Fall 2023 Newsletter
I hope you had an excellent summer! As we transition into fall here at GBLS, we have thanked our summer interns for their excellent work and are getting ready to welcome new faces to the office. A new group of fellows has joined GBLS to work on important projects, including victim advocacy, equal justice, and more.
On September 19th, we had our 2023 Annual Meeting in-person for the first time since 2019. Many thanks to Ropes & Gray for hosting. We were thrilled to be able to gather to discuss last year's achievements, and everything we have to look forward to in the year ahead. Congratulations again to our award winners: Lizbeth Ginsburg, Abbe Hirshberg, Harvey Kaplan, and Analiza Tavares. We are so grateful for the great work you did last year and beyond.
We are also excited to announce the launch of our new intake system. GBLS’ Intake Manager, Claudia Rivera-Gruvis, and her team have been working hard to create a new, more streamlined system, and after much thought and planning, we are excited that the new Central Screening Unit is live! You can find more information about how to reach the new intake line below.
We know fall will bring many more changes, and we are grateful to you, our community, for being part of it.
Thank you for all of your support!
A Conversation with Alison Sexson, GBLS' New Staff Attorney for the School to Prison Pipeline Intervention Project
GBLS sat down with education law attorney Alison Sexson to learn more about her passion for social justice, what her days look like as the Staff Attorney for the School to Prison Pipeline Intervention Project, and how many baseball stadiums she’s been to.
GBLS: What is your role at GBLS? How long have you been here?
Alison Sexson: My role at GBLS is the Staff Attorney for the School to Prison Pipeline Intervention Project. This is a fancy way to say that I am an education attorney, specializing in student discipline. My goal is to keep children in school, minimizing school exclusion as much as possible. I work for children attending Boston Public Schools, as well as those enrolled in the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) Program. I joined the GBLS team July of 2023.
GBLS: What drew you to this work and to GBLS specifically?
AS: I come from five generations of teachers, so it was a big deal when I decided to become an attorney. The calling for this break in tradition came the summer of 2010, when my family took a road trip through the South. Seeing amazing Civil Rights Leaders of the 1950’s and 60’s use their voice to uplift others and resist systemic oppression during gave me direction and purpose in my own life. My new calling was to find ways to advance civil rights within the local community. As time passed, the area of interest that I became most passionate about was education.
The impact litigation, lobbying, and community outreach GBLS does is inspirational. The education work done by GBLS is exceptional, and I wanted to join a stellar team and learn from giants in the legal community.
GBLS: What is a "normal" day (to the extent that exists!) for you? What kinds of activities take up your time?
AS: During the school year, a normal day consists of meetings and phone calls. Sometimes I am attending Suspension or Expulsion Hearings, other times it is Team meetings for students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Parents of my clients frequently call to ask questions and/or provide updates about their child. These conversations help me learn more about my client, their family, and what holistic representation is necessary to ensure the child succeeds in school.
GBLS: What is the impact your work has on your clients?
AS: The most tangible impact my work has on clients is keeping them in school. On a more personal level, my work with the students and parents provides guidance through their child’s tough time, as well as a sympathetic ear. Most of the time, parents and students are frustrated that the school is not listening to their needs or concerns, and my presence usually resolves that complaint. In the future, I hope to participate in substantial impact litigation.
GBLS: What about GBLS' work resonates with you?
AS: I think that GBLS’ unwavering commitment to the community resonates with me the most. It is inspirational to work alongside such amazing attorneys and advocates who have dedicated their lives to such a great cause. This makes even the toughest days manageable because I know that I can turn to my coworkers for whatever advice or support I need. Being there for each other helps us continue to be there for our clients.
GBLS: What do you like to do for fun?
AS: I have many hobbies. My first love is traveling to new places within the state, within New England, and beyond. Going to local museums, amusement parks, and sporting events is the best way to learn about a new town or city. Watching a Sox game always brightens my day, even if they lose. Attending baseball games is something I do as often as possible, which makes sense since I have visited all 30 MLB Stadiums. Lastly, I enjoy taking long walks around the town, and enjoying the good weather whenever possible.
What Older Adults Should Know About Debt Collection
Earlier this year, CRU Attorney Sarah Perlman initiated a partnership with the statewide Office of Economic Empowerment to develop a presentation on debt collection for older adults. This is an especially relevant topic for our community: Despite its progressive reputation, UMass Boston's Gerontology Institute reports that Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of elder economic insecurity in the country.
Over 100 people, including representatives from 37 elder service organizations located across the commonwealth, tuned in to learn how consumer debt uniquely impacts older adults and what options are available for the millions of Americans over the age of 60 with a debt in collection each year.
For example, many older adults are “collection-proof” because their income comes exclusively from public benefits such as Social Security, SSI, & SSDI—all of which are protected from creditors under exemption laws regardless of the amount or validity of the debt in question. These folks can send a letter to debt collectors that asks the collector to stop contacting them because all of their income is protected and, if they have been sued in small claims court, may provide the Plaintiff with a copy of their benefit verification letter and ask for a voluntary “hardship dismissal” based on their collection-proof status.
Other topics covered included how to validate or dispute a debt, stopping harassment from debt collectors, and tips for navigating small claims court as an older adult.
You can watch a recording of the entire presentation here: Debt Collection for Older Adults.
Boston-Area Associates Raise Over $645,000 to Support GBLS' Work for Survivors of Domestic Violence
GBLS is profoundly grateful to the law firm associates who led the Associates Drive as co-chairs and captains, and all of the associates, partners, counsel, staff, and law firms who donated to GBLS’ 2023 Associates Drive. Over 1200 donors at 46 Boston-area firms demonstrated the deep commitment of the Boston legal community to legal aid. Thank you!
Stay tuned for our year-end fundraising efforts in the legal community: GBLS’ Corporate Fund Drive is underway, and the Law Firm Drive and In-House Counsel Drive are on the horizon!
More than 100 people attended the GBLS Annual Meeting in September, when we elected our Board of Directors and Officers for 2023-2024. Several Board members are leaving the Board; we thank them for all their efforts and hope they stay connected to GBLS.
Geoffrey Howell Sandy Moskowitz
Elaine Marin-Ruff Ed Naughton
Ronald Marlow Natalicia Tracy
At the same time, we’d like to extend a warm welcome to our new Board members:
Caroline Donovan Thanos Matthai
Monica Halas Rory Pheiffer
Corinne Kelton Natacha Thomas
We are excited to welcome our new Board President, Anne Trinque, who succeeds Bill Connolly.
We thank Bill for his service as President and are delighted he is staying on the Board. We look forward to working with Anne in her new capacity as Board President.
Read our 2023 Annual Report!
GBLS’ Annual Report for fiscal year 2022-2023 can be viewed here. In it, you can find our fiscal and case reporting as well as stories about the incredible work the different units have been doing, from direct representation to impact advocacy.
GBLS in the News
- Click here to read Rae Fanella’s article about their summer internship with the CRU: Protecting Consumer Rights
- Laura Massie’s letter to the Boston Globe: The State’s duty to shelter its residents
- Mass. guarantees workers up to 26 weeks of paid medical leave. But many don’t know that.
- State places homeless families in unstaffed sites, raising safety concerns
- Advocates urge expungement access for survivors, victims