Success Stories

Whether it’s keeping the heat on for a few more days or advocating for better patient treatment in our healthcare system, the impact of DCBF’s funding is as diverse and as extensive as the legal needs of DC’s low-income residents. Below are stories that illustrate, in real terms, that impact.

  • Richard*, age 19, was not aware of legal entitlements under federal and District special education law. As he moved between an out-of-District juvenile residential facility, DC Jail, and a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility, he was not provided with access to educational opportunities. When DCBF grantee represented Richard, it became clear that he had been deprived of education and transition services. Due process complaints against the government agencies involved were filed.

    Along the way, Richard came to understand his rights to education access and transition services, the power of self-advocacy, and the experience of serving as a star witness at hearings. In a letter to the judge, and later through testimony, he shared his experience and how his legal rights had been routinely denied. Ultimately the judge vacated a prison term and awarded tens of thousands of dollars in services and school tuition.

    Because of access to legal counsel, Richard was able to enroll full-time in school, graduate, and secure meaningful employment. His access to required educational and transitional services fulfilled the intent of the law: providing equal access to opportunity that best enables an individual to be a contributing member of their community.


    *Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.

  • Middle school student Maria* received a 73-day suspension for allegedly inciting a fight after school. Prior to attending the school hearing Maria’s parent had no opportunity to conference with the school and did not receive any official written notification (as required) of the incident or of proposed suspension. The parent arrived at the original hearing date without legal representation and was able to receive a continuance. Thanks to a referral, she secured an attorney through a DCBF grantee.

    Upon reviewing the school’s complete disciplinary record on Maria, the DCBF grantee discovered that a school administrator witnessed the fight and stated in school documents that she was not a participant. They met with the school administrator for confirmation of the facts stated in the disciplinary record. After a conversation with the Assistant Principal who recommended the proposed long-term suspension, it was withdrawn and the disciplinary hearing cancelled. Maria immediately returned to school without missing significant learning time waiting for a rescheduled hearing date.


    *Names have been changed to protect confidentiality

  • James* was in middle school when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. The frequent nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea caused by Crohn’s meant he often soiled himself at school or missed class. James’ doctor wrote his school a letter outlining needed actions to accommodate James’ condition. The school responded by developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that did not include James’ doctor’s recommendations or recognize his health needs.

    Following implementation of the plan, James continued to experience accidents and was the victim of bullying. His mother would keep him out of school when his symptoms flared, causing James to fall farther behind. A DCBF grantee met with the school on the family’s behalf. They reviewed James’ IEP, educated school staff them on how the disease impacted his learning, and advocated for accommodations to help James keep us with coursework. A new IEP was developed, resulting in James receiving tutoring support and emails of assignments when absent from school. As a result of this support, James has been better able to succeed academically.


    *Names have been changed to protect confidentiality