Mission & Staff
The Education Equity Project believes that access to free, quality education is a civil right. To ensure equity in education, there must be a concerted effort by lawyers, educators, policy-makers, community organizations and community members to shift the culture of punitive school discipline and secure access to education for all students.
The Education Equity Project protects and promotes access to education by addressing the individual and systemic barriers that disproportionately impact historically disadvantaged communities. We work to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and address educational disparities in three key areas:
- Protecting Individual Students’ Rights: We provide direct legal services to youth at risk of losing access to education due to racial discrimination, harsh discipline, re-enrollment barriers or involvement in the criminal justice system. We train pro bono volunteer attorneys to represent students at expulsion hearings. In addition to providing direct legal services to students, we refer families to community-based resources and other support services for expelled youth.
- Promoting Systemic Reform: We address systemic barriers by promoting school policy reform using an explicit racial justice lens. We advocate for better practices in school discipline policies, support the implementation of restorative justice programs, and provide trainings on school-to-prison pipeline issues. Recently, we helped a youth-led coalition pass SB100, a comprehensive state-wide law that significantly reformed school discipline policies and practices. We train administrators throughout Illinois to implement SB100, and on the role that implicit bias plays in school discipline and how to address it.
- Empowering Communities and Building Partnerships: We employ 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. This work has led to partnerships such as the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative (TSDC). TSDC is an interdisciplinary group focused on supporting schools in their reform efforts. Efforts such as these have led to major policy victories at state and local levels.
The Reid Technique of Interrogation
The Educational Equity Project has serious concerns about a professional development seminar offered to teachers and administrators in Illinois that is based on the Reid Technique of Interrogation, a discredited and unreliable law enforcement technique that’s been shown to elicit false confessions and is especially problematic for use on juveniles with mental health diagnoses. Teachers, school counselors, and other administrators are often encouraged to take this course, for which they receive professional credit. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we learned in November of 2016 that more than 1,400 teachers and administrators from across Illinois, including the collar counties, have been trained in this technique over the last six years. Read the FOIA response here.
In December 2016, our staff sent an open letter signed by more than 50 organizations to the Illinois Principals Association (IPA) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) demanding that they revoke approval for this professional development course, which was still on offer for January through March of 2017. In response, we learned that the course has been suspended pending further review by ISBE and IPA.
Education Equity Project in the News
Windy City Times: Lawyers say school didn't stop racial harassment, retaliated against student | September 26, 2017
Black Youth Project: Liberation is a 3-step process: Broadening activism’s scope in the wake of the Movement for Black Lives By Alyxandra Goodwin | May 25, 2017
WTTW Chicago Tonight: New Bill Would Curb Pre-K Expulsions in Public Schools By Matt Masterson | May 11, 2017
The New Yorker: Why are Educators Learning How to Interrogate Their Students? By Douglas Starr | March 25, 2016