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Mental Health Awareness Month
The entryway at Learning Rights, as well as the door to our main intake room. Photo by Aaron Bicart
First Steps
When Martin stepped into our office, Jacque could tell that his arrival was an achievement. Leaving the house is difficult for Martin. He grew up surrounded by gang violence in his neighborhood, and now he is overwhelmed by anxiety whenever he tries to leave the house.

Martin has not been in a classroom in over two years. Since he struggled to attend school regularly, Martin and his mother opted to enroll him in an online home school. However his anxiety continued to impact his attendance, and the school dropped him from their services. His school district never reached out to check on him, and now he has gone over a year without any instruction.

Martin still has big dreams. “He told me he wants to attend college. Right now he wants to go to his local high school, hang out with other teenagers. He wants to live,” Jacque, our volunteer who conducted Martin’s intake, tells us. To get back to school, he first had to get to Learning Rights. “You could tell when he got here just how worried he had been. When we got started he and his social worker were laughing and smiling, saying, ‘see, she isn’t scary is she?’” Jacque met with Martin, his mom, and his social worker. Together the two women make up what Jacque calls Martin’s ‘team’. “He needed that team just to get him out of the house.” 
Jacque, hard at work reviewing an intake case. Photo by Aaron Bicart
The group discussed how they could get Martin back on track. Jacque and Lety, our Education Rights Clinic Manager, decided that the first step was to reach out to Martin’s previous school and collect his records and assessments. Once Martin has re-connected with his school district, the school will be able to start the Individual Education Program process and schedule a meeting to decide Martin’s placement. After that is decided, Martin and his team will return to our office to review his placement and services to make sure his educational setting is appropriate.

“I felt really good after the meeting, because I could see that he knew that Learning Rights was now another member of the team. I saw him laugh, and smile, and see there were more people who cared enough to get him what he wanted from his education," Jacque says. “As a volunteer, it made me eager to follow through and do the absolute best I can to get him the life he wants. To give him that hope, it was beautiful.”

Jacque is looking forward to seeing Martin again soon, and getting the team back together. Martin has a long way to go before getting to college, but he has taken his first step towards a new life.
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Sources: National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Learning Rights Law Center seeks to achieve education equity for low-income and disadvantaged students in the public education system in Southern California. We change the lives of at-risk students who have disabilities, face discrimination or are involved in the foster care or juvenile justice systems by providing free legal services, education advocacy, and community training.