Legal Aid helps specific vulnerable populations through special legal work and advocacy efforts. Click below to learn more.
Legal Help for Immigrant Victims of Crime
If you are an immigrant and have been a victim of crime, Legal Aid may be able to assist you with asserting your rights under immigration laws. This brochure outlines U-Visas for victims of Crime, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and T-Visas for human trafficking. This brochure also discusses how immigrants can assert their rights under the Violence Against Women Act.
More information is available in multiple languages in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Legal Help for Immigrant Victims of Crime
A Spanish version of this brochure is available by clicking here: Spanish Version – Legal Help for Immigrant Victims of Crime
Legal Assistance for Immigrants
This brochure outlines what Legal Aid can do for Immigrants in Northeast Ohio. Legal Aid can assist many immigrants to the U.S., not just citizens or permanent residents, and works on cases such as detainee and deportation, and naturalization and citizenship. This brochure explains what Legal Aid can assist immigrants and their families with.
More information is available in multiple languages in this brochure published by Legal Aid: Legal Assistance for Immigrants
Language Access for Parents
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District has agreed to provide interpretation and translation services to students and parents with material related to schooling. This flyer explains what services the Cleveland School district has agreed to provide.
This flyer is available in both English and Spanish at: Language Access for Parents/Acceso lingüístico para los padres.
Rights and Resources for People who have a Guardian
A ward has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and other important rights, including:
- To speak privately with an attorney, ombudsman or other advocate
- To have an interpreter if the person does not speak English or is deaf or hearing impaired. The ward cannot be charged fees for these services
- To have witnesses appear in Court and speak on behalf of the ward
- To privacy. This includes the right to privacy of the body and the right to private, uncensored communication with others by mail, telephone and personal visits.
- To exercise control over all aspects of life that the Court has not delegated to the guardian
- To appropriate services suited to person needs and conditions, including mental health services
- To have the guardian consider personal desires, preferences and opinions
- To safe, sanitary and humane living conditions within the least restrictive environment that meets a person’s needs
- To equal treatment under the law, regardless of race, religion, creed, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, or political affiliations
- To have explanations of medical procedures or treatment
- To have personal information kept confidential
- To review records, including medical, financial and treatment records
- To procreate, or consent or object to sterilization
- To drive, if legally able
- To vote, if legally able
Helpful organizations and websites:
For more information about guardianships, see the Ohio Guardianship Guide at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/files/publications. Helpful forms and other information may also be found at Disability Rights Ohio, www.disabilityrightsohio.org. Persons in need of help with a guardianship issue can contact Disability Rights Ohio at 614-466-7264 or 1-800-282-9181 (toll-free in Ohio only) and TTY: 614-728-2553 or 1-800-858-3542 (toll-free in Ohio only).
Information about alternatives to guardianships can be found at Pro Seniors at www.proseniors.org. Pro Seniors’ Legal Hotline for Older Ohioans provides free legal information to all residents of Ohio age 60 or older. They can be contacted at 800.488.6070 and TDD 513.345-4160.
To apply for help from Legal Aid with a guardianship related problem or other civil legal matter, please call intake at 1-888-817-3777 or visit a neighborhood Brief Advice Clinic (see schedule at www.lasclev.org).
Can I get my criminal record sealed?
Many Ohioans struggle to find a job or housing after being convicted of a crime. Ohio’s law makers saw the difficulties faced by people with criminal records and passed a law (SB 66) that allows more people to have their criminal records sealed. SB 66 aims to reduce recidivism and prison time for low-level, non-violent, non-sex offenders, who make up the fastest growing portion of the state’s prison population due to the drug epidemic.
When you seal an adult criminal record in Ohio, the record is not erased. Instead, the criminal record is hidden from the public and most employers. Some employers, such as those that hire nurses, nursing assistants, or child care providers, will still be able to see the record after it is sealed. It will always be available to judges and police officers.
The following information describes generally who in Ohio is eligible to apply to have a criminal record sealed. Note, this information does NOT apply to juvenile criminal records. Click here for information about sealing juvenile records.
In Ohio as of 10/2018, to be eligible to seal a criminal record, you must meet one of two sets of criteria. If you meet the requirements listed under either Criteria A or Criteria B below, you may qualify to seal your criminal record.
