Maryland Carey Law will offer a new School to Prison Pipeline Legal Theory and Practice course starting Fall 2016, taught by Professors Deborah Thompson Eisenberg and Michael Pinard.
In the course, students will examine the connections between public school disciplinary practices, law enforcement practices in public schools, and the juvenile/criminal justice systems. These issues will be explored from the vantage points of traditional legal work, such as representing students in suspension hearings, and legislative advocacy with conflict resolution processes, such as dialogue circles and restorative justice conferences with youth.
The course will build upon the work of the Clinical Law Program and the Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM). “The goal of the course is to engage Maryland Carey Law students in employing a web of strategies to identify and address a complex and difficult societal problem,” said Professor Eisenberg, director of C-DRUM. “We want students to be actively involved in problem solving.”
C-DRUM has long worked on conflict resolution practices in Maryland’s schools, introducing restorative practices, opening avenues for neutral dialogues, and teaching effective mediation skills. Over an 11-year period C-DRUM worked with 218 schools through the Maryland School Conflict Resolution Program, a grant-funded collaboration with the Maryland Judiciary’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office, affecting approximately 84,500 students. At one West Baltimore elementary school where C-DRUM works, student suspensions recently fell from 78 to 23, and students reported increased feelings of belonging and safety at school.
Students will examine several critical issues in the course connecting public schools with criminal justice, such as the disproportionate representation of African-American and Latino schoolchildren, as well as students with disabilities, in-school disciplinary proceedings, school based arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system, as well as the enormous impact of criminal justice system contact on education.
“The central goals of this course are for students to gain practical experiences as they explore the many dimensions of the pipeline, to contribute to the long, ongoing efforts in Baltimore to address these dimensions and to lend their efforts, energy and expertise to finding ways to fix the problems that they see,” said Professor Pinard, co-director pf the Clinical Law Program.
The Clinical Law Program is one the nation’s oldest and largest. The clinic offers students a combination of legal theory and crucial real-world experience. It also provides 110,000 hours of free legal services to the community, making the Clinical Law Program one of the region's largest public interest firms.
The Clinical Law and Dispute Resolution programs are two of the six programs and specialties offered by Maryland Carey that are nationally ranked by US News & World Report.