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DRM’S Leslie Margolis Featured in ABA Journal

Leslie Seid Margolis, managing attorney at Disability Rights Maryland (DRM), was featured in the ABA Journal last week for her role in the passage of the American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution 103, which urges government bodies to establish and enforce legislation and educational policies that prohibit school personnel from using seclusion and restraints on students in preschool through 12th grade. She worked with the ABA Commission on Disability Rights over the past year to draft and edit Resolution 103 and was invited to speak in favor of the resolution at the ABA’s Annual Meeting on August 3, 2020. Leslie shared the story of a 7-year-old child in foster care who was restrained more than 147 times by his school’s staff—a story she “wished that she could say [was] unusual,” but one that continues to affect children across the county at high rates, particularly students with disabilities and students of color. Thanks to the vigorous efforts of Leslie and other advocates, the ABA House of Delegates expressed overwhelming support for Resolution 103 by passing it with a vote of 358-19.

Every child has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. No child should ever be subjected to abusive treatment under the guise of providing effective educational services. DRM continues its efforts to hold school systems accountable for their over-reliance on these traumatic and potentially deadly interventions and is profoundly thankful to the ABA for passing Resolution 103 and, by doing so, acknowledging that what happens to so many children across the United States is unconscionable and inhumane.

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DRM Presents 2020 Gayle Hafner Grassroots Advocacy Award to Consumers for Accessible Ride Services (CARS)

Disability Rights Maryland (DRM) is pleased to announce Consumers for Accessible Ride Services (CARS) as the honoree for the 2020 Gayle Hafner Grassroots Advocacy Award. This prestigious award honors members of the community who have succeeded in creating substantial positive change for Marylanders with disabilities through grassroots activism. A remarkable team of Baltimore self-advocates with disabilities, CARS is a close partner of Disability Rights Maryland in the struggle for accessible public transit. DRM will present the award to CARS’ Chairman Floyd Hartley, on behalf of the full CARS team, at the virtual 2020 Breaking Barriers Awards Gala on Nov. 12, 2020.

CARS members teamed up with DRM and AARP Foundation Litigation in 2015 to file a lawsuit against the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) in order to resolve critical failures in MTA Mobility services. These failures included widespread, abrupt, and inappropriate denials of eligibility to people who met the criteria for paratransit services, as well as egregiously long telephone hold times for paratransit users. CARS members Floyd Hartley, Debbie Benedaret, Danielle Phelps and Phillip Freeman were the four individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

For people with disabilities in the Baltimore Metro Area, MTA Mobility has been and continues to be a lifeline to essential services. MTA Mobility connects people to vital resources for maintaining their health, employment, ability to visit family and friends, and ability to participate in their communities. When DRM determined that wrongful denials of eligibility to people like Phillip and Debbie were widespread, DRM Director of Litigation Lauren Young took the issue to court, and the plaintiffs reached a settlement with MTA.

In the years that followed, CARS and DRM presented their concerns to the Maryland Secretary of Transportation, and when the MTA failed to meet the requirements of the initial settlement, CARS helped DRM file a breach of settlement to renegotiate with the MTA. Former CARS Chairman Michael Gerlach emphasizes the importance of CARS’s presence in the Baltimore community. “A group like this is desperately needed,” Gerlach says, “because there are so many problems with the MTA, and the average rider doesn’t have anybody to protect them.” He explains, “We advocate for the riders and the community to make sure that their voices are heard.”

This May, after five years of negotiations driven by the experiences and guidance of Marylanders with disabilities, CARS and DRM successfully secured provisions for accountability and oversight to ensure that people like Phillip and Floyd never face this crisis again. The advocacy efforts of DRM and CARS, along with other coalition groups, have won a significant victory for the over 30,000 Marylanders who use paratransit services and a crucial step forward in our community’s fight for access to transportation for all!


The Breaking Barriers Awards Gala is Disability Rights Maryland’s (DRM) signature celebration where individuals, law firms and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional leadership, vision and achievement in safeguarding the legal rights of people with disabilities in Maryland are recognized and honored. To learn more, go to https://www.disabilityrightsmd.org/2020-bb-gala.

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DRM’s Leslie Margolis Urges Stronger COVID-19 Response from MSDE

Leslie Seid Margolis, DRM’s Managing Attorney, has joined the ranks of Maryland legislators, teachers, and advocates demanding a stronger response to COVID-19 from Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon. A Baltimore Sun article reported on July 29 that the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has failed to provide a concrete plan for supporting schools this fall, instead only offering noncommittal suggestions to local school districts. As Margolis says in the article, suggestions are not enough. Delegate Brooke Lierman, a representative of Baltimore City and an attorney at Brown, Goldstein and Levy, LLP, sums up the situation: Superintendent Salmon “claims to be leading by giving options,” Lierman says in the article, “but really there is just no plan; she belittles the needs that parents have for child care; and she communicates as little information as possible.”

As part of the Maryland Education Coalition, DRM has helped draft several letters voicing these concerns to the Superintendent. DRM is also an appointed member organization of the MSDE’s external stakeholder committee, but the MSDE has provided hardly any information to its stakeholders regarding statewide school plans, and the minimal information provided is often only made accessible at the last minute — too late for meaningful input from stakeholders. DRM continues to urge Salmon and the MSDE to work with its stakeholders to develop a plan that supports students who have difficulty learning online, including students with disabilities, young children, and homeless students.

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DRMs Annual Advocacy Service Survey is Now Open

Every year, Disability Rights Maryland seeks feedback from the disability community, families, partners, and stakeholders about our service plan for the coming year. Please share your thoughts about what legal issues you would like us to address for 2021 by taking our annual Advocacy Service Plan Survey.

Contact our office at 410-727-6352 (ext. 0) to access the survey in alternate formats or to request a paper copy. You can also print the survey and mail it to our office by September 9, 2020.

Click here to take the survey.

Thank you for your feedback!

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RELEASE: Judith Heumann to Present the 2020 Judith Heumann Champion of Justice Award at 2020 Breaking Barriers Awards Gala

BALTIMORE, MD (July 14, 2020) — Disability Rights Maryland (DRM) is honored to welcome Judith Heumann to present the first-ever Judith Heumann Champion of Justice Award at DRM’s 2020 Breaking Barriers Awards Gala this fall. Established to commemorate Heumann’s activism and passion for disability rights and justice, this prestigious award recognizes one outstanding honoree for a lifetime of advocacy for the disability rights movement and all the civil rights movements with which it intersects. Heumann will personally present this year’s award to the 2020 honoree, Wade Henderson, at this year’s virtual gala on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020.

Heumann’s remarkable career spans her entire life. Heumann has helped pass landmark legislation for the disability rights movement, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. She served as the Obama Administration’s Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, the World Bank’s first-ever Advisor on Disability and Development, and the Clinton Administration’s Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The recent Netflix documentary Crip Camp, produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, captures the progression of Heumann’s activism from her time at Camp Jened, a summer camp for people with disabilities, to the transformative legislative and regulatory victories that she later achieved. This year’s honoree, Wade Henderson, has exemplified similar leadership. In his two decades as the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and in his prior time at the American Civil Liberties Union, Wade helped pass key national legislation for disability rights, including the Fair Housing Amendments Act and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.

The Breaking Barriers Awards Gala is DRM’s signature annual event which honors individuals, law firms, and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional leadership, vision, and achievements in promoting and safeguarding the legal rights of people with disabilities in Maryland.

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