Criteria A: First, you may be eligible if you have:
- No more than five 4th or 5th degree felony
- Unlimited number of misdemeanors, AND
- No 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree felony convictions, AND
- No felony sex offense convictions, AND
- No violent crime convictions (felony or misdemeanor).
If you meet this criteria, you may be able to seal all of your convictions, including felonies and misdemeanors. If you do not qualify under Criteria A, you may still be eligible to seal your records if you satisfy the following:
Criteria B: You may be eligible if you have NO MORE THAN:
- Two misdemeanor convictions; OR
- One misdemeanor and one felony conviction
ALL convictions are considered, regardless of how long ago they happened or where they occurred (including
other state and federal courts).
Even if you are eligible to seal your records, some convictions can never be sealed, including traffic and OVI/DUI offenses, serious crimes of violence, most crimes involving children, most sex crimes, and 1st or 2nd degree felonies. Also, the prosecutor may object to the request to seal criminal records. It is up to the court to decide whether to allow a record to be sealed. You can usually seal records of “minor misdemeanor” convictions, dismissed cases, “no bills” and “not guilty” verdicts even if you fail both tests listed above.
The link above to the self help sealing record page, where you can enter your personal information, will help you determine whether or not your offense is or is not eligible to be sealed.
Sealing a criminal record in Ohio is a “privilege,” not a “right.” This means a judge must review each person’s application to seal a record and decide first if the person is eligible, and then whether or not to grant the sealing.
You can read more about options for people with a criminal record at http://lasclev.org/category/faqs/work-faqs/
How will the public housing authority’s smoking bans affect me?
By July 30, 2018, public housing providers will all be required to implement smoke-free policies in residential buildings. The smoke-free policies prohibit residents from smoking in their units or outside of designated smoking areas. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) supports these bans in the interest of residents’ health and minimizing repair costs.
Public housing authorities (PHAs) in Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties have begun to implement smoking bans based on HUD’s proposed “Smoke-Free Public Housing” rule from November 2015. Some PHAs may implement their smoke-free policies sooner than the July 30, 2018 requirement.
The smoking bans include all lit tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. Smoking will be prohibited in all public housing residential units, common areas, offices and the first 25 feet from the outside of the building. Some housing providers may provide a Designated Smoking Area (DSA). However, this is not required and the housing providers may choose to make the entire property smoke-free. All leases must include the smoking policy by July 30, 2018.
If a resident has a disability, a reasonable accommodation may be made to make it easier for the resident to access the area where smoking is allowed (i.e., the DSA or 25 feet from the building). However, the reasonable accommodation cannot allow a resident to smoke in the residential unit.
The goal of the smoke-free policy is to provide residents and staff with a healthier and safer environment. PHAs are encouraged to partner with their local and state health departments and tobacco control organizations to help residents who want to quit.
Each PHA has discretion on how to enforce its smoke-free policy. HUD recommends gradually increasing the consequences for violations, starting with verbal warnings, then a written warning, followed by a final notice. After repeated violations, enforcement of smoke-free policies could result in evictions for tenants that do not adhere to the policy or continue to smoke in their unit.
PHAs should be providing notice to all tenants in advance of this change to policy and to lease agreements. Residents should speak with their property manager about any questions or concerns in advance.
This article was written by Abigail Staudt and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
 Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing, 80 Fed. Reg. 71,762 (Nov. 17, 2015)
Can a Certificate of Qualification for Employment help me?
A CQE or “Certificate of Qualification for Employment” can help someone with a criminal record by removing automatic or mandatory restrictions on the types of jobs or professional licenses they can have. Persons with a criminal record often experience these automatic or mandatory restrictions (also known as collateral sanctions/consequences) when they are denied a job or a professional license due to their criminal record. A CQE does not guarantee a job or license. A CQE does not seal or erase the criminal record, so employers can still see a person’s conviction history. A CQE requires employers and state licensing boards to consider each applicant’s record individually instead of denying an applicant based on a blanket restriction. A CQE also benefits employers who hire someone with a CQE by providing immunity from negligent-hiring lawsuits if the person with the CQE re-offends.
