Youth, Education and Justice Clinic

The Youth, Education, and Justice Clinic is a five-credit offering. Student-attorneys in Clinic represent schoolchildren who are excluded from school through suspensions, expulsions and other means, as well as individuals who are serving life sentences for crimes they committed as children. We assume a community lawyering role in this clinic. Community lawyering involves individual representation, public education, research, and reform-focused advocacy.

The client representation entails opposite ends of the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This pipeline refers to the connections among school discipline, criminalization, and interaction(s) with the juvenile/criminal legal systems.

  • On one end, student-attorneys represent children who have been excluded from school through suspension, expulsion, and other forms of school pushout. This clinic is a member of the Maryland Suspension Representation Project (MSRP). The MSRP involves lawyers from the Public Justice Center, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Disability Rights Maryland, and our clinic who are committed to expanding and enhancing the representation of children who are removed from school for disciplinary reasons. The representation involves oral and written advocacy.
  • On the other end, student-attorneys represent adults who have been incarcerated for decades, serving life sentences for crimes they committed when they were children. Because of steps Maryland has taken in response to recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, these “juvenile lifers” are eligible to be considered for parole. Student-attorneys represent clients in the parole process.

  • To round out the community lawyering role, student-attorneys engage policy and legislative advocacy projects that aim to keep children in school, decriminalize normal adolescent development, and provide individuals serving life sentences for crimes they committed as children a “meaningful opportunity” for release. Student-attorneys also educate community members and other stakeholders about the due process rights afforded to schoolchildren who face exclusionary discipline.

    To help us contextualize the issues that impact our clients, this clinic explores and analyzes several issues of critical importance, including:

  • law enforcement interactions with children
  • law enforcement presence in public schools
  • fourth amendment issues in public schools
  • the various types of school exclusion, including out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and other forms of school pushout
  • the impact of school pushout on schoolchildren, their families, and their communities
  • the disproportionate impact of these laws, policies, and practices on schoolchildren of color (particularly Black and Latinx schoolchildren, and Black girls) as well as schoolchildren with disabilities
  • the science of brain development
  • growing up and growing old in prison
  • the impact of incarceration on individuals, families, and communities

    Through all aspects of our work we examine issues of race, gender, intersectionality, and poverty (as departure points from school, as entry points to the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and as key markers of our incarcerated population), trauma and stigma (as entry points to the juvenile and criminal justice systems, as end points of justice-involvement, and as related specifically to individuals serving life sentences), and lawyering strategies aimed at both realizing relief for individual clients and changing the systems that have led to mass discipline, mass criminalization, and mass incarceration.

    Because this clinic assumes a community lawyering model, some aspects of our work will unfold as the semester approaches and progresses. A core part of a community lawyer’s role is to respond to emerging events that cannot be predicted in advance. We will do the same.

    This clinic includes a seminar component that meets twice weekly.

    Please note that student-attorneys in this clinic are required to average 17.3 hours per week. If your schedule prohibits you from fulfilling these hours on a weekly basis or otherwise prevents you from meeting your clients’ needs, please do not register for this clinic. If you have any questions in this regard please reach out to Professor Pinard before enrolling.

Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course