A groundbreaking racial equity settlement in Upper Dublin School District

Upper Dublin High School
Upper Dublin High School
Four years after we filed a complaint on behalf of Concerned African American Parents (CAAP) against the Upper Dublin School District alleging that the District had discriminated against black students, Upper Dublin has agreed to several significant changes to their curriculum and disciplinary policy to promote racial equity. In an amicable settlement ratified by the Upper Dublin School Board on October 29, the District agreed to eliminate academic tracking in middle school, with the exception of 8th grade math, and reduce the number of tracks in high school to two (academic and honors). At the time CAAP filed its complaint in 2015, Upper Dublin had at least three, and often more, tracks for many classes, and CAAP contended that the District disproportionately placed black students into low-track courses in their early school years, making it difficult for them to later access higher-lever college preparatory classes. Now, upper-level classes will be open to students regardless of what track they were previously on. 

The District has also already taken steps to strictly limit out-of-school suspensions and has agreed in the settlement to train all staff on equitable disciplinary practices annually. "This is a great achievement for justice and equality for students of color in the District," said Tina Lawson, President of CAAP.

"We applaud Superintendent Steven Yanni and the Upper Dublin School District for their commitment to making real changes and seeing them through," said staff attorney Ben Geffen. "Districts across the country can look to what Upper Dublin and CAAP have done as a model for policies that promote racial equity and allow all students to reach their full potential."  Read more about the settlement in coverage from the Philadelphia Inquirer and in the Montgomeryville Patch

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Thank you for coming to our 50th Anniversary celebration!
  
Guests at our 50th anniversary celebration
A large birthday card at our 50th anniversary celebration
Guests outside at Cherry Street Pier
Councilmember Helen Gym at our 50th anniversary celebration
Guests at our 50th anniversary celebration
Guests at our 50th anniversary celebration

Thank you so much to all who attended our 50th anniversary celebration, In Pursuit of Justice, on October 10! View more photos on Facebook. Special thanks to our event host committee, our sponsors, our board members, emcee Tamala Edwards, and our event planners at Madison + Gall. The event also featured an original composition from Philadelphia Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher, "Here Comes the Sun," celebrating our history of taking on persistent problems of civil rights and fundamental resources. Read the poem here.

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Act 77 will help more Pennsylvanians cast their ballots
 
Absentee ballots
Yesterday was a great day for Pennsylvania voters. Act 77, the bipartisan election reform bill signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday, makes many important changes that modernize the Commonwealth's election system and will make it easier for thousands of Pennsylvanians to vote.

The new law implements several changes to our state's absentee ballot system. Most notably, it extends the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. We are representing nine voters who are suing the state to challenge Pennsylvania's former absentee ballot deadline-the Friday before Election Day-that was the earliest in the country and prevents thousands of ballots from being counted every election.

Act 77 also establishes no-excuse mail-in voting in Pennsylvania, joining 31 other states and Washington D.C. Pennsylvania voters will no longer be required to prove that they will away from their town of residence or unable to reach the polls in order to cast an absentee ballot. This will help many voters who need an absentee ballot but are often unable to receive one under Pennsylvania's current system, such as first-responders, whose work schedules can keep them from the polls on Election Day with little advance notice. 

In addition to these reforms, Act 77 also provides needed funding for secure voting systems that produce a permanent physical record of votes cast and gives Pennsylvania voters two more weeks to register. We have advocated for all of these changes to make our elections more secure and accessible for several years. We applaud these important reforms to our election system, and look forward to seeing them in action in 2020.

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Join us November 6 for a Voting Rights Celebration

An absentee ballot envelope
A voting booth

Congressional districts in SE Pennsylvania

On November 6, join us to celebrate the right to vote at a cocktail party hosted by Law Center board member Howard Langer and Barbara Jaffe. We will look back on our history of work making sure all citizens have access to the ballot box. Enjoy catered food and drink and learn more about our work today, including our case challenging Pennsylvania's absentee ballot system, in a short presentation from our staff. 

When: Wednesday, November 6, 6-9 p.m.

Where: 7303 Emlen Street, Philadelphia, PA 19119 (Parking on Allen Lane or Emlen Street)

Cost: $50
   
Purchase Tickets

Tickets may also be purchased by contacting Michael Berton at mberton@pubintlaw.org or 267-546-1303.

Parking information: There is no street parking directly in front of the address. Parking is available on Allens Lane and on Emlen Street between Allens Lane and Mt. Pleasant Avenue.
 
Transit information: The Allens Lane stop on the Chestnut Hill West regional rail line is an 8 minute walk from the address.

We filed an amicus brief in Supreme Court DACA case

Supreme Court of the United States
On October 4, we joined fellow Lawyers' Committee affiliates the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the Mississippi Center for Justice to file an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of challengers in three consolidated cases challenging the Trump administration's termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. 

In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would DACA, a federal program which allows undocumented young adults who came to the United States as children to apply for protection from deportation. This decision was met with three federal legal challenges filed in California, the District of Columbia, and New York. As a result of these cases, three District Courts have issued nationwide injunctions barring the termination of the DACA program. Our amicus brief concerns the use of nationwide injunctions, arguing that they have a long history of use in American courts and provide a way for courts to enforce and protect civil rights. The U.S. Supreme Court will hold oral argument on these legal challenges on November 12. 

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Welcome our new board member Brandon Harrell!

Brandon Harrell
Brandon Harrell

We're excited to announce a new member to our Board of Directors, Brandon Harrell! Help us welcome him by liking his post on LinkedIn

Brandon Harrell is the Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs for the Philadelphia 76ers. He is responsible for the day-to-day legal affairs of Philadelphia's NBA franchise. In 2015, he received the National Bar Association's "40 Lawyers Under 40" award. 

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