Applicants for a CQE must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- If convicted of a misdemeanor, it must be more than 6 months since the individual has been released from all court supervision, including paying all fines and fees.
- If convicted of a felony, it must be more than 1 year since the individual has been released from all court supervision, including paying all fines and fees.
There are no limits on the number or type of convictions a person can have in order to be eligible, but some limitations exist for people convicted of violent crimes. Also, CQEs are not available for federal or out-of-state convictions or collateral sanctions.
Recent changes to Ohio law have made the process of applying for a CQE slightly easier. Now applicants only need to provide a general statement about how the CQE will assist them. Also, out-of-state residents with an Ohio criminal record can apply for a CQE in any Ohio county where they have a conviction. Current Ohio residents should still apply in the county where they live, even if their conviction is in a different Ohio county.
Lastly, the new law directs the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) to make rules allowing CQE applications sooner than 6 months for misdemeanors and 1 year for felonies. ODRC must also keep track of CQEs granted and revoked, as well as employers where
people with CQEs have been hired.
In order to apply for a CQE a person can complete an application online at www.drccqe.com or call Legal Aid at 1.888.817.3777 to apply for help.
This article was written by Andrew Torres and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
How can I enforce my rights if I have been discriminated against based on LGBTQ status?
In Ohio, 20 cities have laws protecting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (“LGBTQ”) from discrimination. See http://www.equalityohio.org/city-map/. In many instances, the local ordinances create a board or committee charged with hearing complaints under the law. Unfortunately, the process for filing a complaint and addressing discrimination is not always clear.
In February 2016, the ACLU of Ohio learned about discrimination two transgender women faced at a store in Cleveland. The women were protected under Cleveland’s anti-discrimination ordinance. Elizabeth Bonham, a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Ohio, filed a complaint with the Fair Housing Board, as provided in the ordinance. The Fair Housing Board issued its findings in favor of the women on December 12, 2016.
People who experience discrimination based on LGBTQ status in Cleveland, whether in housing or in public accommodations, can enforce their rights through filing a complaint with the Fair Housing Board. For information about the process, call the Fair Housing Board at 216.664.4529. In other cities that have passed anti-discrimination or human rights ordinances protecting the LGBTQ community, individuals have to contact each city’s law department to learn the appropriate process for filing a complaint.
The ACLU of Ohio has provided trainings on, and continues to provide information on, LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances, including enforcement options. For more information visit http://www.acluohio.org/archives/blog-posts/lgbt-advocacy-in-real-time or call the ACLU of Ohio at 216.472.2200. For information on how to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission contact Equality Ohio at 216.224.0400 or visit http://www.equalityohio.org/ehea/.
This article was written by Chloe Sudduth and appeared in The Alert: Volume 34, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
 See City of Cleveland, Code of Ordinances, Part Six, Title V – Discrimination, available at http://www.clevelandcitycouncil.org/legislation-laws/charter-codified-ordinances.
 ACLU case Doe vs. Family Dollar, Inc. and CityWide Protection (Administrative Complaint): http://www.acluohio.org/archives/cases/doe-v-family-dollar-inc-and-citywide-protection
What is Ohio’s Homestead Exemption?
Ohio has two types of Homestead Exemption: (1) senior and disabled persons homestead exemption and (2) disabled veterans enhanced homestead exemption.
Senior and Disabled Persons Homestead Exemption protects the first $25,000 of your home’s value from taxation. For example, if your home is worth $100,000, you will be taxed as if the home were worth $75,000.
Who is eligible?
- A homeowner who owns and lives in the home as their primary residence as of January 1st of the year for which they apply and
• is 65 years old (or who will turn 65 the year for which they apply) or
• is permanently and totally disabled as of the 1st day of the year for which they apply.
- The surviving spouse of a person who had been enrolled in Homestead who was at least 59 years of age when the spouse died.
- Applicants must have a total gross income (applicant plus applicant’s spouse, if any) below the amount set by law each year. The 2017 household income limit is $31,800. See www.tax.ohio.gov for income limits in future years.
Disabled Veterans Enhanced Homestead Exemption protects the first $50,000 of your home’s value from taxation. For example, if your home is worth $100,000, you will be taxed as if the home were worth $50,000.
