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, school discipline, and more.


What do Moran Center education attorneys do?

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

  • inadequate special education 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/Skokie 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’ educational rights.

Families interested in our services or with questions about your child’s education can call our main line (847-492-1410) to complete a prescreen 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 other week to get updates regarding your child’s progress.

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

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. ∎


Biography

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.

SBCLC ERASE Clinic Open to the Evanston Public June 30 at Robert Crown Branch Library

 The Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, in partnership with the Evanston Public Library, AbbVie, and Kirkland & Ellis, will hold a walk-in legal clinic Thursday, June 30 to help people in Evanston and the surrounding areas with sealing evictions and advise on the criminal record relief process.

Residents who wish to take advantage of the Enhance Record And Seal Evictions, or ERASE project, are welcome to meet with School-Based Civil Legal Clinic (SBCLC) volunteer attorneys from 3 – 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 30 at the Robert Crown Branch Library, 1801 Main Street in Evanston. Residents who have questions about the program can send an email to clinic@moran-center.org or call (224) 714-0348.

Having an eviction on your record, even when there has been no court judgment, can make it more difficult for renters to secure housing because the eviction lowers renters’ credit scores and often paints an unfair picture of renters’ ability to pay rent. A new Illinois Law, 735 ILCS 5/9-121.5, which became effective in May of 2021 and expires August 1, 2022, makes it easier to seal a prior eviction record. It does not prohibit landlords from obtaining a reference from a previous landlord, but having an eviction sealed can improve a credit store and make it easier to apply for a new rental agreement. This is not for tenants with a pending eviction. 

Through the ERASE Project, attorneys at the Moran Center will prepare the necessary paperwork free of charge on behalf of residents who wish to take advantage of this temporary law. The Moran Center will refer renters outside of Evanston to the Lawyer’s Committee For Better Housing. Moran Center expungement attorneys will also be available to advise and answer any questions about the process for criminal record relief.  Having a criminal record can also be a barrier to applying for housing.  

The ERASE Project is one of many programs at the Moran Center that helps dismantle systemic barriers to the health, safety, and well-being of young people and their families. One of the only legal aid agencies in the country to integrate legal and therapeutic services, the Moran Center provides community-based legal, social work, and restorative services for youth and families. 

Since its founding in 1981, the Moran Center has been a champion for thousands of disinvested youth and families. The Center’s holistic, healing-centered, client-driven approach advances our vision of a more just, racially equitable, and restorative society.

Download the flyer for the June 30 ERASE Clinic:

My City • Your City • OUR CITY

Safe spaces for our young people from the Evanston Collective

A year ago, Evanston’s youth-serving organizations united in response to escalating youth violence in our community to launch the “My City, Your City, Our City” Safe Summer Initiative. We employed young people to select and approve the activities. We centered their voices. We paid them for their wisdom and energy. Collectively, we then hosted six BLOCK (“Bringing Love to Our City and Kids”) parties and four community-wide events (“First Fridays”). We opened up Fleetwood-Jourdain and Robert Crown, providing safe, public spaces for youth to gather throughout the summer. More than 500 young people regularly attended these events. We held 79 consecutive days and nights of programming. And due in part to this effort, Evanston experienced 0 cases of gun-related, youth violence last summer.

As we prepare for this summer, we recognize the urgency and importance of coming together and providing safe, engaging spaces for youth. Over the past several months, we’ve lost five youth to gun violence, countless other youth have experienced interpersonal, institutional, and communal violence, and three nooses recently dangled in a tree in front of our schools.

As our youth’s attorneys, case managers, coaches, counselors, healthcare providers, and mentors – as their adults – we commit to getting more proximate to our kids this summer. We commit to centering their voices, and their needs. And we, the white members of this coalition, commit to holding ourselves accountable for the scourge of white supremacy which continues to infect everything from our institutions to our personal interactions.

