Pictured above, Destiny's friend Jessinia Acuna (left) and Destiny Neri (right). Photo: David Hinden
"Parents want what is best and necessary for their child. To be denied services is disappointing to parents, as they feel the service is necessary for our kids to have an appropriate education."

-Helen Neri, TIGER Parent, on her struggle to get an adequate education for her daughter, Destiny.
“I answer to Fontana Unified School District. Not to you,” a school nurse told Helen Neri a week after Helen’s daughter Destiny had come home from school with a bloody lip and swollen eye. The nurse was Destiny’s one-on-one care provider. Her job was to work with Destiny every minute of the day, to ensure she was learning in a safe environment. After Destiny came home twice with different injuries, Helen went to the school to find out who was letting this happen to her daughter.

Destiny, now 10 years old, was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that can occur if a child suffers brain damage while their brain is still developing. Cerebral palsy, or CP, affects body movement, muscle control, and motor skills. As a result of her CP, Destiny cannot always control her limbs.

Helen watched at school as Destiny’s arm repeatedly smacked into her own eye, causing it to swell and Destiny to cry out in pain. The nurse, whom Helen had seen leave Destiny alone for long periods at a time, said she could not intervene. Helen refused to accept this, and called for an emergency IEP meeting with Destiny’s school. An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, is how a school lays out the services and programs that a child needs to succeed. Helen met with the school administration because she believed that the one-on-one program was not meeting the needs outlined in Destiny’s IEP.
Pictured above, Destiny (left) and Helen (right). Photo: David Hinden
Helen first learned about IEPs from Learning Rights’ TIGER Downey Community Group. The Community Group, which is led by experienced education advocates and offers support to parents like Helen, exposed her to a new world of education advocacy. Realizing that she needed to learn the special education laws applicable to Destiny’s journey through the Fontana Unified School District, she enrolled in Learning Rights’ TIGER Classes.

The only program of its kind on the West Coast, TIGER is an intensive, year-long, hands-on program that helps parents become better education advocates on behalf of their children. Parents learn special education law, their child’s rights in and out of the classroom, and the subtleties of engaging with school administration. Parents also learn how to promote change in their local school districts. Learning Rights transforms the educational landscape by focusing on three core components in the TIGER Program: teaching parents of children with education-access issues; engaging the community via community groups; and leveraging engagement into reform.

Using the knowledge and training she got from TIGER classes, Helen successfully advocated on Destiny’s behalf to ensure that Destiny was getting what she needed. Thanks to TIGER, Helen felt empowered to walk into her emergency IEP meeting with written notes of every injury and anxiety that Destiny had showed over the previous months. She even perpared a formal complaint that she was ready to send the School Board, in case the IEP meeting did not get Destiny the services she needed. The school responded by giving Destiny everything that Helen had asked for and more.

As a result of TIGER and Helen’s advocacy, Destiny now has daily Home Hospital and Home Instruction. This means that the variety of specialists and teachers involved in Destiny’s education come to her home to provide services, such as physical therapy and a functional skills curriculum. This has significantly reduced Destiny’s stress, and made it easier and safer for her to learn.

The flexibility of the in-home services has not only significantly improved Destiny’s quality of life, but also her education. Helen has seen drastic improvements in Destiny’s academics and behavior. Destiny can now eat on her own, and has even demonstrated reading comprehension skills. Destiny loves to read and be read to, and Helen hopes that they will one day be able to work together to help other students like Destiny. Thanks to the knowledge gleaned from the TIGER trainings and her experience taking care of Destiny, Helen now leads her own Community Group in Fontana, through which she teaches and empowers other parents to successfully advocate on behalf of their children with disabilities. Check out a flyer for her meetings here .
Thank you to:

  • Annenberg Foundation
  • California Community Foundation
  • John Gogian Family Foundation
  • The JL Foundation

which, together with Learning Rights, help ensure children across Southern California receive an appropriate education through TIGER parent training!
Qiongyue Hu,
Harvard Fellow

 Qiongyue is teaching TIGER classes in 2018, the first TIGER classes taught in Mandarin. Qiongyue is excited to partner with the Asian Youth Center in the San Gabriel Valley to expand the reach of TIGER classes. Qiongyue loves to cook and travel, when she has the time!
QUESTION: Can you take TIGER classes online?

A. Yes

B. No

ANSWER: A - Yes! e-TIGER was launched last year, and can be accessed at
Stat source: Learning Rights Law Center