Who is eligible?
A homeowner who owns and lives in the home as their primary residence as of January 1st of the year for which they apply and
- is a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States (including Reserves and the National Guard) who was discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions; and
- has received a 100% disability rating for compensation based on individual un-employability for a service-connected disability or combination of service-connected disabilities.
What property is eligible?
For both exemptions:
The property must be where you usually live;
- You must have been living there as of January 1st of the year for which you apply; and
- You must be on the deed, or if the property is held in a trust, you must give the Auditor a copy of the trust.
How do you apply?
For both exemptions:
- Fill out application form DTE105A—you can get the form at your county Auditor’s office, at your county Auditor’s website, or at the Ohio Department of Taxation’s website (tax.ohio.gov).
- File form DTE105A with your county Auditor—you must file the original form that has your ink signature (not a copy). You cannot electronically file the form.
- If your eligibility is based on AGE, you must submit PROOF OF AGE with your application. You can prove your age with a copy of your driver’s license (current or expired), State of Ohio ID card, birth certificate or passport (current or expired).
- If your eligibility is based on DISABILITY, you must submit PROOF OF DISABILITY with your application. You can prove your disability by getting the Auditor’s Certificate of Disability form signed by your doctor OR by giving the Auditor a copy of a statement from Social Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Railroad Retirement Board, or the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation that says you are totally and permanently disabled.
- If your eligibility is based on VETERANS DISABILITY, you must submit the letter you received from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stating that your application for the status of individual un-employability has been granted (including percentage assigned) along with a copy of your DD-214.
When do you apply?
For both exemptions:
- In September 2016, the law changed to allow real property (land and buildings attached to the land) applications to be filed any time before December 31st. If you are applying for the exemption on a manufactured or mobile home, you have to apply on or before the first Monday in June.
- If you were eligible for the exemption last year, but did not apply, you can file a late application for the previous year at the same time that you file your application for the current year.
- If you are approved for the Homestead Exemption, you do not need to re-apply in future years.
To get an application form, or if you need help or have questions, call your county Auditor’s Homestead Department:
In Cuyahoga County, call 216.443.7010
In Ashtabula County, call 440.576.3445
In Lake County, call 440.350.2536
In Geauga County, call 440.279.1617
In Lorain County, call 440.329.5207
This article was written by Kristen Nawrocki and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
I’m not eligible to seal a criminal record, but how can I get help with a CQE?
You can apply for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE) if you are not eligible to seal a criminal record.
Legal Aid is now assisting individuals with criminal records who are interested in applying for a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE).
A CQE does not seal or expunge the record, but will allow those who have a felony or misdemeanor conviction to apply to the court to lift the collateral sanction that would automatically bar them from being considered for employment, certification or licensure in a particular field.
To apply for help from Legal Aid, call our intake line at 888-817-3777.
What resources are available for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing?
As of summer 2017, new American Sign Language resources are available for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing!
Disability Rights Ohio and the Deaf Services Center worked together with support from the Ohio State Bar Foundation to create 18 videos explaining legal rights and remedies in ASL as well as services available through DRO.
The resources are available at http://www.disabilityrightsohio.org/deaf-hard-hearing.
Examples include “Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can get help to communicate in court” and “Your right to effective communication with medical and other treatment providers” among many other important topics.
When does a Grandparent need temporary custodial rights?
Grandparents sometimes find themselves caring for a grandchild unexpectedly. This often happens without any formal court order giving the grandparent custody or guardianship. Without custody or guardianship, the grandparent will face problems getting medical care for the child or dealing with the child’s school.
Ohio law offers two options that give temporary custodial rights to grandparents in this situation depending on whether the parent can be located. If the parent can be found and agrees that the child live with the grandparent, the parent and grandparent can together sign a grandparent power of attorney (POA). If only one parent signs the POA, then a copy of the POA must be sent by certified mail to the noncustodial parent.
If the parent cannot be found after reasonable efforts have been made to locate the parent, then a grandparent caretaker authorization affidavit (CAA) can be completed instead. Only the grandparent needs to sign the CAA.
Both the POA and CAA need to be notarized at the time the document is signed. Then within five days of being created, the document must be filed at the juvenile court for the county where the grandparent lives.