Many in our community are asking right now ‘what can I do?’ Join us. Answer our call to connect and get proximate. Start by attending the First Friday event on Friday, June 3rd from 6-9 pm at Mason Park. Wear orange in recognition of Gun Violence Prevention Day.  Then, join us at one of the many other community events happening this summer…

  • Community Building Equity Summit, Friday, June 10th, Mason Park, 10 am-2 pm
  • Juneteenth Celebration, Saturday, June 18th, Robert Crown (Parade) annd Ingraham Park (Concert), 10 am-6 pm
  • First Friday, July 1st, Mason Park, 5-9 pm
  • National Night Out, Tuesday, August 2nd, Clark Street Beach-Arrington Lagoon, 4-9 pm
  • First Friday, August 5th, Mason Park, 5-9 pm
  • Back to School Event, Saturday, August 13th, Mason Park, 2-6 pm

Tell all the high schoolers in your lives to drop in at Gibbs-Morrison Monday-Friday from 6-9 pm; encourage high school and middle school youth to come by Fleetwood-Jordain on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6-9 pm beginning Monday, June 6th and Robert Crown on Fridays from 6-9 pm. And check out the City of Evanston’s Safe Summer webpage for updated information about My City, Your City, Our City throughout the season.

Not only are we again providing safe, public spaces and a full calendar of activities, but we are also working together to create youth-led communal systems of accountability where young people agree on shared values and ways we treat each other in public spaces. Rather than exclusion and shunning, we will support young people to acknowledge the harms they’ve caused and communally decide on how to repair those harms.

We know that when young people are connected to – and invested in – their community, they are far more likely to be their best selves. When they are heard, valued, and centered, they are highly motivated to remain in community. Connectedness keeps them and all of us safe.

In Proximity,

The City of Evanston’s Youth & Young Adult Division

Connections for the Homeless

Curt’s Café

Erie Family Health Centers

Infant Welfare Society of Evanston

James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy

PEER Services

Youth Job Center

Youth & Opportunity United

Evanston Cradle to Career

 

And How Are the Children?

A reflection for Gun Violence Awareness Day

Among the many fabled tribes of Africa, no tribe had more fearsome or mightier warriors than the Masai. The Masai warriors traditionally greeted each other by asking, “And how are the children?” Even warriors with no children of their own responded with, “All the children are well.” This greeting meant, of course, that peace and safety prevailed; that the Masai faithfully honored their reason for being, their proper function, and their responsibilities.
An excerpt adapted from a sermon by Reverend Dr. Patrick T. O’Neill, First Parish, Framingham, MA (1991).

Imagine if we greeted each other with that question today, “And how are the children?” The truthful answer would be, “Our children are suffering!”

Our children are suffering, terrified by yet another school shooting.

Our children are suffering, reeling from the isolation and fear brought on by the pandemic.

And our children are suffering, harmed by the insidiousness of white supremacy, engendering institutional and interpersonal violence, including gun violence.

How do we know our children are suffering? Because they’re telling us! Some of our children are responding to their pain in the most human of ways – by causing harm. When Black and Brown children act out, however, community members – specifically white community members – respond with fear. They demand the surveillance and exclusion of Black and Brown youth and the enforcement of “Zero Tolerance” policies that perpetuate systemic wrongs. But, when Black and Brown children are persecuted, our community has demonstrated that they’re willing to tolerate such persecution. Where was the fear, the outrage, the demand for absolute punishment and expulsion, when nooses hung from a tree out in front of our schools?

As professionals whose role it is to zealously advocate for all of our children, we fervently reject “Zero Tolerance” as public policy, and demand unequivocally that it not be applied when responding to children’s behavior. Our children are simply manifesting the world around them – a world that adults, and expressly white adults, created for them. “Zero Tolerance” does the opposite of holding children accountable. Exclusion scapegoats children and enables us—the adults—to evade responsibility for addressing the roots of our children’s actions. “Zero Tolerance” policies do not keep communities safe. The most credible research tells us what keeps communities safe: children feeling connected to at least one adult in their school; being engaged in their community; basic human needs of food and shelter being met. Read the Moran Center’s recent report, “Reimaging School Safety” which captures this research in the school context, laying out alternative, restorative solutions and approaches to harm.

