Educating Attorneys on Advocating for At-Risk Youth

Marlies Spanjaard shares strategies for successfully navigating the school discipline process.

Marlies Spanjaard (the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts) shares strategies for successfully navigating the school discipline process.

Last night, the BBA held a first of its kind pro bono training which provided pro bono attorneys with the knowledge and tools to represent youth who are facing long-term suspension or expulsion. The training, a collaboration of the BBA and EdLaw Project ( a joint initiative of the Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts and the Committee for Public Counsel Services – Children & Family and Youth Advocacy Divisions), included relevant Massachusetts and federal legislation and case law governing school discipline.

So why did busy attorneys take the time to attend this three hour training? These statistics explain it all:

  • Suspended students are 3x more likely to drop out which triples the likelihood of incarceration later in life.
  • Two-thirds of the students who experience expulsion or long-term suspension are special education students and 60 percent are low-income.
    • The cases are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic students.
  • The average individual benefit from preventing or recovering school dropouts is $209,200 per student.
  • For a concrete example of the impact attorneys can have on an at-risk youth, read Danny’s story here.

In exchange for attending this free training, attorneys agreed to take at least one pro bono discipline case during the school year.