2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Shira Baron

Shira Baron

Name of Host Organization: Education Law Center
City, State: Newark, New Jersey
Issue area: Education/Special Education
Sponsors: Norflet Progress Fund

The Project

Shira will work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline now robbing thousands of Newark, New Jersey’s at-risk youth of educational opportunities and access through litigation, advocacy, and educational outreach.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
In Newark, black and Hispanic students are five times and three times as likely to be suspended as their white peers. Such discipline is often not confined to severe conduct, but for minor misconduct, such as dress code infractions and swearing. Students who experience exclusionary discipline are more likely to have academic deficiencies, drop out of school, and be placed in the criminal justice system. The devastating consequences of the pipeline are particularly evident in Newark Public Schools. In 2012-13, Newark’s sixty-seven percent graduation rate, compared to New Jersey’s eighty-seven percent rate, gave Newark the ninth lowest graduation rate among New Jersey’s districts. This project will address the school-to-prison pipeline and utilize strategies to dismantle it, ensuring Newark’s at-risk students remain in classrooms.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Shira is the right person for the project because:
• Prior to law school, Shira worked as a special education teacher in low-income minority communities with student bodies that face similar challenges to the students she will be serving in Newark
• Her personal experiences teaching children impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline has given her a deeper understanding of the devastating and disproportionate consequences of exclusionary discipline and the critical need to address this issue effectively
• Throughout law school, Shira has built on her teaching experiences by focusing on the intersection between juvenile justice and education
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Shira will:
• Meet with advocacy and stakeholder groups to learn about local issues and potential clients, encourage input, receive Newark student referrals, and begin building pipeline advocacy coalition
• Plan pro bono lawyer training and solicit training assistance from lawyers experienced in relevant areas
• Create intake process for educators and students to inform her about pipeline practices in their schools
• Review statutes, regulations and district level policies to identify areas for policy reform

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