expansion of the Moran Center’s Education Advocacy Program (EAP) to pilot services in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago.

The goal of this community-based program is to create greater access to education opportunity by providing free legal services to low-income families of youth facing special education and school discipline challenges. Services range from representing students with special needs in obtaining the services they need to succeed in school, to advocating for students facing exclusion from school, as well as equipping caregivers with tools to advocate for their child’s educational rights

Froelich, who works side-by-side with social workers and restorative justice practitioners to advance the Moran Center’s holistic approach to criminal justice form, said the Rogers Park pilot has been an important contribution to education advocacy in Illinois.

“This project has continuously affirmed that comprehensive and community-based education advocacy provides one of the greatest tools a community has to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline,” Froelich said.

In the first year of this pilot, Froelich provided legal representation to 20 children, offered 10 community-based “Know Your Rights” workshops, and attended 45 meetings with 10 partner organizations to build meaningful institutional connections within Rogers Park.

The CBF is the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association, and the largest voluntarily supported bar foundation in the country. The generous contributions of thousands of dedicated individuals, more than 200 law firms and corporations, and many other committed partners make the CBF’s work possible. Thanks to that strong support, the CBF awards more than $2 million in grants each year and plays a lead role in a number of innovative access to justice initiatives. 

The James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy (“Moran Center”) provides integrated legal, social work, and restorative justice services to disinvested youth and their families to improve their quality of life at home, at school, and within the community. For more information, visit moran-center.org