Equip For Equality Attorneys Holding Office Hours at Jacksonville Library for Garrison School Parents, Students This Week

By Benjamin Cox on October 16, 2023 at 6:46am

An area law firm working on behalf of a human rights advocacy group will be in Jacksonville next week to talk to parents and students at Garrison School.

The Journal Courier reports that Equip for Equality is sending attorneys specializing in the rights of students with disabilities to the Jacksonville Public Library. Representatives of Latham & Watkins law firm working on behalf of Equip for Equality will be available from noon until 5 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Thursday, and 9 a.m. until noon Friday.

They will be available to talk to families about their student’s Individualized Education Program as well as any concerns about their education. Among the topics to be addressed at the meetings include getting better academic and social/emotional help at school; not getting suspended or expelled; and getting skills to go to college, work, and live independently. Walk-ins are welcome. The agency said if parents have copies of their child’s most recent Individualized Education Program and school evaluation, attorneys can review them and give feedback.

Jessica Allen, communications senior manager of Latham & Watkins, told the Journal Courier that the work is not associated with the investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. In February, an attorney for the group sought names and contact information of parents or guardians of Garrison School students, citing what they say was probable cause for educational neglect and cases of students being harmed by the school’s practices.

The investigation by the Department of Education was prompted by an investigative report about Garrison’s volume of school-based arrests published by Pro Publica and the Chicago Tribune this past December.

After new training, the school has reported decreased police presence at the school and less incidents of interventions with students.

After Four Rivers provided parents’ contact information to Equip for Equality, the organization mailed letters and flyers to current Garrison School families inviting them to reach out to an attorney with the group. Since then, Allen told the Journal Courier that the law firm has been gathering information to provide support to students and families.

Tracey Fair, director of Four Rivers Special Education District which oversees Garrison, told the Journal Courier that she was unaware of the law firm’s upcoming visit. Fair told WLDS News last Monday that more social-emotional support for students has come in a variety of ways since the Pro Publica report’s release in December, citing a Community Partnership Grant from the Illinois State Board of Education and new leadership and practices at Garrison. Fair told the Journal Courier that if Equip for Equality finds specific issues in a student’s Individualized Education Program, the district would work to correct them.

Parents or guardians with questions about the law clinic may contact Cristina Kinsella at 618-984-8973 or email her at cristinak@equipforequality.org.