Chris leads Disability Rights Oregon’s Children’s Rights Project where she oversees the organization’s legal advocacy to ensure all children have access to services and an education that gives them the opportunity to reach their full potential.
She is an expert on Oregon schools’ use of restraints on children with disabilities and the practice of isolating students with disabilities in rooms by themselves away from their classmates. Chris spearheaded the organization’s 2010 advocacy campaign to limit the use of these dangerous tactics on students with disabilities, authoring an investigative report, Keep School Safe for Everyone, that highlighted the scope of the problem and the lasting consequences on children.
Chris’s advocacy prompted the passage of groundbreaking legislation in 2011 (HB 2939) that regulated the use of restraint and seclusion in Oregon schools by requiring planning, training, and greater parental involvement. Her work was also a driving force behind 2013 legislation to create an enforcement mechanism for violations of the law and reporting requirements so use of restraint and seclusion could be monitored.
As part of the organization’s efforts to transform Oregon’s foster care system by filing a federal class-action lawsuit, Chris led a team that conducted roughly a hundred interviews of children in foster care living in facilities across Oregon. Her groundwork was instrumental in making the case that the Oregon must do more to meet the behavioral, developmental and mental health needs of children in its foster care system.
Over the span of nearly 20 years, Chris has led more than 60 trainings for parents of children with disabilities on how to advocate for their child’s right to an education. For more than a decade, she’s presented at the annual All Born (In) Conference.
She received her B.A. in government from University of Notre Dame and then ventured to the great Northwest as a member of Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest. As a JV, she lived for a year in community with other volunteers dedicated to social justice where she assisted people who were economically marginalized and homeless in Washington County.
Chris then channeled her passion for social justice into law school, obtaining her J.D. from Lewis and Clark Law School as a public interest law fellow.