2018 Back to School Edition
New Director of Projects Joins GAA Team
Michael Waller, MA, MTS, JD
Michael Waller joins Georgia Appleseed as the new Director of Projects. Michael comes to Georgia Appleseed with extensive experience in policy and advocacy. Prior to joining the GAA team, Michael was a prosecuting attorney for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), leading investigations and lawsuits to stop companies and individuals from defrauding economically vulnerable consumers. Before the FTC, Michael was a staff attorney at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, representing indigent clients in housing, domestic violence, and consumer rights cases.  Click here to learn more about Michael's experience and the valuable experience he brings to Georgia Appleseed. 
YPC Leadership
We are thrilled to welcome YPC's 2018-19 slate of Executive Officers. Rachel, Cam, Ebony, and Landan bring fresh and exciting energy to the YPC and are thrilled to contribute their time and talents over the next year. Click  here to learn more about them. 
Around the State
We love getting out and about! We were thrilled to participate in Bibb County's recent PBIS Back to School Bash, helping educate kids and parents about PBIS and their rights in the event of disciplinary action. Check out some highlights below or read more about PBIS in Georgia  here. 
Staff Attorney Terrence Wilson with School Climate Specialists from Middle GA RESA.
More than 1,600 students and family members participated in the Bash. Families received over 500 school uniform items, thousands of school supplies, 700 backpacks, and bus passes - all at one location! 
GAA provided resources for families and students outlining the rights of students facing disciplinary action like out of school suspension, school-based arrest, or tribunals. 
Terrence Wilson with Bibb County Schools Supt. Curtis Jones, Jr. Supt. Jones has been a strong supporter of PBIS, and Bibb County Schools has seen significant reduction in out of school suspensions and a spike in graduation rates since implementing PBIS. 

Rachel Platt, YPC President (The Platt Law Firm)
Tribunal Representation: Improving Outcomes for Kids in Foster Care
Public school students faced with proposed out-of-school suspension of more than ten days, or with expulsion, are entitled to dispute the proposed disciplinary action at an administrative hearing often called a "tribunal." The statute that entitles students to tribunals provides basic due process protections related to notice, the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence, and the right to representation by counsel. Given the impact a long-term suspension or expulsion may have on a student's academic success, it's essential that the tribunal process provide meaningful due process to a student. 

It came to the attention of Young Professionals Council that many students in foster care were not being represented at these tribunals and often faced dire consequences.  Often schools were not even aware that the child facing disciplinary action was in foster care nor did the school have any knowledge about the child's specific background or circumstances. A tribunal decision can have a grave impact on all aspects of a foster child's life. In addition to a long-term suspension or expulsion, students in foster care who receive disciplinary action are often forced to change placements -- this means that not only are students missing valuable time in school, they are being displaced from their home, forced to start over at a new placement and possibly a new school. 

Unfortunately, many foster parents and DFCS caseworkers do not have the time or expertise to represent students in their care. And so, the Student Tribunal Project was spearheaded by YPC to provide pro bono attorneys to students in foster care facing tribunals hoping to ensure that they are provided with meaningful representation. Having a representative that understands their circumstance and advocates for their needs greatly increases the likelihood of students in foster care being able to stay in school and access the supports or services they need, as opposed to being displaced. 

The process to connect attorneys with students is fairly simple; When a foster parent or a DFCS caseworker hears of a student who will be facing a tribunal, they contact Georgia Appleseed who in turn calls on its volunteer lawyers to take a case. Over the past few years, YPC has trained attorneys across Georgia on the student tribunal process and developed digital resources for DFCS caseworkers, foster parents, and child advocates on this issue. We envision a future where every student in state care facing significant disciplinary action is provided adequate legal representation. 

When a student has representation at a hearing, the results can be much more favorable, in not only the actual outcome but in the creativity of the result and the positive aspects of a student knowing that someone is fighting for them.  Over the course of our project, we have helped many students remain in school, remain in their placements and get some assistance so they can be productive students. 

If you are a lawyer and are interested in supporting foster students through the Student Tribunal Project, please contact twilson@gaappleseed.org. 

Bridges to Behavioral Wellness
We are committed to dismantling the school to prison pipeline and keeping kids in class. To do this, we believe it is essential to ensure that children with mental illness, autism, and other behavioral health needs receive necessary interventions and supports. Learn about our new Bridges to Behavioral Wellness project, and how we're working to improve systems of care for kids,  here.

Restorative Justice Training
Thanks to a generous grant from the Georgia Bar Foundation, Staff Attorney Terrence Wilson has been trained as a restorative practices facilitator. Restorative practices can support positive school climate and PBIS. Dive into restorative justice with  this resource  from the International Institute for Restorative Practices. 

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