Greater Boston Legal Services Reaches a Settlement Agreement with Boston Public Schools



GBLS Settlement with BPS to Reduce School Exclusion

 

Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) announced on November 16th that it has settled a complaint on behalf of three clients against Boston Public Schools (BPS) with regards to unlawful suspensions. This is an important victory in reducing the reliance on school exclusion to discipline students, which is linked to poorer educational outcomes and a higher risk of incarceration. 

 

In the S.A. et al. v. Boston Public Schools settlement agreement, BPS has agreed to amend its school discipline policies to no longer suspend kindergartners, first graders, or second graders, and to suspend third, fourth, and fifth graders only for very serious offenses.  It has also agreed to design, in collaboration with community groups, professional development trainings for all educational staff to increase the use of alternative discipline methods and to help educators understand the impact of exclusionary discipline, particularly on students of color and students with disabilities.  The goal of the settlement is ultimately to prevent suspensions altogether.  Read the full press release here. 

 

The Boston Bar applauds GBLS for its advocacy efforts on this case, and for its extensive ongoing work in representing students and disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. 

 

Boston Bar Service Innovation Project: Where Lawyers Fit In

 

School exclusion and criminal legal system involvement affect thousands of students each year in Massachusetts, putting their educational achievement and future possibilities at risk, and deepening longstanding inequities in social and economic opportunity.  The school-to-prison pipeline is a facet of the overall trend of mass incarceration, and disproportionately affects students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students.  Recognizing the impact of this issue on individual young people, as well as on the legal profession and on our community as a whole, the Boston Bar is committed to addressing this issue in collaboration with the many advocates and stakeholders working on solutions. 

 

This year the BBA launched its Service Innovation Project, funded by the BBF Burnes Innovation in Service Fund, to engage lawyers in service with a goal of advancing innovative solutions to address systemic injustices in our community.  The inaugural project will leverage the unique skills and resources of the bar to participate in dismantling the cradle/school-to-prison pipeline in Massachusetts.  A steering committee of attorneys from legal services and advocacy organizations, the private bar, and law schools is in the process of considering where gaps exist within local efforts to dismantle the pipeline, and how such gaps could be filled by the bar. 

 

So far, the steering committee has hosted two trainings to educate lawyers about this issue and to get them involved in pro bono work advocating for individual students.  We engaged 40 attorneys through these trainings, including 20 who joined the EdLaw Project’s pro bono panel to take on cases.  If you’re interested in learning more, please check out these video recordings of the trainings:

 

School Discipline Pro Bono Training: An Introduction for Lawyers on Disrupting the Cradle/School-to-Prison Pipeline

 

EdLaw Project Pro Bono Training

 

Please stay tuned for updates on the project and ways to get involved—we hope you will join us in being part of the solution. 

 

Service Innovation Project Steering Committee

 

Thank you to the Service Innovation Project Steering Committee for working to engage the bar in affecting change:

 

Rebecca Cazabon, Co-Chair, Foley Hoag LLP

Matthew Cregor, Co-Chair, Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee

E. Peter Alvarez, Choate

Hon. Jay Blitzman, Middlesex County Juvenile Court

Sarah Bookbinder, Suffolk University Law School

Anne Bowie, WilmerHale

Daniel Heffernan, Kotin, Crabtree & Strong, LLP

Sheila Hubbard, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

Susan Maze-Rothstein, Northeastern University School of Law

Elizabeth McIntyre, Greater Boston Legal Services

Janelle Ridley, Boston Public Schools

Sara Silva, Hogan Lovells

Janine Solomon, Massachusetts Advocates for Children

Vineesha Sow, Health Law Advocates

Marlies Spanjaard, The EdLaw Project,

Asha White, Boston Municipal Court - Dorchester Division

 

Burnes Innovation in Service Fund

 

The Burnes Innovation in Service Fundwas established at the Boston Bar Foundation in 2018 through a generous gift by Nonnie and Richard Burnes. The purpose of the Fund is to support Boston Bar Association projects that leverage the unique resources of the bar to develop and advance innovative solutions for addressing important problems in our community. It is being used this year to support the Boston Bar Service Innovation Project.