The Youth Justice Lab: Imagining an Anti-Racist Public Education System (Law 808A)

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and calls for police reform, the United States is in the midst of a national reckoning that is forcing us to confront systemic racism and the institutions that perpetuate anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and discrimination against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Perhaps no institution has reproduced racial hierarchy in the U.S. more than our public education system. From state-sponsored racial segregation of schools to the more subtle, but no less insidious racially segregated academic placements (e.g., special education, advanced placement) to exclusionary school discipline policies to ostensibly “meritocratic” testing and grading policies and beyond, public schools have created and perpetuated racial hierarchy, despite the promise that schools should help all children achieve the American Dream.

The Lab aims to critically analyze the structural racism in our schools and asks what would an anti-racist public education look like? Specifically, partnering with Public Counsel and IntegrateNYC, the Youth Justice Lab will explore the history, current landscape, and racialized consequences of: (1) the educational caste system created by student assignment to various public schools, including selective schools, traditional schools, continuation and alternative schools, and court schools and (2) high-stakes standardized testing for student placement and assignment purposes. (Other topics may be covered, depending on client need and resource availability.)

With that research in mind, the Lab will work with experts to develop specific policy and research interventions that aim to dismantle the systemic racism and interlocking oppressions built into those educational policies and practices. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to these issues by enrolling students from the Law School and the Graduate School of Education. Students in the Lab will gather and analyze the relevant historical and empirical research, interview and consult with experts in the field, and draft a series of research and policy memos that summarize our research and provide recommendations.

Course Catalog
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This policy lab contributed research helping to shape access to education in NYC public schools.

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Clients & Deliverables

Clients: Public Counsel and IntegrateNYC

Deliverables: Policy memos and oral briefing for clients

How to Apply

Student applications are by consent of the instructor. Please apply at