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March 07, 2007

Press Contact: Kirston Fortune, Assistant Dean for Communications, (512) 471.7330 or kfortune@law.utexas.edu, or Tina V. Fernandez, UT Law Career Services Office, (512) 232-1159.

Ian Spechler, ’07, Awarded Skadden Fellowship to Advocate Legal Rights of Children with Disabilities

Photo of Ian Spechler
Ian Spechler

AUSTIN, Texas—The Skadden Fellowship Foundation has awarded a two-year, prestigious national fellowship to Ian Spechler, ’07. Spechler will be spending his fellowship term with Advocacy Inc. in Austin, a nonprofit corporation that works to protect and advocate for the legal rights of people with disabilities in Texas.

Spechler’s project with Advocacy will involve representing children with cognitive disabilities whose disabilities affect behavior, who are eligible for special education, and whose school services are believed to be inadequate. His project will focus on pre-teen children who are younger than 10 and not yet subject to the juvenile justice system.

“Many children do not receive proper support and schools often deal with them by using isolation and prematurely involving the justice system,” Spechler said. By reaching out to the children’s parents, Spechler hopes to educate parents on their children's rights to special education services in the hope that disability-related problem behaviors will be replaced with appropriate behavior before these children become involved in the juvenile justice system. He also plans to form a loose coalition of private citizens, such as attorneys, judges, and school officials, to deal with the problem of the overrepresentation of children with disabilities in the juvenile justice system.

“We are just thrilled to have the chance to host and work with a Skadden Fellow on this issue,” says Lucy Wood, regional managing attorney at Advocacy in Austin and Ian’s supervisor-to-be. “We know that children with cognitive disability and related behavioral issues don’t get help in juvenile detention. Ian will be working to ensure that these kids get appropriate educational services and supports before it’s too late.”

The Skadden Fellowship Foundation was established in 1988 in recognition of the dire need for greater funding for graduating law students who wish to devote their professional lives to providing legal services to the poor (including the working poor), the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights.

The aim of the Foundation is to give Fellows the freedom to pursue public interest work. Therefore, the Fellows create their own projects at public interest organizations before they apply.

Fellowships are awarded for one year, with the expectation of renewal for a second year. Skadden provides each Fellow with a salary and pays all fringe benefits to which an employee of the sponsoring organization would be entitled. For those Fellows not covered by a law school low-income protection plan, the firm will pay a Fellow’s law school debt service for the tuition part of the loan for the duration of the fellowship.

Related Links:

Advocacy Inc
www.advocacyinc.org

Skadden Fellowship Foundation
http://www.skaddenfellowships.org/sitecontent.cfm?page=about

UT Law Career Services Office:
http://www.utexas.edu/law/depts/career/