Elisabeth challenges systemic racism in Wisconsin public schools through direct representation of students in nondiscrimination proceedings; training of students, families, and educators; and advocacy and litigation aimed at shaping state nondiscrimination law.
Across Wisconsin, BIPOC students face challenges at school that their white peers do not face, including peer harassment, disproportionately punitive discipline, and inequitable allocation of resources. Though state laws require school districts to have a policy for responding to complaints of racial discrimination, many districts’ procedures are confusing, inaccessible, ineffective, and lacking in transparency. Elisabeth holds districts accountable through direct representation of individual students, allyship training for teachers and community members, and litigation and advocacy to push the state of Wisconsin toward more robust and transparent regulation and oversight of racial equity in schools.
Prior to her Fellowship, 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 to become a stronger advocate for young people facing injustice at school.
Fellowship Highlights to Date
In the first year of the Fellowship, Elisabeth has:
- Won an appeal before the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in which DPI found that a district had discriminated in the discrimination process and tolerated a racially hostile environment and ordered the district to take corrective action.
- Won a second appeal in which DPI found that a district’s investigation of a hostile environment complaint was deficient and ordered corrective action.
- Negotiated a resolution agreement with a school district that suspended a student for attempting to form a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), in which the district committed to form the GSA and to provide staff training on creating a safe school environment for LGBTQ+ students.
- Trained families, teachers, and community organizations in more than 25 school districts around the state of Wisconsin to navigate their local school discrimination complaint procedures and use them to improve conditions for students with protected status.
In the next year, Elisabeth plans to:
- Work with residents of districts across the state to promote the adoption of robust, accessible district-level nondiscrimination policies in response to changing state requirements.
- Continue training teachers, families, and community members to use the nondiscrimination process to improve the school climate for BIPOC and LGBTQ students.
- Continue representing students in high-impact appeals to the state Department of Public Instruction.
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