Yes, we need to hold all of our children accountable for the harms they’ve caused. How? By being trustworthy adults; by listening to them; by meeting the needs of their families; by creating solutions with, not for, them; by creating supportive environments where they can face the harms they’ve caused honestly, and hear from those they’ve harmed; by creating restorative, community-based solutions based on the wisdom and experience of community members most impacted; and by valuing the principle that no child – no one – should be reduced to the worst thing they’ve ever done.

And we adults must hold ourselves accountable too! To the white people asking “What can we do? How can we stem gun violence? How can we combat the hatred symbolized by those nooses hanging outside our schools?” It’s the same answer to all of these questions: We must confront racism, white supremacy, and opportunity hoarding within ourselves, within our families, and within our community. We must challenge our white neighbors, friends, and family members to confront their vast privileges and dig deep into the hard truths of what it truly means to see all of our children as our own. Let’s do this work with urgency so that we can then say with honesty and certainty that all our children are, in fact, well!

Patrick Keenan-Devlin

Executive Director

 

Moran Center to Host Legal Clinics to Help Erase Convictions

SBCLC ERASE Clinics Open to the Evanston Public March 15 and 17 

Evanston, Illinois–The Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, in partnership with the Evanston Library, will hold two walk-in legal clinics March 15 and 17 to help people in Evanston and the surrounding areas to take advantage of a new Illinois State law that allows them to remove prior evictions from their record. Residents who wish to take advantage of the Enhance Record and Seal Evictions, or ERASE project, are welcome to meet with School-Based Civil Legal Clinic (SBCLC) volunteer attorneys from 3 – 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15 at the Robert Crown Branch Library, 1801 Main Street in Evanston. A second clinic will be held from 3 – 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 17 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St. in Evanston. Residents who have questions about the program can send an email to clinic@moran-center.org call (224) 714-0348.

Having an eviction on your record, even when there has been no Court judgment, can make it more difficult for renters to rent again given that the eviction lowers renters’ credit scores and often paints an unfair picture of renters’ ability to pay rent. A new Illinois Law, 735 ILCS 5/9-121.5, which became effective in May of 2021, makes it easier to seal a prior eviction record.  It does not prohibit landlords from obtaining a reference from a previous landlord, but having an eviction sealed can improve a credit store and make it easier to apply for a new rental agreement. This is not for tenants with a pending eviction. 

Through the ERASE Project, attorneys at the Moran Center will prepare the necessary paperwork free of charge on behalf of residents who wish to take advantage of this law. The Moran Center will refer renters outside of Evanston to the Lawyer’s Committee For Better Housing.  

The ERASE Project is one of many programs at the Moran Center that helps dismantle systemic barriers to the health, safety, and well-being of young people and their families. One of the only legal aid agencies in the country to integrate legal and therapeutic services, the Moran Center provides community-based legal, social work, and restorative services for youth and families. 

Since its founding in 1981, the Moran Center has been a champion for thousands of disinvested youth and families. The Center’s holistic, healing-centered, client-driven approach advances our vision of a more just, racially equitable, and restorative society. For additional information, please visit moran-center.org. 

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Panel Recording on Restorative Justice Available for Viewing

MORAN CENTER RELEASES PANEL RECORDING ON RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
Conversation with Restorative Judges Who Are Reshaping Justice
Now Available for the Public 

Evanston, Illinois–On November 22, the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy hosted a virtual panel featuring four Chicago-area judges who have presided over Restorative Justice Courts and/or widely promoted the practice: Judge Sophia H. Hall, Judge Martha A Mills (Retired), Judge Sheila M. Murphy (Retired), and Judge Patricia S. Pratt. The panel, which was presented to an exclusive list of area stakeholders in the legal and social services sectors, was received enthusiastically, and the Moran Center recently posted the recording of the panel for the public to view.

