The United States is the world’s largest imprisoner, and the reliance on punitive punishment begins in school. Today, nearly 6.7 million people live their lives under correctional control. 2.3 million people are held in confinement in the U.S. territory, and roughly 4.5 million adults are surveilled by programs dubbed “community supervision”, like probation and parole. Los Angeles is arguably the epicenter of incarceration. Los Angeles County operates the largest jail system in the country. On any given day, 17,024 people are imprisoned in Los Angeles County. These imprisoned people are disproportionately Black, Latinx, dis/abled and houseless.
As the State’s two largest compulsory institutions, the relationship between schools and prisons is particularly important to understand. This relationship is reproductive, rather than purely mimetic. As sites of social reproduction, schools work to inculcate and normalize State ideology, including State practices of punishment, exclusion, and surveillance. The statistical linkages between school failure and incarceration are astounding. Students who are suspended or expelled from school just once are three times as likely to be incarcerated. This type of exclusionary discipline is also widely used. One study conducted by the UCLA Civil Rights Project estimates that well over two million students are suspended during one academic year. This means that one out of every nine secondary school students is suspended at least once. In schools, pre-citizens also receive an early introduction to the flow of public dollars towards policing and away from health and welfare services. A recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) estimates that 1.7 million students are in schools with police but no counselors; 3 million students are in schools with police but no nurses; 6 million students are in schools with police but no school psychologists; 10 million students are in schools with police but no social workers; and 14 million students are in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social workers. Los Angeles County is home to the largest school police force in the nation, with a budget of $67,340,000.
In the Community Lawyering in Education Clinic (CLEC), students will examine the nexus of schools and prisons from the position of student-attorney. Under attorney supervision, students will engage in three clinic projects over the course of the semester. The projects have been selected to illustrate a three-prong approach to community lawyering: direct representation, organizational representation/policy, and community education. Students will have the opportunity to work on more than one project if time permits.
- PROJECT ONE: Clinic students will provide limited scope representation to CADRE, a Los Angeles-based community organization working to improve Los Angeles public schools through parent organizing and community-led campaigns. The Clinic will provide legal support to CADRE as they push forward their latest campaign: Families Belong Together. This campaign seeks to highlight family separation through the education system and propose community-based alternatives to separation and punishment in schools. CADRE seeks to deepen the understanding of the popular organizing refrain families belong together and encourage its use beyond the immigration context. Clinic students will interview the organizational client, attend organizing meetings to assess client goals, draft an engagement letter, and provide legal research and writing support to CADRE. Possible research questions include, but are not limited to: What legal authority exists to permit student interrogation without parental notification? What legal authority do schools have to share student information with law enforcement and immigration enforcement? What are the legal obligations of a school mandated reporter? What protections do parents have against unnecessary reporting to the Department of Children and Family Services? This project will involve extensive memo writing and several client meetings. Students will develop research skills, memo writing skills, and oral advocacy skills as they present their findings to the organizational client.
- PROJECT TWO: Clinical students will have the opportunity to provide direct representation to youth in expulsion hearings or expulsion appeals before the Los Angeles County Board of Education. The California Education Code § 48918 permits students referred for expulsion to be represented by an attorney or a non-attorney adviser, therefore students in the Clinic will serve as first chair for a small number of cases on the Clinic’s docket. The relationships between the Clinic and advocacy organizations in Los Angeles will generate these cases throughout the semester. Students interested in this project will work in teams to serve individual clients. This project includes client interviewing, investigation, client counseling, legal research and writing, oral advocacy, direct and cross examination, and brief writing.
- PROJECT THREE: Clinical students who are interested in community education campaigns will have the opportunity to design and execute a training for the Los Angeles Juvenile Public Defenders Office. The Los Angeles Juvenile Public Defenders Office represents young people in Los Angeles County who have been charged with a crime. In order to better serve their clients, attorneys in the office would like to deepen their understanding of educational stratification and its relationship to juvenile court involvement. Clinical students will have the opportunity to select a workshop topic, design curriculum for the workshop, and execute the workshop. This project will involve extensive research, writing, and oral advocacy skills.
The Clinic will hold weekly seminars and case rounds. The seminars will cover a variety of advocacy skills rooted in the real and immediate demands of the Clinic’s projects. Seminars will utilize a wide array of pedagogical tools, including lectures, discussions, simulations, guest speakers and interdisciplinary panels. Each student will also be responsible for planning and leading one clinical case round during the semester. Clinical case rounds provide students with the opportunity to engage in group discussion about their cases and related issues.
Students enrolled in the Clinic will 1) gain substantive expertise in education law, criminal law, and trial practice as well as the rules of professional responsibility and ethical practice, 2) have the opportunity to learn about and practice different methodological approaches to community lawyering, 3) and deepen their theoretical understanding of the impact of mass incarceration and mass surveillance on other social institutions like schools.
Students will develop a practical understanding of the role of an education advocate through both seminar activities and project work, where they will learn a wide range of transferable skills and strategies. These skills and strategies include interviewing and counseling clients; oral and written advocacy; developing case theories; engaging in fact development and investigation; conducting legal and social science research and analysis; litigation skills, such as direct and cross examination and; creating and maintaining partnerships with individuals and community-based NGO’s.