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Our Practice Areas

Educational Equity Law

For more than three decades, attorneys at HSPRD, have counseled and represented students, parents, educators, and schools related to discrimination, inclusion, and educational parity. We protect students of all ages from discriminatory policies and practices focused on race, gender identity, and disability. Our team has won groundbreaking victories in desegregation and racial equity cases and assisted many families facing gender discrimination, obtaining special education services, and addressing school discipline. HSPRD has a proven track record of vigorous advocacy and thoughtful solutions that ensure safe learning environments at elementary, middle and high schools and institutions of higher education across the state.

HSPRD attorneys advise families facing a wide range of educational challenges, including matters related to special education, bilingual and gifted programs, Individualized Educational Programs (IEP), gender or sexual orientation issues, disciplinary proceedings, and racial and ethnic inequities. From classrooms to restrooms to the playing field, our goal at HSPRD is to protect students’ dignity and preserve their right to a quality education in an inclusive environment. 

Our attorneys also worked with community groups to fight systemic racial and socioeconomic discrimination in Rockford, Illinois, in the 1990s with a lawsuit that became one of the largest school desegregation cases since Brown vs. Board of Education. HSPRD obtained a court order that effectively integrated African-American and Latino students into Rockford Public Schools. The judge also required the city to dedicate $300 million to new school construction in minority neighborhoods. HSPRD was lead trial counsel in the case, which resulted in some of the most extensive and detailed findings in the history of school desegregation litigation.

HSPRD represented several predominately African-American high school districts near Chicago to challenge a decision made by eleven predominately white school districts to secede from the South Inter-Conference Association (SICA) and form a predominantly white high school interscholastic conference. The split would have effectively ended regular season competition between majority-white and majority-African-American schools in the area. The groundbreaking case, one of the first to use the “effects test” of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, settled on terms that ensured integrated sports conferences.

Our attorneys counsel clients in education-related issues that arise under a variety of federal, state and constitutional laws, including:

  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, regarding race and national origin discrimination
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, regarding sex discrimination and harassment
  • U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights regulations and investigations
  • Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 regarding English language learners
  • McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990
  • Illinois Human Rights Act
  • Illinois Charter Schools Law
  • The United States and Illinois Constitutions
  • Illinois requirements around bullying, school discipline, gifted education, special education and anti-discrimination policies

 

HSPRD has additional expertise representing educational institutions on issues of equity, discrimination and inclusion. Our attorneys have expertise in how school districts, charter schools, colleges and universities on developing and implementing progressive and inclusive policies. We can review programs for compliance, provide training for staff and district leadership, help develop employee handbooks and conduct internal investigations and audits. Our lawyers can also assist with investigations by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and have experience with labor and contract matters.

Have a question?

Send us a message or call us at:
(312) 580-0100
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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you represent schools or students?

HSPRD has a history of working with both families and with schools to ensure that every student is treated fairly and receives a quality education. HSPRD does not provide traditional general legal services to schools or educational institutions, but instead focuses on issues of discrimination, equity, and inclusion related to students and employees. For each client, our focus is to efficiently resolve any immediate problem and to develop sustainable and progressive policies, practices, and systems that protect all students.

When should I contact an attorney about a school problem?

Many students and families face challenges at school with discipline, special education services, discrimination, or other issues. School discipline and special education matters in particular involve specific legal rules and requirements, and they can move quickly. There are many strategies for addressing the needs of students. Often the best response for a family is to resolve concerns directly with school staff, but those conversations are most successful when everyone understands the rights and responsibilities of the students and school. The sooner you have information about your legal rights, the better the likely outcomes for your student. Our attorneys frequently consult with clients early on to develop strategies to address problems, and become directly involved with education disputes to address systemic problems or when needed to formally protect legal rights. For educational institutions, HSPRD tackles specific issues related to equity or discrimination, either in response to a challenge or proactively to ensure every student is treated fairly.

Does the law protect students from discrimination on the basis of gender identity?

Yes. Both state and federal law protect provide legal protections for students. The Illinois Human Rights Act in particularly directly and explicitly protects students from discrimination, harassment, or exclusion on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. HSPRD attorneys have been at the forefront of supporting students and schools in including students of all gender identities and gender expressions across Illinois. Our attorneys represent students and work in collaboration with students, parents, staff of the Lurie Children’s Hospital Gender and Sex Development Program, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance, and other advocates to develop and promote affirming and inclusive policies and practices in schools

How are President Trump and Education Secretary DeVos changing the rights of students and requirements for schools?

The current administration in Washington DC has and is changing federal guidelines and regulations for civil rights investigations, sexual harassment investigations, and related issues. These changes largely impact how students and schools interact with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. The federal laws that protect students against discrimination generally have not changed and still provide students with many legal protections. Changes in federal law make it more important than ever that students and schools promptly seek legal advice. Illinois laws also provide robust protections and rights related to many education issues. These laws have not and do not change with the politics of Washington DC. School should take care to ensure they meet the latest federal and federal requirements as they protect the rights of all students.
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