In the panel discussion, the Judges described how they work and have worked with their communities to embed restorative philosophy and practice into their court practices, and shared their perspectives about the transformative power of restorative justice. Biographies for the featured panelists are also available on the Moran Center’s website. The panel was moderated by the Moran Center’s Restorative Justice Manager Pamela Cytrynbaum and Community Engagement Specialist Raymond Lackey.

Executive Director Patrick Keenan-Devlin said, “We’ve come to recognize at the Moran Center that as attorneys and social workers we’re only bandaids on systemic, gaping wounds. If we really want to transform our community and make a real change in the criminal legal system, everyone needs to be a part of it, and that is where restorative justice comes in. And these judges are truly leading the way.”

The program was presented by the Roger Pascal Restorative Justice Initiative, named for the late Schiff Hardin Partner and long-time Moran Center Board Member Roger Pascal, a tireless supporter of justice and civil liberties. 

Since its founding in 1981, the Moran Center has been a champion for thousands of disinvested youth and families. Our holistic, healing-centered, client-driven approach advances our vision of a more just, racially equitable, and restorative society. For additional information, please visit our website at moran-center.org

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MORAN CENTER FOR YOUTH ADVOCACY RELEASES REIMAGINING SCHOOL SAFETY REPORT

The Moran Center releases report outlining recommendations to create a safer, more restorative, and racially equitable school community at Evanston Township High School (“ETHS”); urges ETHS to remove the two Police Officers from campus.

Evanston, Ill.–The Moran Center for Youth Advocacy has announced the release of its comprehensive report about school safety at Evanston Township High School (ETHS), Reimagining School Safety—Recommendations to Create Safer, More Restorative, and Racially Equitable School Community. In the report, the Moran Center presents a vision to reimagine school safety at ETHS by terminating its Intergovernmental Agreement with the City of Evanston for the assignment of on-campus School Resource Officers (“SROs”) and building an infrastructure of support and restoration for each student at ETHS. The report is being released in advance of a discussion regarding ETHS’s School Resource Officer Program at the December 13th ETHS School Board meeting.

In the Reimagining School Safety report, the Moran Center presents relevant national research that calls into question School Resource Officer Programs based on school safety, academic, and social-emotional metrics. The report also recaps key findings from recently reported SRO and arrest data at ETHS, illustrating the disparate racial impact of ETHS’s SRO Program. The report also outlines concerns regarding ETHS’s overreliance on punitive discipline policies and highlights three specific policies that disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities, pushing these students into the school-to-prison pipeline. Ultimately, the Reimagining School Safety report presents proven alternative models for building a safer, more restorative, and racially equitable school community at ETHS.

As community-based juvenile and emerging adult defenders, as advocates for children with special needs, as social workers, and as restorative justice practitioners, the Moran Center is uniquely positioned to provide input on ETHS’s SRO Program, discipline policies, and their impact on Black and Brown students and students with disabilities. Moran Center Executive Director Patrick Keenan-Devlin said, “It is our hope that this report will both inform the community about the harmful impact of SROs and certain discipline policies at ETHS, as well as communicate our vision for reimagining school safety by prioritizing restorative justice, trauma-informed practices, and robust mental health services.”

The Reimagining School Safety report has been previously shared with the ETHS School Board, members of ETHS’s administration, and ETHS’s Discipline Committee and SRO Subcommittee. The Moran Center has had staff members serve on both committees.

The Moran Center for Youth Advocacy provides community-based legal, social work, and restorative services for youth and families. Our approach is holistic, healing-centered, client-driven. Our work advances the vision of a more just, racially equitable, and restorative society at the local, regional, and state level. As part of our work, the Moran Center advocates for Evanston youth to ensure that they receive an equitable education with the educational supports and services they need.

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