August 29, 2017 - The Educational Advocacy Project (EAP) advises parents and caregivers about their legal rights concerning education. The Project helps parents obtain needed educational services and testing, attends school meetings with the parent, and represents parents in mediation, due process hearings, and other administrative hearings.
The Project team consists of Supervising Attorney Melissa Duncan, Staff Attorneys Erica Sonn and Rayni Bienenfeld, Paralegal Tatum Coutee, and Education Advocate Deborah Berger. They work tirelessly to keep parents informed about their rights to access educational opportunities for their students. The Palm Beach County School District is so large that the Project does as many community outreach programs as possible to help educate parents and guardians about their students’ rights. The Project team has developed a Tool Kit to assist parents and students. Their goal is that the Tool Kit will help parents access school services, know where to turn when there is a problem and to improve their concept of family/school relationships. (see more on the Tool Kit in the article below)
In an effort to assist more clients, EAP created a Continuing Legal Education class with the 15th Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee and held this class for pro bono attorneys who expressed interest in taking on Educational Advocacy project cases. They hope to hold more classes and get more pro bono attorneys working for EAP clients.
In addition to providing assistance in civil education matters such as special education, disability accommodations, services for students with learning disabilities and physical/developmental disabilities, they also help with evaluations, early intervention services, school registration and enrollment, transportation, homeless children, and immigrant children. They are working to try to change the system as a whole. In an effort to do so, they also work with the Southern Poverty Law Center to monitor an agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Palm Beach County School District regarding services for English Language Learner students and use of police in educational settings.
EAP also helps students incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice System, county jail, Florida Department of Corrections, and residential mental health settings.The Project is funded by the Children’s Services Council, Palm Beach County, the Willits Foundation, GL Homes, The Florida Bar Foundation, Wells Fargo, and the Young Lawyers Section of the Palm Beach County Bar Association.