The POA and the CAA give the grandparent custodial rights and responsibilities for the care of the child. This means the grandparent can enroll the child in school, get information about the child from the school, and consent to medical care for the child. Neither the POA nor the CAA affect the rights of the parents or grant legal custody to the grandparent.
The POA and the CAA end when the person who created the document cancels it, the child stops living with the grandparent, or the parent terminates the CAA.
Forms and instructions for the grandparent power of attorney and the caretaker authorization affidavit can be found on the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court website under the heading, “Grandparent Power of Attorney and Caregiver Authorization.” These forms can be used across Ohio.
This article was written by Katie Feldman and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
Who Needs Advance Directives?
Advance directives help ensure that you receive the medical care you would want even when doctors and family members are making decisions on your behalf. There are two different types of advance directives: Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will.
Health Care Power of Attorney: This document allows you to legally appoint a person to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make your own decision, even if the period of disability is temporary. It is important for you to discuss how you feel about important health care treatments so that the person to whom you assign this responsibility understands your wishes and is comfortable with the role.
Living Will: With this document, you specify whether or not you would want life sustaining treatment in the case that you are unable to make an informed medical decision and you are in a terminal condition or a permanent unconscious state. You may also specify your wishes regarding organ and tissue donation in this document.
To start the advance directive planning process, speak with your doctor about the types of health care decisions that could come up in your future. Consider what is important to you and your family. Once you feel confident about your wishes, you need to complete legal forms. Your local area agency on aging can assist you in finding the correct documents. Alternatively, you can seek help from a lawyer to complete the documents. Low-income older adults and people with disabilities or serious illness can apply to Legal Aid for help by calling 1-888-817- 3777. You can also use this online interview tool, which will help you create your own Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney (https://lasclev.org/selfhelp-poa-livingwill/).
After completing your advance directives, give a copy to your doctors, and make your family and close friends aware of where you keep a copy. Also give copies of the directive to the person named as your Health Care Power of Attorney. It is never too early to start planning, and remember to review your advance care planning decisions at least every 10 years.
This article was written by Emily Depew and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
How do I name a Durable Power of Attorney?
A durable power of attorney can be one of the most helpful estate planning tools a person uses, but it can also be very risky. A durable POA gives a person (who is called an “attorney in fact”) legal authority to act for another person in a variety of matters, including banking, benefits, housing, taxes, real estate, litigation, and more. (The durable POA is different from a Health Care Power of Attorney, which is the form used to appoint a person to make decisions about health care.)
A power of attorney can be limited or very broad in scope depending on what is needed. A properly written and executed durable POA can give someone a great deal of power over another person’s affairs, and should be carefully considered. Executing a power of attorney does not take away the ability of the principal — the person signing the power of attorney — to continue to conduct his own affairs.
When deciding who to name as “attorney in fact,” consider four things about potential people:
1) Trust. The person named in a POA must be trusted to do what the principal wants and needs. The “attorney in fact” must not use his authority to take advantage of the principal and cannot exceed the authority given to him.
2) Competency. The attorney in fact must be capable of handling the tasks the principal needs done. A person who must handle a complicated tax matter needs a different level of competency than someone who needs to make sure the rent is paid each month.
3) Capacity. The needs of the principal may change over time. The attorney in fact should have the time, energy, and willingness to help the principal as different situations arise.
4) Communication. The principal and the attorney in fact should be able to communicate clearly with each other. The principal needs to give directions about what she wants done under different circumstances, and the attorney in fact should be honest about what she is willing and able to do.
Ohio’s “power of attorney” form, along with tools and resources to help fill it out, can be found here. The POA form should be signed before a notary. The POA must be given to anyone or any institutions asked to rely on it, such as a bank or landlord. The POA lasts until the principal dies or says the power of attorney is no longer in effect. The POA must be recorded with the county if used for any transactions involving real property.
Older adults and people with disabilities or serious illness may apply to Legal Aid for help creating a durable power of attorney by calling 1-888-817-3777.
This article was written by Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 33, Issue 1. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
I’m a US Vet, but also in the criminal justice system – how can I find help?
Veterans involved in the criminal justice system or returning from prison can get help from the VA.
The Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) program provides access to VA services for eligible veterans to prevent homelessness and avoid unnecessary criminalization, while helping veterans access health care to support rehabilitation and independence. Click here for more information about the VJO program.
The VA’s Health Care for Reentry Veterans (HCRV) Program provides services pre and post release from prison to help veterans identify needs and connect with resources in order to support a successful transition back to the community after leaving prison. Click here for more information about the HCRV program.
I have an administrative hearing scheduled but do not speak English. What are my rights?
Federal law states that you have the right to an interpreter in an administrative hearing if you are a person with limited English proficiency (LEP). This means that you do not speak, read, write, or understand English fluently. Additionally, LEP individuals who are not involved in the administrative hearing, but who need to be there, like a parent or guardian, also have the right to an interpreter. Your family members or children should not be used instead of a qualified interpreter from the agency/organization. LEP individuals have the right to participate in administrative hearings in the same way as someone who speaks and understands English fluently.
Examples of agencies that must provide you with an interpreter: courts; U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services; Social Security; Veterans Administration; IRS; Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services (Unemployment Compensation & welfare office); Medicaid office; Bureau of Motor Vehicles; public housing agencies; and public and charter/community schools.
Asking for an interpreter:
- Ask an employee of the court, agency, or organization for an interpreter.
- If the person you ask says no: ask for a supervisor, customer service representative, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints).
What to do if you do not receive an interpreter:
- If you still do not receive an interpreter, you may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
- You can file a complaint by either sending a letter or using DOJ’s complaint form. The form is on DOJ’s website. You can do this in either English or your first language.
- The complaint should explain when and how the agency did not give you an interpreter or how they did not speak to you in a language you can understand.
- Please keep a copy of the complaint for your records.
- The letter or form should be sent to:
- DOJ Website: http://www.justice.gov/crt/complaint/
- DOJ Phone: 1 – (888) 848-5306
- DOJ will respond to you with a letter or phone call.
This article was written by Legal Aid Senior Attorney Megan Sprecher & Volunteer Attorney Jessica Baaklini appeared in The Alert: Volume 30, Issue 3. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!
My child has an IEP but I do not get regular reports. What can I do?
A child getting special education at a public or charter school has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This IEP is written at least once a year and lists goals for the child in their areas of need. An IEP Progress Report, talking about the child’s progress on each goal, must be mailed to the child’s caregiver regularly. The child’s IEP will say how often the IEP Progress Reports must be mailed.
Legal Aid recently filed a complaint against the Cleveland Metropolitan School District because caregivers of children with IEPs were not getting IEP Progress Reports as often as they should. The Ohio Department of Education told the school district it must regularly send IEP Progress Reports to caregivers of students getting special education.
If your child has an IEP and you are not getting regular IEP Progress Reports, you should talk to your child’s teacher and/or principal. If that does not help, you may file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education. You may get the complaint form at their website, www.education.ohio.gov, or by calling Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777.
This article was written by Legal Aid volunteer Kolie Erokwu and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
I think my child needs special education classes. What is the process?
Getting special education for a child requires a team effort by parents or guardians (“caregivers”), teachers and the school district. Both public and charter schools must provide special education to students with disabilities who need help learning in school. A caregiver should take the following steps when seeking special education services:
1. Ask for an Evaluation
If you think a child needs special education, write a letter to the principal asking to figure out if the child has a disability. Write the date and explain the child’s problems in school with learning, paying attention or acting out. Keep a copy of the letter. If the child has a medical condition, think about including a letter or document from the child’s doctor. The school has 30 days to answer a caregiver’s letter in writing and say whether or not it will test the child.
2. School Agrees to Test Your Child
If the school district agrees a child may have a disability, they will ask the caregiver to sign a consent form. The evaluation may only start after the school receives the signed forms and permission to test. The school must finish the testing within 60 days of consent. After the evaluation is done, the school must meet with the caregiver to talk about the testing and decide if the child needs special education.
3. School Will Note Test Your Child
If the school tells a caregiver that the child will not be tested, and the caregiver disagrees with the decision, s/he has options to appeal. It is a good idea to ask for help with an appeal. The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland is able to help in some of these cases.
4. Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
Children found to need special education services will have an IEP with the school. The IEP services can include things like help with math or reading, plans for addressing behavior problems, speech, language, or occupational therapy, and other services to help children learn. The services are free to families, and can be provided in school or in the home.
5. Signing Forms
If at any time the school asks a caregiver to sign a document and the person does not agree with the document, either (1) do not sign it or (2) write on the document to indicate disagreement.
Additional information about special education is available from the Ohio Department of Education at: 614-466-2650 or 877-644-6338 (toll free). If you need help with a special education problem, please call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are eligible for assistance.
This article was written by Legal Aid volunteer Kolie Erokwu and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.
I just got out of prison. What resources are there to help me with community re-entry?
Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry
Ashtabula County Local Reentry Partner
Geauga County Local Reentry Partner
Lake County Reentry Coalition
Lorain County Reentry Coalition
You can also access the Ohio Reentry Resource Center for information about programs and services available in each county at http://www.drc.ohio.gov/web/reentry_resource.htm.
This information appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.
I was denied public housing because of my criminal record. Can I appeal the decision?
What to Do When a Landlord Denies Public Housing Based on a Criminal Record
When you apply for Section 8 or public housing, you may be asked whether you or a family member have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.
If is the answer is yes, then the landlord may deny your application. But you may still qualify for the housing. If you want to challenge the denial, you need to ask for an informal appeal right away. The number of days you are given will be stated in the rejection letter. You count the number of days from the date in the letter.
You will need to write a short letter to ask for a meeting about the denial. Take your letter to the landlord’s office and ask the receptionist to date-stamp a copy of your request for a meeting. Keep the stamped copy. In the letter, you should ask for:
- a copy of your application
- the information used to deny your application
- a copy of the Tenant Selection Plan (TSP)
The TSP will tell you how long the criminal conviction will count against you. Federal law requires the time to be reasonable. The time may count either from the date you were convicted or from when you completed your sentence. Different landlords will look at criminal convictions for different lengths of time.
At the meeting with the landlord, you need to show that you will be a good tenant. You could show that your conviction should not count against you because it is from a long time ago. Also, you could show that your behavior has improved since you were convicted. Bring letters from teachers, mentors, pastors or others that say how you have changed. Certificates showing you completed courses or programs can also be helpful. You may want to consult with an attorney before the meeting. To find out if you are eligible for Legal Aid, please contact intake at 216.687.1900 or attend a free Brief Advice Clinic.
This article was written by Legal Aid Supervising Attorney Maria Smith and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.
How do I avoid identity theft?
For the twelfth year in a row, identity theft has been the #1 complaint reported to the Federal Trade Commission. What can you do to protect yourself?
- Protect your social security number. Do not carry it in your wallet. Share it only when you know who you are giving it to and why they need it.
- Pick up your mail promptly. Do not leave it in a place where strangers can get it while you are away from home.
- Shred bank and credit card statements, and any other financial documents or paperwork with personal information, before you discard them.
- Keep personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, outside help, or are having work done in your home.
- Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails. Even if it looks like an email sent by your bank or by a government agency: It could be a fake.
- Do not use obvious passwords like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your social security number.
- Review your account statements regularly for charges you did not make. Also review your medical explanation of benefits forms to ensure that there are no surprise charges for medical benefits.
- Check your credit report. Each year, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major nationwide credit reporting agencies. It’s easy to get your report by calling Annual Credit Report at 1.877.322.8228.
If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, act quickly. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-ID-THEFT for information about steps you can take to limit the damage. You may want to close affected accounts, file a police report, or call the Attorney General Consumer Protection Line at 1.800.282.0515. You can place a “fraud alert” on your credit report by calling one of the following companies:
- Experian www.experian.com, 1.888.397.3742
- Equifax: www.equifax.com, 1.800.525.6285
- TransUnion: www.transunion.com, 1.800.680.7289
Be careful with your personal information and take action immediately if you think someone has stolen your identifying information.
*The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone. She does not express the views of the FTC or of any individual commissioner.
This FAQ was written by FTC Attorney Maria Del Monaco, and appeared as a story in Volume 28, Issue 2 of “The Alert” – a newsletter for seniors published by Legal Aid. Click here to read the full issue.
