WEAA-FM interviewed assistant director of advocacy Jessica Rae for a news feature about the difficulties Baltimore City students face getting to school. Not Present or Accounted For: The Attendance Crisis in Baltimore Schools also included interviews with several children in the Youth Achieving Potential program directed by Rae.
“What we find when we speak to the young people we work with, one of the biggest issues they’re worried about is education and access to school,” Jessica said in her interview. “When we talk about why they can’t get to school, they talk about buses driving past them, or not picking them up. They talk about what a hassle it is to get to school. They talk about being tired in school and unsuccessful, and obviously that’s a barrier that we would like to remove.”
Maryland Legal Aid staff attorney Sarah Morgan
Staff attorney Sarah Morgan‘s letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun appeared today, a follow-up to an article earlier this week about Baltimore Co. schools requiring proof of residency before students can be enrolled for the new school year. “Prudence alone suggests that school system should undertake an investigation of residency and allow the child to remain in school in the interim,” Morgan wrote. “That way, the county would avoid removing children from school who may actually live in the county and have the right to attend county schools. Baltimore County’s new policy is also troubling because of its apparent disregard for basic due process rights.” Read the entire letter here
With the approach of the new school year only weeks away, Maryland Legal Aid and other legal advocates presented a training for lawyers and paralegals who will assist parents, guardians, and other caregivers with problems getting children enrolled in public schools.
“We know a lot of kids and their families will have problems enrolling in school,” said Sarah Morgan, a Legal Aid staff attorney who works on education issues. “Lots of kids are living with relatives, plus many kids in foster care have trouble enrolling in school when they change living locations. Also, homeless kids face unique barriers to enrollment and have special protections under federal law, including the right to stay in their old school if they move out of the school’s zone.”
The training for advocates, held earlier this month in Columbia, included presentations from lawyers from Legal Aid, the Public Justice Center (which produced a video on the rights of homeless students) and the Homeless Persons Representation Project.
In addition, a panel of Legal Aid lawyers reviewed some difficult school enrollment cases they’ve handled over the years.
“Every kid has the right to be in school,” Morgan said. “But often times they need a lawyer to help them through the bureaucracy and red tape. It’s critical that children not miss a day of schooling, especially at the beginning of the school year.”
Morgan also updated a brochure, “Enrolling Children in Baltimore City Schools: Know Your Rights,” that explains rights and procedures for parents, guardians and caregivers. For a copy, call Morgan at 410/951-7729.