This article originally appeared in The Compass Winter 2021 issue.
The path that Julie Schecter has followed post-Windward underscores how transformative an experience it is to be taught in a way that makes sense for you, be encouraged to fiercely advocate for yourself, and be fully supported to reach your potential.
Before joining the Windward community in seventh grade, Julie had been steadily falling behind her peer group, despite having an IEP and working with tutors and specialists. “I was always in the slow reading group, and there were only five of us. It made me feel so isolated,” she said. Suddenly, at Windward, Julie found herself surrounded by students who learned like her and by teachers who understood the tools she needed to succeed. She could see that her parents were comforted in knowing that she was in the right environment. “They saw me struggling for so long, and as a parent it’s so hard to hear that your child has a learning disability. It gave them hope.”
Julie credits the self-advocacy skills she acquired at Windward for helping her to secure testing accommodations during her post-graduate studies. Testing boards have a long history of denying accommodations, which can marginalize students with disabilities who would otherwise perform very well. Julie’s experiences with the LSAT, Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), NY Law Exam, and NY Bar Exam proved to bear out these testing associations’ denial-by-default approach. When she applied to the Law School Admissions Council for double time to take the LSAT, the board refused, citing the fact that she had only received time-and-a-half for the SAT. “So I took the LSAT with time and a half, and I scored lower than I had on my practice tests. I was scoring significantly higher when I did simulations using double time,” Julie explained.
Julie credits the self-advocacy skills she acquired at Windward for helping her to secure testing accommodations during her post-graduate studies.
Receiving double time in law school, she excelled, consistently earning a 3.4 GPA and ranking in the top 25% of her class. When it came time to plan for the three high-stakes tests that would ultimately license her to practice law, she knew she’d likely have a fight ahead. Her suspicions were confirmed. For the MPRE, Julie asked for double time, submitting a 70-page request spanning 20 years of documentation. She was denied, offered time and a half instead. So, she hired a lawyer, who submitted an additional 52 pages of documentation, including a Memorandum of Law, in support of the double time request.
When Julie asked for double time on the NY Law Exam and NY Bar Exam, they denied her as well. She appealed with her lawyer and was finally approved for double time, wrapping up an arduous and lengthy process. “I am fortunate to have supportive parents, but what happens to the hundreds, if not thousands, of people that do not have that support? The testing organizations must be aware that many people do not have the resources to fight for appropriate accommodations which they may be entitled to under the law,” Julie said.
Incredibly, Julie navigated these challenges while simultaneously finishing her final year at New York Law School, interning at the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County as a Pro Bono Scholar, and expecting a baby. As part of the Scholars program, she took and passed the bar exam prior to graduation. Julie also sat for the NY Law Exam eleven days post-partum.
Currently, Julie is practicing as a criminal defense attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County. “There has been a great deal of research connecting learning disabilities and incarceration. I hope the skills that I have gained from self-advocating will help me become a fierce defender of other’s rights,” she said.