2016 Dash Conference: Protecting the World’s Children

April 21, 2016 —

The 2016 Samuel Dash Conference on Human Rights on April 11 focused on protecting the fundamental rights of the youngest and most vulnerable members of society: the world’s children. The event began by examining access to public education for undocumented children in the United States, thanks to a report launched that morning by students in Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute Fact-Finding Project.

The report, entitled Ensuring Every Undocumented Student Succeeds: A Report on Access to Public Education for Undocumented Children, alleges that undocumented children face barriers to education including rigid documentation requirements; a lack of communication between educators, sponsors and parents; an excessive focus on test scores and graduation rates; and enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. 

“Children — including undocumented children — have the right, and in fact a legal obligation, to enroll in school,” said moderator Sruti Swaminathan (L’17), a co-author of the report.  

Zenande Booi (LL.M.’16), Caitlin Callahan (L’17), Genevieve Fugere (L’17), Mikaela Harris (L’17), Alexandra Hughes (L’16), Alexander Kramarczuk (L’17), Caroline Kurtz (L’17) and Raimy Reyes (LL.M.’16) also presented the findings. Co-sponsored by the Human Rights Institute and its Juvenile Justice Clinic, the conference honors the contributions of the late Professor Samuel Dash to fundamental human rights. 

The report, a joint project with the Women’s Refugee Commission, calls for districts and schools to eliminate policies that discriminate against undocumented students and inhibit their education. It also urges ICE and educational bodies to develop policies that protect a child’s access to education from the chilling effects of ICE raids.

“Discouraging undocumented children from enrolling or otherwise discriminating against them in the public education system contradicts our country’s fundamental values of providing equal opportunity for all,” Callahan said.

A better future

In a keynote address, Dr. Susan Bissell of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children reflected on her work within UNICEF to protect children from violence. “We must help children live completely, wholly, safely and with dignity,” she said.

Later that day, Professor Wallace Mlyniec (L’70), senior counsel of the Juvenile Justice Clinic, led a panel on international norms and the protection of children through legal and policy advocacy in the United States. Amy Fettig (L’01) of the American Civil Liberties Union, Marsha Levick of the Juvenile Law Center, Maria Woltjen of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights and Margaret Wurth of Human Rights Watch explored opportunities and challenges facing the children’s rights movement. (For a full list of participants, click here.)

“Many children today face serious harms and problems that go to the heart of their well being,” said Professor from Practice Andrew I. Schoenholtz, director of the Human Rights Institute. “Whether they are living in or fleeing from conflict and poverty, seeking to secure an education and better future…accused of committing a crime, or working for a paycheck in dangerous conditions.”

A webcast is available here; for the program agenda and concept paper supporting the conference, click here. The report was featured in an Associated Press article that appeared in the Washington Post and other news outlets. 

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