The Center for Juvenile Law & Policy (CJLP) hosted “The Educator as Advocate: Empowering Educators to Create an Inclusive and Compassionate Learning Environment,” a two-day symposia with Loyola Marymount University’s School of Education to discuss how education law can be used to right public-school inequity and effect policy change.
The event underscored the critical role teachers play in ensuring social justice in the classroom. "Even the best teachers are often frustrated in their efforts to support and protect students,” said Professor Michael Smith, director of the CJLP’s Youth Justice Education Clinic, which represents juveniles in Los Angeles Unified School District proceedings. “Last week we had a client who, clearly homeless and had a history of homelessness in the district, who was asked to fill out a form that would be reviewed at some later point to see if they were qualified as being homeless. This couldn't be further from what the law requires. This is something that clearly should not happen if policies protecting homeless youth were properly implemented at the school."
"The protections are pretty much the same for homeless youth, foster youth and kids in the probation system," Professor Smith continued, "there is a stigma that seems to attach to kids somewhat involved in the probation system such that they don't have the right to stay at a particular school, they don't get enrolled as quickly as they should. This is especially true for kids trying to reintegrate into the public school system."
Panels included Our Most Vulnerable Students: Ensuring Implementation of Section 504, McKinney-Vento and Juvenile Court Protections, Top 10 Myths in Education Law, The Rights of Students and Teachers: Balancing the Needs of Students and Educators in a City-Sized School District with Monica Garcia, LAUSD Board of Education, Collateral Consequences: Why Everything You Write About Your Students Matters, Safety vs. the Inclusive Learning Environment: The Educator’s Role in Balancing Student Rights with School Safety in Highly Policed Schools and How to Drive Change: A Toolbox for Advocate Teachers and Administrators.
Notable speakers included Monica Garcia, of Los Angeles Unified School District School Board member; Ricardo Soto, general counsel of the California Charter Schools Association, Deputy Public Defender Rourke Stacy, Julie Waterstone, director of the Children’s Rights Clinic at Southwestern Law School and Los Angeles School Police Chief Steven Zipperman.