Over the summer, the BBA’s most recent Public Interest Leadership Program class and other dedicated volunteers were busy making presentations on school discipline rights to a number of community organizations as part of the Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline. These presentations covered due process rights that Boston Public Schools students are entitled to when faced with a suspension or expulsion, and focused particularly on new rights established under a 2018 settlement agreement between Greater Boston Legal Services and Boston Public Schools.
Volunteers made presentations at the following organizations, reaching over 150 service providers and middle and high school students.
Bird Street Community Center Boston Children’s Hospital Boston Youth Sanctuary Bridge Over Troubled Waters Brookview House DotHouse Health Italian Home for Children Justice Resource Institute North End Waterfront Health South Boston Community Health Center
Volunteers will be doing another round
of outreach presentations as the new school year kicks off! If you are aware of any organizations or
groups that might benefit from hearing a Know Your Rights presentation on
school discipline, or if you are interested in volunteering with the project,
please reach out to Hannah Poor at email@example.com.
Thank you to the volunteers who made presentations this summer:
Genevieve Aguilar, Harvard University Office of the General Counsel Paula Bagger, Law Office of Paula M. Bagger LLC Erin Brummer, Fragomen Courtney Caruso, Hogan Lovells Caroline Donovan, Foley Hoag LLP Vaishali Goyal, Goulston & Storrs Hillary Harnett, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Susanna Jones, Foundation Medicine, Inc. Matthew Kane, Laredo & Smith Elizabeth Levitan, The EdLaw Project Natasha Lewis, Volunteer Lawyers Project Micah Miller, Nutter Safa Osmani, Hogan Lovells Rebekah Provost, Justice Resource Institute Payal Salsburg, Laredo & Smith Leah Segal, Goulston & Storrs Cecilia Vega, GE
BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline
is made possible by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Burnes Innovation in Service
On Monday, July 21, as part of the BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline, attorneys Paula Bagger (Law Office of Paula M. Bagger LLC) and Erin Brummer (Fragomen) met with middle and high schoolers at Brookview House shelter to discuss the students’ rights with regards to school discipline. In particular, the attorneys ensured that students knew that, following a 2018 settlement agreement between Greater Boston Legal Services and Boston Public Schools, the rights of students around suspension from school had been expanded.
The attorneys discussed how important it is that students
who are suspended receive a letter detailing the reasoning behind their
suspension and the length of time a suspension is in effect. They also
emphasized that students have the right to a suspension hearing and the ability
to appeal suspensions that they disagree with.
Students asked insightful questions about suspensions, such
as whether they are allowed to be on school grounds during the time of the
suspension. They also asked the attorneys about their rights around school detention
and about the consequences of being truant.
Many thanks to Attorney Bagger and Attorney Brummer for their help in spreading the word about students’ rights, and to the students at Brookview for an engaging discussion!
The BBA’s Service Innovation Project on Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline is made possible by the Boston Bar Foundation’s Burnes Innovation in Service Fund.
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.
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
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.”
On May 17, the Boston Bar convened attorneys for the next step in the pilot phase of its Service Innovation Project, which will focus on engaging the legal community in disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. At an issue briefing panel, a distinguished group of experts provided a comprehensive overview of the issue to attendees, and challenged them to think about actionable next steps to work toward solutions.
The panel, moderated by Northeastern University Law School’s Susan Maze-Rothstein, consisted of:
Jessica Berry – Deputy Director, Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Jay D. Blitzman – First Justice for the Middlesex Juvenile Court and Presiding Justice, Lowell
Matt Cregor – Education Project Director, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice
Janelle Ridley – District Coordinator for System-Involved Youth, Boston Public Schools
Marlies Spanjaard – Director of Education Advocacy, the EdLaw Project
The goal of the panel was to give attendees a deeper understanding of the many complicated and intersecting issues that perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline, facilitating economically disadvantaged youth slipping into the justice system in Boston and all over the United States. From their unique professional vantage points, each panelist was able to share examples of glaring inequities which are, unfortunately, commonplace.
Jessica Berry (Children’s Law Center of MA), Hon. Jay Blitzman (Middlesex Juvenile Court, Lowell Juvenile Court), Matt Cregor (Lawyers’ Committee), Janelle Ridley (Boston Public Schools), and Marlies Spanjaard (The EdLaw Project)
In summing up the structure of the school-to-prison pipeline, panelists explained that communities with high poverty rates and larger-than-average incarcerated populations also tend to have the most overcrowded, underfunded schools. Though staying in school has proven to be a deterrent from getting involved in the justice system, the increase in policing on school campuses in the past 20 years has led to more arrests on school grounds than ever before. In addition, students who are suspended or expelled from school, often for minor non-violent infractions, are at higher risk to drop out of school and thus more likely to enter into the criminal justice system.
These factors disproportionately impact black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities, and the panelists cited multiple sources of data on the devastating impact that disparity is having in majority-minority communities.
“There is no such thing as race-neutral, zero-tolerance (policies),” Judge Blitzman said, adding that well-intended legislation meant to bolster school safety has led to the “criminalization of adolescence” for at-risk youth.
Ridley said one of the most important parts of her job is simply to listen to students, something the students may not feel they are getting from other adults at school or at home.
“We have a lot of quantitative data, but what we’re missing is the qualitative data: the stories, the reasoning, and what got these kids to where they are,” she said.
Panel moderator Prof. Susan Maze-Rothstein (Northeastern Law) brainstorms with her breakout group.
Following the panel, attendees formed small breakout groups to discuss what they had learned and think about next steps. Throughout the room, attorneys thought about various ways to offer pro bono assistance directly to affected children and families. But other, multidisciplinary approaches were also a focus of the discussion – such as public information campaigns targeted to schools, parents and the general public. Many attendees expressed their enthusiasm for restorative-justice-style programs in schools, giving students the chance to express their feelings and hopefully avoid suspension or expulsion.
The Boston Bar would like to thank everyone who participated, and we look forward to working together with the Service Innovation Project Advisory Committee to take these ideas and incorporate them into our work going forward.
Attorneys and community leaders discuss the insights and information presented during the first half of the issue briefing.
Special thanks to the Boston Bar Foundation Burnes Innovation in Service Fund, made possible by a generous gift from Richard and Nonnie Burnes. This fund provides critical support for the Service Innovation Project. For more information on the Burnes Innovation in Service Fund or the Boston Bar Foundation, contact Megan Leppert at 617.778.1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.