Resources for Students and Parents
Read our report on Reforming Discipline in Georgia Schools.
In the media: Our education cases
“Schools’ Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue”
The New York Times
To hear Mikia Hutchings speak, one must lean in close, as her voice barely rises above a whisper. In report cards, her teachers describe her as “very focused,” someone who follows the rules and stays on task. So it was a surprise for her grandmother when Mikia, 12, and a friend got into trouble for writing graffiti on the walls of a gym bathroom at Dutchtown Middle School in Henry County last year. Read the article here.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
… At the Capitol a few days ago, a state Senate committee held a second hearing on disturbing data about school discipline and how black students are disproportionately suspended and expelled — often for minor offenses that earn white peers a stern word.
… Georgia Legal Services attorney Eugene Choi said, “I have seen this culture of school administrators ruling with an iron fist and seen severe punishment disproportionately being imposed on minority students.” Choi shared a case where a metro Atlanta school district initially sought to expel an African-American sixth grader for skipping class and writing “hi” on a school locker room wall, and even referred the case to juvenile court. The expulsion was reduced to a seven-day out-of-school suspension. Read the article here.
“Georgia Attorney Gives Legal Help To Students In Trouble”
90.1FM WABE Atlanta’s NPR Station
When a student gets into trouble, faces suspension or expulsion in school, the student and parent may not be aware of their rights or may not be able to afford legal representation. Attorney Jessica Stuart, lawyer for Georgia Legal Services, discussed on “A Closer Look,” what her firm offers to students and why parents need legal help for their children. Listen to the segment here.
“Criminal Justice Bill Tackles ‘School-To-Prison Pipeline’”
90.1FM WABE Atlanta’s NPR Station
Georgia lawmakers are considering a criminal justice reform package that includes changes to school disciplinary procedures. Child advocates say current policies push too many kids out of school into the juvenile justice system for nonviolent offenses and disproportionately affect students of color…. According to data compiled by the Georgia Legal Services Program, 50 percent of students expelled in Georgia in the 2011-2012 school year were African-American. African Americans represented 37 percent of students enrolled. Read the article here.
“New student discipline policies, practices and training this year in Henry”
The district was criticized heavily in 2013 for its perceived unfair discipline practices against minority students. State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) blasted the district as a leading offender among Georgia school districts with discriminatory student discipline practices. … Georgia Legal Services Program attorneys have also been busy appealing individual cases of students expelled or suspended from schools in Henry County. Attorney Mike Tafelski regularly attends appeals hearings, representing mostly minority clients fighting school suspensions and expulsions for “often minor infractions” or misunderstandings. Tafelski said the district, in recent years, has claimed a lion’s share of appeals cases in his office, which serves clients throughout the state.He pointed to district reports that confirmed his suspicions of unequal outcomes in student discipline. Read the article here.
See below for more education materials.
Watch our video of a client family telling their story of how Georgia Legal Services helped keep 13-year-old Mikia in school.
Read our press release about the campaign launch.
All school-age children have a right to enroll in public school. See this FLYER about school enrollment.
Student Rights Postcard in English
Student Rights Postcard in Spanish
Student Rights Brochure, Inside page in Spanish
Student Rights Brochure, Outside page in Spanish
Ira L. Foster
478-751-6261 ex 6497
Ira L. Foster is the Managing Attorney with the Georgia Legal Services Program in Macon, Georgia. He has spent the past several years concentrating on breaking up the school-to-prison pipeline, working to bring together school systems and community partners to keep students in school and out of juvenile court. He has written widely on the topic.
Ira attended undergraduate college at Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia. Ira attended graduate school at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Ira obtained his law degree from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.
Ira is a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Georgia, the Macon Bar Association, the Houston County Bar Association, the Georgia Alliance of African American Attorneys and the William Augustus Bootle Inn of Court. Some honors and awards for Ira include being selected as an American Bar Association Foundation Fellow, Macon Bar Association’s Lawyer of the Year in 2007, Fort Valley State University Alumni of the Year in Social Sciences, the Dublin-Laurens County Black Festival’s Committee Citizen of the Year, the Adopt A Role Model Program Big Brother of The Year, the State Bar of Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham’s Community Service Award and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., State of Georgia 2011 Fraternity Brother of The Year. Ira currently serves as a board member of the Fort Valley State University Housing Foundation, The Alpha Georgia Education Foundation, Inc., and The Central Georgia United Way.