The Boston Bar Association (BBA) today announced a new collaboration with Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) to provide a series of presentations designed to increase awareness about students’ rights, following a recent class action settlement agreement. This new project is the first of its kind and establishes a new collaboration model for a bar association, the private bar, and the legal services community.
The program will feature presentations given by BBA members currently enrolled in its Public Interest Leadership Program (PILP) to a series of community groups, including community centers, health service organizations, and parent and student groups. The program is part of the BBA’s larger Service Innovation Project, designed to advance efforts to dismantle the cradle-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts. The cradle-to-prison pipeline is a mechanism by which social and economic disparities contribute to a “pipeline” where children of color, children with disabilities, and children from low-income families are disproportionately funneled into the system of mass incarceration. The BBA’s project focuses on the educational system’s role in the pipeline.
“We are thrilled by this partnership with the BBA to spread the word of this new settlement agreement,” said Elizabeth McIntyre, Staff Attorney and Director of the School to Prison Pipeline Intervention Project at GBLS. “It is absolutely critical that the families most affected by this settlement are able to use it as a tool as they continue to fight for their schools.”
“This project gives our class the opportunity to create meaningful change in our communities and demonstrate the value that lawyers can bring in jumpstarting social change,” said Jared Shwartz, a current member of PILP and an associate at Hinckley Allen. “An education can open so many doors; dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline ensures that we do not unduly disadvantage a segment of our community that needs access to these types of opportunities.”
The settlement stems from a complaint, filed against Boston Public Schools by GBLS, which asserted that the school system had unlawfully suspended three minor clients of GBLS. Boston Public Schools has committed to several changes that aim to end unlawful student suspensions, decrease overall suspensions, and foster powerful, compassionate learning communities.
PILP participant Lavinia Weizel, associate at Mintz, said, “Working on a project to help dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts seemed like a great fit for our PILP class this year. As a group, we were eager to participate in a project that would enable us to connect with the broader community and contribute to tackling important legal and social issues. Our work in this initiative has been a great learning experience.”
The Service Innovation Project is made possible by the Burnes Innovation in Service Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation.