Cheryl Theis is an Education Advocate in the Parent Training and Information Center at DREDF (Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund), with a special focus on the intersection of disability, social justice and education. She has a BA in Social Welfare and an MA (advanced to candidacy for the PhD) in Medical Anthropology, both from UC Berkeley. Her experience encompasses teaching, case management, consulting, advocacy, policy development and program implementation. She trains youth, parents, professionals and activists to understand existing laws and engage effectively in the processes to support the education access of students with disabilities, and to work collaboratively with schools and other support agencies whenever possible. A primary focus of Cheryl’s work is addressing and removing the educational barriers to full participation in school and community for youth with disabilities and to empower them, their parents and other stakeholders as advocates to increase meaningful engagement across all settings, including education, child welfare and juvenile justice.
Cheryl has significant expertise helping families create appropriate support for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities and students transitioning to adulthood in order to keep them in their least restrictive educational environment. She most recently has focused on addressing the school to prison pipeline challenges for students with disabilities in underrepresented and vulnerable communities as part of DREDF’s social justice work, particularly children in foster and kinship care, and/or from historically disempowered communities.
In addition to her professional experience, Cheryl is the mother of five children, two with disabilities, and is a foster and adoptive parent.