Elisabeth Lambert Headshot

Elisabeth Lambert

  • Hosted by American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin
  • Sponsored by Anonymous, Wm. Collins Kohler Foundation
  • Service location Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Law school Marquette University Law School
  • Issue area Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Elisabeth will challenge discriminatory school practices through impact litigation, representing students of color in suspension and expulsion hearings, and training teachers to advocate for students. 

In many racially diverse Wisconsin school districts, students of color are overrepresented in the special education population and are expelled and suspended at disproportionate rates. Wisconsin lacks a statutory process for disciplinary hearings, leaving it to school districts to create their own policies and practices; whether these policies and practices are constitutionally adequate is relatively untested. Teachers who might otherwise advocate for students in special education or disciplinary hearings hold back because they lack information about their students’ rights and about the protections available to them as employees if they take a position opposed to the administration’s preferences. These procedural and fact-finding inadequacies are a driver of the inequitable disciplinary outcomes for Wisconsin’s students of color. 

Elisabeth taught English for several years in a racially diverse public high school near Milwaukee, where she witnessed firsthand how exclusionary discipline impacted students and the learning community. She left the classroom for law school with the goal of becoming a stronger advocate for young people facing injustice at school. 

Fellowship Plans

Elisabeth will represent students in disciplinary hearings to ensure that their procedural rights are enforced and that they make a full presentation of the facts in their favor. She will develop a training program that will educate teachers about their students’ rights, the role of teachers in protecting those rights, and the employment protections available to teachers who advocate for students. And she will use impact litigation to challenge the constitutionality of district disciplinary practices that yield racially inequitable outcomes. 

Media

Taking a Stand Against Discriminatory School Policies in Wisconsin

Legal groups issue dueling letters to school districts over critical race theory

DPI: Burlington School District has not addressed racism, orders district to take further action

ACLU lawyer seeks to hold Wisconsin school districts accountable for discrimination

Wisconsin virtual school allows teenager to form LGBTQ+ club after ACLU intervention

This 6th grader was suspended for starting a gay-straight alliance. What happened next is amazing.

Current, Former Chippewa Falls Students Allege Pervasive Discrimination In Complaint

Students find each other, build discrimination case against Chippewa Falls schools

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