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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

As a Fellow with the ACLU of Wisconsin, Elisabeth challenged discriminatory practices and policies in Wisconsin public schools through administrative complaints and litigation.

Racial and anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination are a widespread problem in Wisconsin public schools. Children in these protected categories are expelled and suspended at much higher rates than their peers, and many school districts in the state report dozens of incidents of discriminatory harassment every year. Elisabeth represented students and families in administrative processes to enforce the state and federal laws prohibiting such discrimination in public schools. Through these cases, she secured important clarifications of nondiscrimination standards under Wisconsin law and of complainants’ procedural rights.

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

During the two-year Fellowship, Elisabeth:
  • Represented 22 individual clients in eight school districts in administrative pupil discrimination complaints to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
  • Provided 13 Know Your Rights trainings to students, families, and community organizations, teaching participants to recognize unlawful school discrimination and formally address it using Wisconsin’s statutory complaint process.
  • Provided brief legal guidance to 150 Wisconsin residents who reached out to the ACLU for help on school discrimination matters.
  • Won significant rulings from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, which established the standard for hostile environment claims under state law and clarified requirements for a reasonable school district investigation of a discrimination complaint.

Next Steps

Elisabeth will remain at the ACLU of Wisconsin as a staff attorney. She will continue to focus on education equity issues, building on the momentum she established during her Fellowship.

Media

ACLU Accuses Oshkosh Area School District of Failing To Address Racial Harassment at Merrill Middle School

Judge Rules That Cedarburg School District Must Reinvestigate Claims of Racial Harassment

As Political Battles Play Out in Schools, Advocacy Organizations Are Lawyering Up

Racial Harassment Case Involving Cedarburg School District and DPI Reopened

Community Shares of Wisconsin Will Honor Local Social and Environmental Justice Leaders With Community Change-maker Awards

ACLU of Wisconsin Commends Court Decision Requiring DPI and Cedarburg School District To Include Complainant in Settlement Negotiations

Community Shares of Wisconsin will honor local social and environmental justice leaders with Community Change-Maker Awards

ACLU appeals ruling in CF school case

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

State calls Cedarburg school's racial harassment probe 'deficient'

DPI: Cedarburg School District racism investigation deficient, corrective action must be taken

La Crosse students challenging school district to take on racial justice

ACLU files complaint against CFAUSD, former Chi-Hi student shares experience of being outed

Online charter school says 6th grader can’t start LGBTQ club

Burlington coalition wants to be at the table when school district drafts plan for battling racism

DPI finds that Burlington schools failed to address ‘racially hostile environment’

ACLU joins sixth grader in saying online-only Wisconsin school should allow students to form LGBTQ club

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