Spring 2024 Updates

The REEL Policy Clinic and their client, The National Coalition on School Diversity, weigh in on a challenge to K-12 diversity effort.  Read their joint statement here. 

Fall 2022 Updates

The Racial Equity in Education Law and Policy Clinic officially launched in the spring of 2022. The Clinic engages law students in legislative and policy advocacy to address longstanding racial inequities in public education, including resource inequities, discriminatory school discipline practices, and school segregation, among others. Students address these racial disparities using a variety of legislative lawyering tools, including, but not limited to, conducting research and drafting memoranda, drafting and delivering testimony before policymaking bodies, drafting model legislation, and engaging with coalition partners. 

The Clinic’s theory of change recognizes that those who are proximate to the problems often have the best ideas for developing solutions to address them. Students have worked on behalf of the Clinic’s clients, Black Swan Academy, a D.C.-based youth advocacy organization, and the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), a New York-based parent-led advocacy organization. Both of these clients are dedicated to engaging in advocacy to promote systemic change and improve public education opportunities for Black students and other students of color. Clinic clients serve as collaborators and co-educators of the Clinic students. For example, Clinic clients recently led a seminar on best practices for coalition-building and engagement. Youth advocates from Black Swan Academy also joined the lecture to engage with students in learning about the importance of coalition work and collaboration.

Drafting and delivering testimony is an example of one way that REEL Policy Clinic students have recently engaged in legislative advocacy. In September 2022, two REEL Policy Clinic students, Amber Freeney and Marcus Ransom and Clinical Teaching Fellow and Supervising Attorney Antonio Coronado, testified before the D.C. Council in support of the Student and Minor Access to Records and Transcripts (SMART) Act, a bill that would allow minors under age 18 to access their education records without parental consent (pictures). Access to education records is particularly important for youth in foster care or other youth who may not be able to obtain parental consent, but who need access to their records to make decisions such as enrolling in higher education or securing financial support for education. The bill is supported by one of the Clinic’s clients, Black Swan Academy, a member of the D.C. Girls Coalition. In addition to delivering testimony, Clinic students also supported  D.C. Girls Coalition youth advocates in drafting and submitting written testimony in support of the bill. 

REEL Policy Clinic students are also working on behalf of the Alliance for Quality Education, a parent-led organization holding New York to its promise of a high-quality public education for all children. Students are working on projects focused on improving the funding formula used in New York City schools, examining the impact charter schools have on public education, and ensuring early childhood education and childcare is accessible to all New Yorkers.

Through their client work, REEL Policy Clinic students develop key legislative lawyering competencies, including legislative research, writing, and analysis, creative problem-solving, reflective lawyering, collaboration, coalition-building, and oral advocacy. 

Seminars include simulations and exercises that also provide students with opportunities to build legislative lawyering competencies while learning about substantive areas of law.  Recently, REEL Policy Clinic students participated in a simulated D.C. Council hearing, during which local education advocates served as “Council members.” Students drafted and delivered testimony on behalf of fictional organizations and responded to questions by Council members. This simulated hearing helps students to sharpen their oral and written advocacy skills (see pictures).

In addition to strengthening lawyering skills, students also learn about substantive issues of education law and race and the law. Seminar readings are drawn from the work of legal scholars and advocates of color—as well as scholars from other fields like the social sciences to emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of policy advocacy. Students interrogate the role of the law in replicating racial inequities as well as its potential to help eradicate them. 

Students also learn about practices of self-care and self-compassion as key lawyering competencies to help promote longevity and sustainability in the profession. For example, each semester, the Clinic holds a seminar on self-compassion, during which they learn from a mental health professional, as well as a panel of legal professionals and advocates about the ways that they integrate self-care and self-compassion into their practice. Clinical faculty recently presented about lessons learned from incorporating these concepts into the clinical curriculum during the Society for American Law Teachers (SALT) conference in Chicago, IL (pictured).