February 07, 2014
2L Jessica Johnson speaks at ABA forum
Tulane Law student Jessica Johnson’s work advocating for youth facing school suspensions is set to be highlighted during a special forum Feb. 7 at the American Bar Association’s Midyear Meeting in Chicago.
Johnson, a 2L from Houston, volunteers as intake coordinator for “Stand Up For Each Other,” a group that helps guide students through the administrative hearing process with the goal of keeping them in school. According to the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, through which SUFEO operates, New Orleans schools suspend and expel students at rates several times higher than the national average, and students who are pushed out of school are far more likely to end up in trouble with the law.
The ABA invited Johnson to take part in a special forum examining “The School-to-Prison Pipeline,” through which skewed school disciplinary processes are seen as channeling children toward delinquency and prison.
Chicago Public Access TV has scheduled live coverage here.
The ABA forum will feature Johnson’s work through SUFEO in showcasing “experts who have developed successful programs and projects across the country.” According to the sponsors, “[t]he goal of the Forum is to bring together a national gathering of key entities and organizations to recognize ongoing research and programmatic intervention and to develop an action plan to address components of the school-to-prison pipeline dilemma.”
Through SUFEO, law students, working with a supervising attorney, investigate the reasons students were disciplined, accompany them to school-based hearings and work to help resolve issues so they can continue their education.
Johnson said she got involved with SUFEO while interning at the Juvenile Justice Project during summer 2013.
“I think it gives us significant experience with how to represent clients, understanding what clients want and explaining processes to clients,” she said. Representation could involve appearing before a school board to explain why a child should stay in school. Advocates also must follow up after six months and record whether problems have recurred.
“I’m not a native New Orleanian, and getting to learn the city through our clients has been really, really interesting,” Johnson said.
Chicago attorney Wes Sunu, an organizer and moderator of the ABA Forum, said, “We are impressed that law students like Jessica have volunteered to support the work of SUFEO and have become part of the solution to the prison pipeline problem in New Orleans.”