May 2019
Suit Against Glen Mills Schools, Pa. Officials Cites Abuse of Children, Deprivation of Education
Lawyers from the Education Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and Dechert LLP filed a federal class action lawsuit April 11 in Philadelphia, charging that the youth who were held at Glen Mills Schools, a residential facility located in Delaware County, were subjected to both abuse and educational neglect. The oldest reform school in the country, Glen Mills once housed as many as 1,000 boys from all over the country—and the world. It was closed after an emergency removal order by the state, moved to action by shocking  investigative reporting  by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Lisa Gartner.
Marsha Levick, Juvenile Law Center’s chief legal officer, Maura McInerney, ELC’s legal director, and Dechert LLP partner Michael McGinley announce the class action suit at an April 11 press conference.
The abuse at Glen Mills had a particularly dire impact on youth of color—the majority of Glen Mills youth were African American—as well as on students with disabilities, whose educational and other rights were ignored. The suit targets the state departments of human services and education and asserts that officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Education along with the Chester County Intermediate Unit allowed Glen Mills’ education program to operate without any oversight or monitoring to ensure the educational rights of students. The suit aims to secure compensatory education services and monetary damages for the affected students, and to bring systemic changes to the state’s juvenile justice system, which consistently fails to serve the educational and developmental needs of youth in residential placements.

The suit attracted front-page media coverage in Philadelphia as well as national media attention. Read recent media commentary about the lawsuit here , here , and here .
ELC Convenes Inaugural Advocacy Institute: Education Justice for Black Girls
As part of our continuing work with and on behalf of Black girls, the Education Law Center convened our inaugural Advocacy Institute— Unlocking Possibilities: Education Justice for Black Girls— on April 5. The goal was to deepen relationships and collaborations among civil rights lawyers and other professional and community partners in Southwestern Pennsylvania who work directly with Black girls, by creating a space to co-construct and promote innovative education policies and practices that support the social, emotional, and intellectual growth of Black girls.

ELC shared legal expertise and explored strategies for meaningful engagement with Black girls and their families. We encouraged attendees to identify the barriers Black girls face in receiving a quality education and areas for collaboration and collective advocacy. And we acknowledged a shared commitment to develop a clear pathway for schools to become places for learning and healing, where Black girls can lead themselves—and us—into the future.
ELC Co-Hosts Event: 'Living at the Intersection of Race and Gender'
A talk and panel discussion with Dr. Monique W. Morris , a leading scholar and advocate on the exclusion and criminalization of Black girls in schools, sparked a rich conversation among the 200+ attendees at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Phildelphia on April 25. Dr. Morris highlighted the growing body of research showing that Black girls are subject to more frequent and harsh punishment than their peers, and that they are also subject to adultification bias—whereby others read their age as older than they actually are and treat them as less innocent. The evening’s discussion focused on strategies for countering these biases and making schools places for healing rather than harm—starting by asking Black girls what they think and what they need.

The program was planned and co-sponsored by ELC and Drexel University’s School of Education, as part of their Critical Conversations in Urban Education series. ELC staff also had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Morris and discuss ways to counter unfair and harsh school disciplinary practices and ensure that recent policy victories limiting exclusionary discipline are effectively implemented.
Urge PA Legislature to Build on Wolf's Education Budget Ask
The Pennsylvania legislature is preparing its official legislative response to Gov. Wolf’s proposed 2019-20 budget. The governor’s proposal includes a $200 million increase in basic education funding, $50 million increase for special education, and $10 million for career and technical education. The governor’s proposal should be a floor for any budget discussions, since it falls short of what Pennsylvania actually needs to bridge the funding divide between the richest and poorest districts.

During the week of May 6, when the House is scheduled to begin discussing its budget bill, HB 790, please support the efforts of the statewide PA Schools Work coalition: c all your legislators and urge them to quickly approve the governor’s full proposed budget and begin working on a permanent funding solution. ELC will continue to advocate that this requires both more substantial increases, sent through the funding formula, and targeted funding to the neediest districts.
Opposing Tax Credit Voucher Programs that Divert State Funds
In a party-line vote, the House Education Committee voted on April 29 to approve HB 800, a bill that proposes to expand the state’s Education Improvement Tax Credit program and divert needed funding from public schools toward non-public education institutions. The bill would substantially increase EITC funding for the 2019-20 school year and automatically increase annual funding by 10% each year thereafter, while leaving private education organizations that benefit from the program free from anti-discrimination requirements and other accountability measures. ELC expressed its strong opposition in this letter to the House Democratic Education Committee. Contact your legislator to oppose HB 800 .
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Hosts Presentation on School Funding
Hosting its meeting in Hazleton, where issues of school climate recently generated significant attention on social media , the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission invited ELC policy director Reynelle Brown Staley to discuss school funding issues and their impact on school districts like Hazleton that serve large percentages of students of color. The meeting highlighted the range of educational challenges students in Hazleton experience.
ELC Continues to Advocate for Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Students
ELC joined with our partners at Pennsylvania Youth Congress last month in denouncing a recent transphobic policy change by the Eastern Lancaster School District (Elanco). Elanco’s board made the disappointing and discriminatory decision to reverse its recent practice of allowing transgender students to use the facilities with which they identify. Now, Elanco recommends that students use the facilities that align with their sex assigned at birth – until their school buildings are redesigned with single-user bathroom and changing facilities. An editorial in the local newspaper cited ELC in its critique, calling the district's new policy “awful” and “unlawful.”

ELC also wrote an open letter in support of Wayne Highlands School District and its practice of permitting students to use the facilities with which they identify. ELC offered its support to Wayne Highlands as they face a legal challenge from a transphobic cisgender student who does not want transgender students to use sex-segregated, multi-user facilities. 
Working to Expand Access to Higher Education for Youth in Foster Care
HB 1276 , the Fostering Independence through Education Act, is back before the House Education Committee, and it needs your support! This bill creates a tuition and fee waiver program for youth in foster care for use at Pennsylvania’s independent colleges and universities and state-supported institutions of higher education. With widespread support across the Commonwealth, it passed the House unanimously last year and made it through the Senate Education Committee. We are ready to pick up where we left off and work with our coalition partners to fight for passage of this important bill. You can show your support for HB 1276 by signing onto this letter .
Young Professionals Happy Hour
ELC is hosting a happy hour on May 30 in Philadelphia for young professionals interested in learning more about our work. Join us for hors d’oeuvres and an open bar at Pagano’s Market and Bar (2001 Market Street). RSVP here .
We're Hiring!
ELC is currently searching for experienced attorneys for full-time openings. We are also reviewing applications for fall semester externships and practicums in our Philadelphia and Pittsburgh offices. Please visit our website for more information on open positions.
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