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Curtis Davis

  • Hosted by California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc.
  • Sponsored by The Morrison & Foerster Foundation
  • Service location El Centro, California
  • Law school University of San Diego School of Law
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2018
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Curtis provided legal advocacy and outreach to low-income Imperial County students, parents, and guardians to decrease unlawful and disproportionate alternative school assignments and disciplinary action.

Imperial County has about 38,000 K-12 students. Over 75% of them are socioeconomically disadvantaged and 40% are English Learners. Many of these students are subjected to discipline for minor misconduct. Many have histories of poverty, trauma, abuse, or neglect and have unaddressed language, disability, and other educational needs. Increasingly, to improve discipline numbers, districts avoid expulsions (which they must report), and resort to transfers to alternative schools, involuntary assignments to independent study, and referrals to School Attendance Review Boards (SARB). This project addressed the school-to-nowhere pipeline and utilized strategies to dismantle it, ensuring Imperial County’s at-risk students remain in classrooms so they may have greater access to college and career opportunities.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship period, Curtis:

  • Maintained or secured comprehensive public-school placement with supportive services for 21 youth clients who faced alternative education involuntary school transfer actions by their school districts
  • Engaged in impact litigation to ensure that California Department of Education regulations meets its obligations under federal law with respect to the Migrant Education Program. The case is ongoing
  • Secured juvenile court and law enforcement’s compliance with state statutory and constitutional requirements by challenging unlawful detention practices of youth clients in juvenile justice cases
  • Trained over 150 advocates, probation officers, and juvenile public defenders on education equity legal issues
  • Presented to more than 500 parents, teachers, administrators, and other juvenile justice stakeholders through conferences, convenings, and know your rights workshops
  • Was appointed to the Imperial County Juvenile Justice Commission, a state-mandated commission responsible for oversight into the administration of juvenile court law in Imperial County

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Curtis continues serving clients as a California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) staff attorney based in the same office that hosted his Fellowship in El Centro, California. Curtis litigates impact cases from his Fellowship while serving new clients with education equity issues. As a staff attorney, Curtis expands his representation to CRLA’s other priority areas and clients’ needs, including housing, employment/labor, and rural health.


An institutional culture of expulsion and ‘go along to get along’

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