During the fall 2023 quarter, the Youth & Education Law Project (YELP) launched two new projects to engage a wider segment of the Stanford Law School (SLS) community in advocating for Bay Area students.
The Education Defense Pro Bono Project involves SLS students, including many 1L’s, in a collaboration with the San Mateo Private Defender Program. The project utilizes Stanford law students to identify the educational needs of San Mateo youth in the juvenile justice system, with the goal of improving both their educational outcomes as well as the outcome of their juvenile court cases. SLS Pro Bono students are engaged in interviewing students and their families, reviewing voluminous educational records and assisting with projects such as credit recovery issues and special educational assessment requests.
On December 1, 2023 YELP hosted a group of its alumni at a training focusing on expulsion defense. These YELP alums (who are working at local law firms) will be able to take pro bono cases from our local nonprofit partners, which lately have been overwhelmed with referrals. Unfortunately, the return to in-person learning after COVID has led to a significant increase in expulsion referrals by local school districts. While we can’t be sure why this is the case, we suspect that factors such as student mental-health issues, teacher burnout, and a backlash against less punitive approaches adopted by many districts prior to the pandemic may all be playing a role. Being expelled is a huge predictor of a student’s ultimately dropping out of school and of entering the juvenile justice system. Not surprisingly, expulsions disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities. We realize that we have a tremendous resource available to help us fight this trend – our own YELP alumni – all of whom have some training in education law and, even more importantly, a passion for education equity.