Educational Equity Project

The Educational Equity Project of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law works to combat the school-to-prison pipeline.  EEP protects and promotes access to education by addressing the individual and systemic barriers that disproportionately impact historically-disadvantaged communities. EEP has identified these communities as ethnic and racial minority students, low-income students, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students.

Our Educational Equity work spans three areas:

  • Protecting individual students’ rights
  • Promoting systemic reform
  • Empowering communities and building partnerships

Protecting Individual Students’ Rights

EEP provides direct legal services to youth at risk of losing access to education due to harsh discipline or because of re-enrollment barriers. Access to education continues to be a civil rights issue that disproportionately impacts historically-disadvantaged communities. For example, black students in CPS have an out-of-school suspension rate nearly 4 times higher than white students. LGBTQ students are over three times as likely to experience harsh disciplinary treatment. While, high school students with disabilities are two times more likely to be suspended than students without disabilities. Troublingly, expulsion increases the likelihood of dropping out of high school more than any other factor. As part of its direct services program, EEP trains pro bono volunteer attorneys to represent students at expulsion hearings.  In addition to providing direct legal services to students, EEP provides referrals to community-based resources and other support services for expelled youth. EEP also provides re-enrollment services to court-involved youth to reduce rates of recidivism.

Promoting Systemic Reform

EEP addresses systemic barriers to education by reforming school policy through an explicit social and racial justice lens. EEP advocates for better practices in school discipline policies, the implementation of restorative justice programs and provides trainings on school-to-prison pipeline issues. Recently, EEP helped a youth-led coalition pass SB 100, a comprehensive state-wide law that significantly reformed school discipline policies and practices.  Additionally, EEP provides trainings on the role that implicit bias plays in school discipline and how to address it.

Empowering Communities and Building Partnerships

EEP works under a community lawyering model to advise community groups, advocate for partnerships and conduct outreach to parents and students who are affected by the school-to-prison pipeline.

EEP’s community lawyering work has resulted in collaborative efforts that have led to major policy victories at the state and local level including:

  • Regular, public dissemination of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) discipline data disaggregated by school, offense, race, gender, disability, etc.
  • A revised CPS Student Code of Conduct which led to a 60% reduction in out-of-school suspensions and a 69% reduction in expulsions in the first semester of the 2014-2015 school year. Despite this success, initial data shows that racial disparities remain relatively unchanged. EEP continues to hold CPS accountable for developing targeted strategies to reduce the racial disparities in discipline practices.
  • Legislation mandating all Illinois schools, including charters, to report disaggregated discipline data by race and other categories and requiring improvement plans for schools reporting high disparities.

Know Your Rights

Your child has the right to go to school.

  • The school cannot expel your child without first giving you the opportunity to attend a hearing to tell your child’s side of the story.
  • You have a right to bring an attorney or advocate, call witnesses, present evidence and cross-examine the school’s witnesses.
  • The school must send you notice of the expulsion hearing in the mail.

If facing suspension or expulsion…

  1. Write down any incidents and what happened in your own words. Include dates and parties involved.
  2. Save any communications from the school. Include notes from informal talk and meetings.
  3. Learn parents’ and students’ rights by reading your school district’s code of conduct to learn about the policies and discipline process.
  4. Contact us for assistance or representation as soon as possible. If you need assistance, please call us at (312) 630-9744.

The Educational Equity Project has serious concerns about a professional development seminar offered as an Administrator Academy that is based on the Reid Technique of Interrogation and taught by a trainer from Reid & Associates. Through a Freedom of Information Act request it is clear that over 1400 administrators from many school districts including the collar counties have been trained in this technique over the last six years. Despite previously expressing concerns EEP staff learned that the course is being offered again in 2017.

FOIA request

FOIA response

Over 35 organizations signed an open letter explaining the problems with the technique and asking that it no longer be offered. To get involved or sign the open letter, please contact Jessica Schneider at jschneider@clccrul.org

For more background on the technique and the reason it should not be used, especially on juveniles or in schools, see these two New Yorker articles:

Why Are Educators Learning to Interrogate Their Students?

The Interview

Continued Reading and Resources

Know Your Rights

Parent’s Guide to Suspensions and Expulsion in Illinois Public Schools 

EEP Publications

Jobless and Out of School EEP Fights for the Rights of Students'- Blog Post by Candace Moore and Jessica Schneider

Advocating for Access to Education: Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline, CBA Record, October 2015, Candace Moore.

Implicit Bias

Implicit Racial Bias and School Discipline,’ Kirwan Institute. 

Restorative Justice

High HOPES Coalition Policy Report  

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

Chicago School-to-Prison Pipeline Fact Sheet,’ Project NIA (September 2013) 

Black Students Face More Discipline, Data Suggests.’ N.Y. Times