2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Rachel Judd

Rachel Judd

Name of Host Organization: Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center
City, State: Denver, Colorado
Issue area: Children/Youth, Education/Special Education
Sponsors: The Morrison & Foerster Foundation

The Project

Rachel will provide individual representation and systemic advocacy to keep at-risk (low-income, special needs, and minority) Denver-area students in school and out of court when facing disciplinary proceedings.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
The last decade of research shows certain school policies, including suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the police, increase the likelihood both that a student will drop out of high school and that they will enter the criminal justice system. These policies disproportionately affect the most at-risk youth, minorities and those with special needs, punishing them more harshly than others for the same behaviors. Despite recent legislative advancements in Colorado, punitive, harmful practices persist in several districts, and racial disparities have increased in several metro area districts. Individual representation in discipline hearings as well as policy advocacy and community education are critical to ensure youth stay in school and actually benefit from the new laws.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Rachel is the right person for the project because:
• She is passionate about advocating for the rights of children and went to law school to become a legal advocate for children’s rights
• After working with the residents at a juvenile detention facility, she saw firsthand how the juvenile justice system can be more punitive than rehabilitative and became even more committed to keeping students in school
• Through clinics and internships, she has experience representing young clients in three different court systems, giving her insight into the ways the criminal, family, and educational systems overlap
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Rachel will:
• Begin representing students in disciplinary proceedings, working to keep them in school and ensuring any special education needs are being met
• Reach out to other service providers, schools, and community members to get referrals and lay the groundwork for future cooperation
• Start developing “know your rights” materials for youths involved in criminal and school discipline proceedings

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