“I feel like education work is about preventing our clients from becoming our future clients, ” explains Ashley Fretthold, Supervisory Attorney in the Children and Families Practice Group. “We have a lot of cases where kids are scheduled to be expelled, and that’s a turning point in someone’s life. If those kids are expelled, their only option is to go to the alternative school that’s nowhere near their house, and they have to get there themselves. So they’re probably not going to go to school. Then they’re probably never graduating, and then they’re probably on the streets. I feel like when we prevented expulsions, that’s been a major win for us.”
Ashley advocates for one of the world’s most vulnerable populations: children. The scales that can tip, the tidal wave that a single traumatic event can instigate, are realities she navigates daily in her work at LAF. The stakes are incredibly high – the full length and potential of a productive and healthy human life in the balance – and, for Ashley, every case won is a step forward for the child and the community.
“We just settled a case where we got a boy almost $20,000 in compensatory services- which is additional tutoring and speech language services. He’s 7 years old. If he’d come to us when he was 12, 13, or 14 he would already be having tons of behavioral problems in school because he had kind of a serious language processing issue that wasn’t identified. So because he’s 7 and we’ve gotten him the support he needs, I like to think that he’ll go on and he’ll be fine in middle school and high school, he’ll be totally on track.”
Laws are put in place to protect children and ensure that they acquire a good education and the opportunity it affords. Unfortunately, these laws, while well-intentioned, often remain inaccessible without the advocacy of an attorney. Like all those that work at LAF, Ashley’s work is governed by a passion for justice and a core understanding that the world extends so much further than her own experience in it.
“You shouldn’t just go through life living your life. There should be a purpose to your life that involves leaving the world a better place some way. Even if that’s not your full time job, you should – and can – do something. LAF is affecting change now in a way that makes our communities stronger in the future. The things we’re doing now are helping people immediately, but it’s really about creating a better future, not just for them, but for the whole Cook County community.”