2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Crystal Tran

  • Hosted by Texas Appleseed
  • Sponsored by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
  • Service location Texas
  • Law school The University of Texas School of Law
  • Issue area Education/Special Education, Racial Justice
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Expanding Texas Appleseed’s ongoing work in studying, reporting, and advocating for the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline, Crystal advocates on behalf of K-12 students and their families to keep students in class and out of court through direct representation, education, and policy reform.

As chronic absenteeism intersects with compounding factors such as poverty, disabilities, and race, a Texas student who is chronically absent in any year between eighth and twelfth grade is 7 times more likely to drop out of school. Although Texas decriminalized student truancy and required schools to apply truancy prevention measures, these proceedings occur instead in justice of the peace and municipal courts, where students do not have the right to counsel, and parents can face fines, fees, and even criminal prosecution for their child’s truancy charges. A truancy charge is often the first interaction many children, especially from communities of color, have with the justice system, collateral consequences that can follow the family for years after the fact and foreshadow future criminal legal involvement.

Crystal’s commitment to education equity stems from both her personal experiences as a first-generation American and college graduate, and her students’ experiences from her tenure as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan’s rural, indigenous communities. Recognizing the longstanding obstacles of systemic racism and poverty to educational access, she is determined to leverage the skills and expertise she has gained through her J.D./Master’s in Public Affairs education to confront these issues.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Crystal will observe and represent K-12 students in civil truancy proceedings in major metropolitan cities around Texas. With an eye towards the upcoming 2025 state legislative session, she will build coalition and engage directly with stakeholders including school districts, state agencies, and community advocates, to draft statewide and local policies to uplift students at risk of chronic absenteeism. Additionally, she will document fines and fees associated with truancy proceedings in Texas and shed light on how they affect impacted families.

“The underlying value is simple: keeping kids in school disrupts the school-to-prison pipeline. Keeping kids in school breaks cycles of court involvement and poverty. Through this fellowship, we champion their right to education—to be in class, not in court.”

Crystal Tran /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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