Taking Action against Discriminatory Practices in Upper Dublin

Upper Dublin High School; Photo: Philly.com
We are supporting a group of African American parents in Upper Dublin in forcing the school district to remedy its discriminatory practices, which result in higher out-of-school suspension rates for black students and disproportionately place black students in lower level curricular programs. According to the complaint we helped parents file on November 23, during the 2014-2015 school year, nearly 45% of out-of-school suspensions were issued to black students, although just 7.3% of students in the district were black. In addition, Upper Dublin disproportionately places black students into the lowest level of academic courses, and places very few black students into the gifted program.  We filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and are requesting a full investigation. This case is already receiving significant press.

$1-for-$1 Match on #GivingTuesday: December 1, 2015

#GivingTuesday is a call to action to celebrate and inspire charitable giving during the holiday season. It annually falls on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

This year, your gift will have double the impact if made on #GivingTuesday.  New or increased donations made on December 1 will be matched $1-for-$1 thanks to generous matching gifts from Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, board members and other donors. Click here to donate.

Fighting for Reasonable Accommodations for Deaf UPS Employee 

This month we filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against United Parcel Service, which has repeatedly refused and failed to provide reasonable accommodations to help deaf employee Michael MacDonald communicate in the workplace. Michael feels embarrassed and anxious about workplace safety because he cannot always communicate with his coworkers or supervisors. Our suit alleges UPS has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, which require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

District Court Affirms Special Education Decision

An example of Christopher's gifted art skills
Christopher (name changed) is a high school student with autism and speech and language impairments who has repeatedly been denied his free and appropriate public education by the School District of Philadelphia. Christopher is a gifted artist, and he often uses art and drawing to communicate. The district denied Christopher speech and language therapy, an iPad with a word bank, and extended services during school breaks. He was also denied access to a one-on-one aide, and told that without an aide, he could not attend art classes. On November 20, in a significant victory for our client, District Judge Schiller affirmed decisions from two earlier due process hearings, which ordered that all new services continue throughout Christopher's high school tenure. The district court decision also highlighted that students who are denied an appropriate education should have access to immediate injunctive remedies, not just backward-looking compensation. 

Legal Director Position Available
The Public Interest Law Center seeks a Legal Director. The Legal Director will be responsible for supervising legal staff in litigation, advocacy, lobbying, organizing and participation in coalitions. 

Introducing the Keystone Votes Coalition

Fewer than 25% of registered voters participated in this month's election. As part of our efforts to improve access to the ballot box and improve voter turnout, we recently joined advocacy groups to form Keystone Votes: The Coalition for Modern Elections. Keystone Votes will educate members of the General Assembly, stakeholders and the public about updates that can make voting easier and more convenient and ensure all citizens - particularly seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities - have full and equal access to voting.

Fighting for Fair Employment for Woman with Criminal Record

Taheera Heard is a 38-year-old African-American woman with a strong employment history in the financial sector. Earlier this year, she was sought out by a recruiter and offered a job as a Senior IT Auditor at Genesis Health Care. After making an initial job offer, and setting a conditional start date, Genesis stopped communicating with Ms. Heard. Months later, after she had already resigned her previous position, Ms. Heard received notice that she was not being hired because of the results of a background check, even though she previously disclosed her unrelated criminal record. We filed suit on behalf of Ms. Heard, as it is illegal in Pennsylvania to refuse to hire a prospective employee because of an unrelated criminal record.

Board Member of the Month

Congratulations to November board member of the month Ellen Friedell, founder and principal of Reaching Agreement ADR LLC, a dispute resolution firm. She has served on the board since 2010, and has been treasurer of the board since 2012. Ellen has been instrumental in raising the quality and profile of our annual event. She said of her service on the board, "I am grateful to be able to play a part, as a board member, to support the amazing work of the Law Center. I am especially moved by the courage and fortitude of our clients and by the stories they tell of how much our work means to them and their families."

Access to Demolition Plans in Philadelphia

Photo: PlanPhilly
In the aftermath of a fatal demolition-related disaster in Philadelphia in 2013, the city vowed to do better, to strengthen the Department of Licenses & Inspections with resources and oversight, to tighten scrutiny over construction site safety-especially demolitions-and to change practices. However, despite new laws and recommendations, reports continue of a department that allows unpermitted demolitions and ignores inspection guidelines. We helped PlanPhilly, a program of WHYY, to file a Right To Know request, but it was denied. As Ashley Hahn writes, "How are we safer knowing less?"

Pro Bono Partner of the Month

Brad Elias is counsel in O'Melveny & Myers LLP's New York office and a member of the Securities Litigation Practice Group. He is one of a team of pro bono partners from the firm working on our School Funding Lawsuit. He said about working on the lawsuit, "It has been a privilege to work with the Public Interest Law Center, and Jennifer Clarke and Michael Churchill in particular. Their dedication to improving Pennsylvania's public education system is inspiring, and their knowledge and experience has been invaluable. Regardless of the outcome [of the lawsuit], it is comforting to know that the Law Center will continue to fight for the rights of Pennsylvania schoolchildren. It is a fight that I have been proud to join."