If I need an interpreter, how do I request one?
Who Must Provide You With An Interpreter?
• Most hospitals
• Legal Aid and Public Defender
• Public and Charter Schools (but not Catholic or other private schools)
• Public Housing Agencies
• All Federal agencies like Social Security, Veterans Administration, Internal Revenue Service
• State agencies like Unemployment Compensation and the BMV
• County agencies that handle public assistance and Medicaid benefits
Asking For An Interpreter
Ask an employee of the court, agency or organization for an interpreter.
If a court does not provide you with an interpreter, click here for information on your rights and how to file a complaint.
If another organization or agency does not provide you with an interpreter, try asking to speak with a supervisor, customer service person or ombudsman (person who hears complaints).
If they say no, ask a supervisor, customer service person, or ombudsman (person who hears complaints) for an interpreter.
If they still do not provide an interpreter, you may file a complaint against them with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). You may either send a letter or use DOJ’s complaint form, in English or your first language. You should explain when and how they did not speak to you in your language or provide you an interpreter. Keep a copy of the complaint for your records. Send the letter or form to:
Office for Civil Rights
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
810 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
DOJ will respond with a letter or phone call.
How do I obtain a Civil Protection Order (CPO) against my abuser?
Victims of domestic violence can file for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) with the help of an attorney, or without an attorney (also called “pro se“). It is more helpful to have an attorney. You must file for a CPO in the county Domestic Relations Court or in the general division of the county Common Pleas Court (if there is no Domestic Relations Court).
When a request for a CPO is filed:
- A hearing will be held the day the CPO petition is filed with the Court.
- The abuser will not be present for the first hearing. You will be asked to tell the court about the most recent incidents of domestic violence. The court will then decide whether to grant the CPO.
- Once granted, obtain several certified copies of the CPO from the Clerk of Courts. Certified copies of the order are free.
- The second hearing will be held within seven to ten court days. The abuser will be notified and may be present for this hearing.
You must be in court at both hearings and you must bring:
- Copies of any police reports
- Any records of medical treatment for the abuse
- Any records of the abuser’s prior convictions for domestic violence, or a crime of violence
- Anyone who witnessed the abuse
If the abuser does not agree to a CPO or the abuser does not appear at court, testimony will be taken at the hearing, and the court will then decide whether to grant a CPO that may remain in effect for up to five years.
It is important to keep a certified copy of the CPO on you at all times and have it ready to show to the police if the abuser violates the order.
I feel my criminal record will limit my success in life. Has anyone else turned their life around after prison?
Damian Calvert: From Inmate to Community Leader
When a person is convicted of a crime, he may spend days, months or years in prison, but the criminal record will affect him for much longer. Formerly incarcerated individuals struggle to find jobs, housing, health care and other necessities. It’s much harder to avoid re-offending when these needs are not met. Despite the hurdles, success is possible. Damian Calvert is an inspiring example.
Damian Calvert spent 18 years in prison. As many young adults were graduating from high school, going to college or starting jobs – Calvert was facing a long road through the correction system to achieve a life free from crime. According to Calvert, “my journey of incarceration wasn’t just a physical journey it was an interior journey”¦. I had a lot of self-introspection, facing my own demons and dealing with my own issues – emotionally, spiritually and mentally.”
Despite the challenges Calvert faced during and after prison, he returned home and is creating positive change in his community. Much of Calvert’s success today is based on the groundwork he laid while still incarcerated. Calvert founded the NAACP chapter at Grafton Correctional Institution (GCI) in 2005. As part of his work with the NAACP, Calvert conducted outreach to many people outside the prison walls. Given that he could not participate in typical networking, he invited key stakeholders into the prison. Many of those people are now Calvert’s friends and coworkers in the community.
Within two days of leaving GCI, Calvert found a job. A short time later he enrolled at Cleveland State University to pursue a Masters in Non-Profit Management. Just over two years after Calvert’s release, he has his own apartment and car, and he is the Lead Organizer for Stand Up Ohio (Cleveland Region). Calvert proudly speaks about his life story: “If I cannot accept and be comfortable with myself, how can I expect others to treat me with the respect and dignity I deserve?”
This article was written by Erika Anthony of Oriana House, Inc. and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.