CASA Volunteers – Helping Foster Children Succeed

Attorney Synthia Shilling has a long history of working with children. Before earning her juris doctor from the University of Baltimore School of Law, she worked as a teacher for many years in the Howard County Public School District. Today, Synthia Shilling helps children in another way; she volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (known as CASAs) volunteer their time to watch over and advocate for children who were abused and neglected and ended up as wards of a state. CASAs make sure that the children they are appointed to care for do not remain in inappropriate foster care or group homes. They also campaign for the rights and needs of their charges in overburdened judicial and social service systems.

In the United States each year, close to 75,000 CASAs and legal guardians (GALs) work diligently to help some 238,000 neglected and abused foster children to find safe, long-term homes and families. Some 950 CASE programs currently exist in 49 states and the District of Columbia. With approximately 1,900 children victimized by abuse and neglect every day, the demand for CASAs and GALs remains constant. Learn more about this need at


An Overview of Equal Employment Opportunity Laws

With 15 years of legal experience, Synthia Shilling most recently served as an attorney with the United States Department of Agriculture, where she prepared final agency decisions for the department’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) cases. To stay up-to-date on current law developments, Synthia Shilling continues to study such legal topics as public interest law, alternative dispute resolution, and EEO law.

Established through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces a wide range of workplace and disability laws and regulations, such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This law not only makes it illegal for people of different sexes performing the same job in the same workplace to be paid differently, but it also protects workers from retaliation if they complain about alleged discrimination or file a discrimination charge. The EEOC additionally enforces Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prevents employers from discriminating against qualified people who have disabilities and states that employers must make reasonable accommodations for workers with mental or physical limitations. Outside of the aforementioned laws, EEOC works to prevent discrimination based on factors like age, race, nationality, and religion.

EEO Legislation in the United States

Attorney Synthia Shilling formerly served with the United States Department of Agriculture. During her time with the USDA, Synthia Shilling worked on equal employment opportunity (EEO) cases in all 17 of the department’s agencies.

There are a number of laws and bills that protect the equal employment opportunity rights of United States citizens. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, prohibits discrimination against employees because of their race or any characteristic associated with race, such as skin color, accent, or country of origin. Title VII outlaws any racial harassment in the workplace, including the use of racial epithets, and is also relevant in the event a company implements an office policy that has a harmful effect on a select group of people.

The amended Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is another piece of US legislation used to enforce equal opportunity rights at work. Under the act, a qualified individual with any form of disability cannot be treated unfairly. The act covers physical and mental disabilities as well as cases of severe illness or disease, such as cancer, permitted the employee has the condition under control. This legislation also protects employees against discrimination resulting from a family member’s disability. Legal counsel typically refers to the Rehabilitation Act in instances when an employer fails to effectively accommodate an employee with a disability.

Elements of an Effective Book Club Selection

Synthia Shilling, an attorney and former legal advisor to the United States Department of Agriculture, studied English education at the University of Maryland and later earned a master’s degree in English rhetoric at the University of Maryland College Park. When she is not working, Synthia Shilling enjoys reading with her book club.

There are a number of qualities that make a novel an effective book club selection. A book club selection should, above all else, promote discussion among a wide variety of readers. Books that feature characters that make one or more life-altering decisions are often successful in this regard, as many readers will have different perspectives on the characters’ choices. Novels that conclude ambiguously or without resolution can also serve as effective conversation subjects, as readers will be forced to speculate on the significance of the ending or on how the plot might continue to unfold.

Participants can also derive discussion from unique aesthetic or structural approaches taken by an author. Stories with unreliable narrators, for example, force readers to question every bit of information they are given. Holden Caulfield is perhaps the most discussed unreliable narrator in American literature. His overly cynical outlook on the adult world, coupled with the fact that he relays his story from a mental institution, places all of the novel’s scenes into question as careful readers try to determine the truth of his narrative.

Illegal Employment Practices for Job Posts, Applications, and Hiring

A talented attorney possessing more than 15 years of legal experience, Synthia Shilling has worked with large school systems and legal firms in Maryland throughout her career. Synthia Shilling most recently served as a contract attorney for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, handling various issues involving EEO law.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and prohibit discrimination against applicants or employees based on race, religion, disability, age, sex, or national origin. They apply to all areas of employment, starting with job advertisements. Publishing a job ad that either discourages someone from applying, or shows a preference for a specific individual based on any discrimination areas, is illegal. Ads that seek females only or recent college graduates may deter older applicants or men from applying, and as a result may violate the law. Additionally, recruiting individuals in a way that is systematically exclusive of certain groups–such as word-of-mouth recruitment among a predominantly Hispanic population resulting in a mostly Hispanic work force–is also illegal.

Any tests required during the application and hiring process must include all individuals and be related to the job. For example, tests that exclude applicants or employees over the age of 40 are illegal, as are any tests that exclude individuals of a particular race. Another prohibited practice related to applications and hiring is refusing to give an interested individual an application, or making assumptions about an individual’s abilities, based on discriminatory bias or stereotypes.

Union Organization in Charter Schools

Over the course of her career, attorney Synthia Shilling has provided counsel to two Maryland school districts. Synthia Shilling draws on an in-depth knowledge of labor and employment law as it applies to both the public and private sectors.

The classification of a charter school as public or private sector has a number of implications in terms of union organization. Public school employees fall under the jurisdiction of state labor boards while private-sector workers turn to the National Labor Relations Act for unionization legislation. Many charter school teachers and support personnel are employees of a management company, which automatically makes them private-sector workers. However, employees hired by the school may be classified as public or private sector, depending a number of factors.

One can find an example of this classification in the National Labor Relations Board’s 2012 decision on Chicago Math and Science Academy. The Board deemed the academy to be a private entity, as its formation made it a private nonprofit corporation. The academy is thus susceptible to unionization laws that govern the private sector. Therefore, the school is prohibited from organizing under the State Labor Relations Act and must do so in accordance with private-sector regulations. The board did qualify that this ruling does not apply to all charter schools nationwide and invites other schools to apply individually for classification.

Lesser-Known Historical Sites Around the World

Synthia Shilling, an experienced labor and employment attorney, drafted final agency decisions and reviewed reports as a former EEO contract attorney for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC. Outside of her legal work, Synthia Shilling enjoys traveling, and especially enjoys visiting different historical sites.

Most individuals know about big historical destinations such as Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal, but there are several other sites that are worth a visit even though they are frequently overlooked. Following are just a few of the lesser-known historical sites that are worth seeing.

1. Cueva De Las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina, is full of neolithic drawings and paintings dating back 13,000 years. Most of the images depict hunting scenes, but there is also a host of stenciled silhouettes of hands on the walls. It is believed that the Patagonians placed their hands on the wall and blew paint over them, creating a sprayed silhouette.

2. Built by Emperor Akbar, Agra Fort is a vast and impressive sandstone fortification surrounding a city full of mosques, palaces, and everything in between. Although the site is often recognized as one of India’s most outstanding creations, it tends to be overshadowed by the nearby Taj Mahal.

3. Calakmul in Mexico was the capital of the Mayan Snake Kingdom. Offering the best preserved architecture in the country, it is home to almost 7,000 ancient structures and was once a major influence in Mesoamerica. However, reaching Calakmul requires visitors to make quite a hike.

4. Herculaneum is frequently ignored by visitors who often spend most of their time visiting the nearby and more well-known city of Pompeii. Herculaneum also suffered destruction when Mount Vesuvius erupted, but the city sustained much less damage than its neighbor, so that many of its ancient buildings still stand up to two stories high.