Photo of Amelia Huckins

Amelia Huckins

  • Hosted by Mississippi Center for Justice
  • Sponsored by Philip M. Stern Fellowship
  • Service location Biloxi, Mississippi
  • Law school The University of Michigan Law School
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Through a combination of direct representation, impact litigation, and community advocacy and education, Amelia is advocating for Mississippi public school students, particularly those with disabilities, who have been subjected to long-term suspensions and expulsions.

Every year, tens of thousands of Mississippi public school students are suspended and expelled. African American students are three times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension or expulsion than their peers and students with disabilities are approximately twice as likely to be suspended or expelled as their peers. Students who are suspended and expelled are at a greater risk of dropping out of high school. Although these students can challenge the disciplinary action under Mississippi and federal law, many of them lack access to an attorney. The Mississippi Center for Justice supports these students and their families, but there is still a great unmet need for high quality legal representation and advocacy.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past year, Amelia:

  • Filed a due process complaint with the Mississippi Department of Education on behalf of a student and received a favorable settlement agreement.
  • Appealed a student’s expulsion to chancery court. Case settled and client got everything he requested.
  • Developed partnerships with national and Mississippi-based nonprofit organizations, advocates, and for-profit entities to rally support for providing high-quality legal services to students facing long-term suspensions and expulsions.
  • Submitted a due process complaint to the Mississippi Department of Education for a student who is fifteen, reads on a first grade level, and was suspended for 90 days.
  • Was nominated to the Mississippi Bar’s Child Welfare and Child Advocacy Committee.

Next Steps

In the next year, Amelia plans to:

  • Address schools’ Child Find obligation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Challenge the lack of a true standard of proof in Mississippi’s school discipline and expulsion statute.
  • Present to youth court public defenders and staff members across Mississippi to educate them about the intersection of the juvenile justice system and special education law.
  • Continue to provide high-quality direct legal services to students facing disciplinary action.

Media

The Right to an Attorney

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