2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Robert J. Borrelle, Jr.

Robert J. Borrelle, Jr.

City, State: Berkeley, California
Issue area: Education/Special Education
Sponsors: Anonymous

The Project

Robert investigated San Francisco Bay Area school districts for racial bias in special education referrals and advocated for inte¬grated educational services for students of color with disabilities.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Data show that African-American students are disproportionately represented in special education at many schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now there is disturbing evidence that “disproportionality” is driving school districts to exclude African-American students from special education in order to achieve statistical balance. Addressing these discriminatory practices is important because special education rights are some of the most powerful protections available to keep students out of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Fellowship Highlights: 
During his Fellowship, Robert has:
• Helped negotiate a groundbreaking settlement in which a school district—for the first time ever—agreed to hire nationally recognized experts to conduct a review of its disciplinary practices and special education system to determine how implicit biases and other unconscious phenomena produce racial disparities
• Co-authored a National Council on Disability report titled “Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities” that is designed to aid Congress and the President in crafting future special education policy
• Successfully brought a special education administrative complaint against a Bay Area school district that challenged its unreasonable and unnecessary use of restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Robert will stay on at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund as a full-time Staff Attorney and continue to represent students of color with disabilities at risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline.

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