Post-Harvey Legal Aid Hotline Launched for Displaced Families Worried about School Services

Families with questions about enrollment and special education for displaced students should call 844-PREP-4-US

September 11, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Texas and Washington D.C.-based nonprofit legal organizations have launched a post-Harvey hotline for displaced families concerned about enrollment and special education services at their new schools. The hotline – activated Monday through a partnership between Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) and the Parental Readiness and Empowerment Program (PREP), an initiative of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, will refer qualified, low-income applicants to TRLA for legal assistance.

“As children are forced from their homes by Hurricane Harvey, they retain their right to access public schools and their right to receive necessary special education services,” said Natasha Quiroga, director of PREP. “These rights are critical to ensuring minimal disruption for children who face the trauma of relocation, which too often results in children suffering academically, psychologically, and socially. To ensure families’ rights are protected and such children are supported, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law will provide parents with information and resources they can use to successfully enroll their children in the appropriate, nearby public school.”

According to Mary Christine Reed, director of TRLA’s Foster Youth Justice Project, students displaced by Hurricane Harvey who are considered homeless are “entitled to immediate enrollment and their needs should be assessed to determine if they require referral to support services including health, mental health, housing, and academic support, and even tutoring and credit recovery for time missed from school.”
Displaced children have the right to immediately enroll in a local area school district without providing documentation and may continue to attend their previous school even if the family cannot return home due to the disastrous housing conditions. Displaced students also are entitled to special education services if they were receiving services in their school district of origin. The law also entitles K-12 students the right to enroll in public school, regardless of their immigration status or the immigration status of their parents or guardians.
“Sudden changes in environment and routine can cause significant distress to many students with special needs. Ensuring continuity of services and accommodations for these vulnerable students will be crucial in the weeks and months to come,” observed Hank Bostwick, manager of TRLA’s special education law team.

Parents with children who have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey and have concerns about enrolling their child in a public school can call the hotline at 844-PREP-4-US (844-773-7487) or fill out an online intake form at

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

About Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc.:

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) is a non-profit organization that offers free legal services to low-income residents in sixty-eight counties in Texas, including dozens of counties impacted by Hurricane Harvey. TRLA also provides legal assistance to youth who are having problems in school, have been charged with a crime, are experiencing homelessness, or are in foster care. For more information, visit

Derrick Robinson

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