By Jake Hofstetter | Research and Policy Associate

In the wake of the massacres in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas, the Trump administration proposed several steps, such as arming teachers, to improve school safety. In addition to these proposals, the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her Commission on School Safety released a report that also contained an unrelated policy change — rescinding the Obama administration’s school discipline reforms. Doing away with this policy doesn’t decrease the chances of school shootings. It doesn’t make schools safer. But it does allow schools to discipline students more freely and without considering the harm and racial discrimination that occurs when kids are removed from class.

The Obama administration’s school discipline recommendations were a step in the right direction. The 2014 guidelines recommended school administrators use removals from class or school less frequently due to the harm caused to students’ academic performance. Besides the lack of evidence showing removals improved behavior, these practices were (and still are) having a disproportionate impact on minority students and those with disabilities. To take the place of removals from class, the Obama guidelines encouraged more restorative discipline practices. These policies focused on students’ social and emotional well-being in order to foster safe, nurturing schools. To enforce these guidelines, the Obama administration warned of investigations into schools with serious racial disparities in discipline. Despite the evidence against harsh school discipline practices, the Secretary DeVos’ Commission cancelled the Obama guidelines, citing concerns for school safety and local control over education. School safety matters of course, but there’s something willfully old-fashioned in the administration’s desire to allow harmful school discipline practices to continue for the sake of “maintaining order.”

Admittedly school discipline may seem straightforward and uncontroversial to a lot of Americans. A student breaks the rules, his or her name gets called over the loudspeaker to report to the principal’s office, and the student gets punished. Yet the type of punishment matters a lot. Taking students out of class through detention or suspension harms their chances at academic success. Plus, there’s evidence the practice doesn’t stop misbehavior. We also shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that disciplining students is neutral. Black and Latino students are disciplined at greater rates than their white peers even when controlling for poverty and discipline type. Without the threat of federal investigation, there’s no way to tell how school districts across the country will respond. The Obama guidelines may have converted some districts to more effective discipline approaches, but others may return to harmful practices that will lead to worse outcomes for minority, disabled, and LGBT students.

Even though we can’t guarantee what will happen in schools across the country, Massachusetts can continue this important work. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education deserves praise and recognition for its commitment to the principles laid out in the Obama administration’s guidelines despite the new stance of the federal government. Massachusetts Appleseed will also remain committed to our efforts to reform school discipline practices and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Through our Keep Kids in Class project, Massachusetts Appleseed has provided know-your-rights guides for parents, advocated for less exclusionary discipline practices in schools, and published original research on the state of school discipline across Massachusetts. Despite changes in Washington D.C., we remain dedicated to removing barriers to access to public education and supporting at-risk youth to keep kids in class where they are safe, supported, and free to learn.

 

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Robert F. Rivers, Good Apple Award Recipient

Save the Date!

March 28, 2019
6:00 pm Reception
7:00 pm Award Ceremony
Boston Harbor Hotel, Wharf Room

12th Annual Good Apple Award

On Thursday, March 28th 2019 Massachusetts Appleseed will host its 12th annual Good Apple reception at the Boston Harbor Hotel. We are pleased to announce that this year’s recipient of the Good Apple Award will be Robert F. Rivers, Chair and CEO of Eastern Bank.

The Good Apple Award is presented annually to one member of our Massachusetts business or legal community who exemplifies MA Appleseed’s commitment to public service, fairness, and social justice. Throughout his career, Bob has demonstrated his devotion to standing up for our most vulnerable communities. In his role as a civic leader, he inspires profound and positive change.

Bob is Chair and CEO of Eastern Bank, America’s oldest and largest mutual bank and the largest independent community bank headquartered in Massachusetts with $11 billion in assets and over 120 locations. He is also Chair of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and the Dimock Center.

Bob is involved extensively in the community, serving on the Board of Directors of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Jobs for Mass, and The Lowell Plan. He also is a member of the Board of Trustees of Stonehill College, the Northern Essex Community College Foundation,

the Board of Corporators of Lowell General Hospital, the Advisory Boards of the Lawrence Partnership and JFK Library Foundation, and is a member of the City of Boston’s Women’s Workforce Council, in addition to providing support and guidance to numerous other non-profit organizations. Bob has been named among the Top 10 “Most Influential People in Boston” by Boston Magazine, and to the Boston Business Journal Power 50 list for the last three years.

Named after the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Bob’s passion for advocating for social justice causes and sustainability issues is the result of a personal and professional journey that began early in his life. Bob has been recognized by many organizations for his work in championing diversity and social justice, including The Boston Globe, The Partnership, Get Konnected!, Color Magazine, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), the Asian American Civic Association (AACA), Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), El Planeta, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, The Theater Offensive, and MassINC.

For sponsorship opportunities or tickets, click here. Please contact Madeline Poage at madeline@massappleseed.org with any questions.


Save the Date (PDF)

2019 Good Apple Award Recipient (PDF)

For Immediate Release

Jessica L. Ellis, Hearing Officer at the Department of Public Utilities

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice welcomed Jessica L. Ellis, a Hearing Officer in the Legal Division at the Department of Public Utilities, and Samuel R. Gates, an Associate at Pierce Davis & Perritano LLP, to its Board of Directors on November 27, 2018. The Massachusetts Appleseed Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as education, youth homelessness, and access to justice, is pleased to have Ms. Ellis and Mr. Gates, two enormously talented attorneys, join the organization.

“One of our long-time Board members who is stepping down, Kristen Graves, referred Jessica and Sam to us, and we could not be happier to invite them to join the Board,” said Martha Mazzone, chairperson of the Board of Directors. “Both have extensive experience in representing the underserved population in Massachusetts, and consequently have the expertise to enhance our access to justice work. We will no doubt rely on them both for insight into how a “user” experiences the justice system.”

Samuel R. Gates, Associate at Pierce Davis & Perritano LLP

Ms. Ellis currently presides over administrative hearings and manages case teams of technical staff in matters concerning electric power, natural gas, water companies, pipelines, and transportation network companies for the state of Massachusetts. Mr. Gates’s current practice focuses on litigation and trial advocacy in defense of cities, towns, and other public employers in Massachusetts State and Federal Court, and he brings unique and substantial business experience alongside his legal expertise. Both Ms. Ellis and Mr. Gates have spent years dedicated to the representation of indigent clients. They were student attorneys in Suffolk University Law School’s immigration and criminal defense clinics, and both previously worked at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the Massachusetts public defender agency, as Trial Attorneys.

“It is a privilege to join the Board of an organization dedicated to finding creative and impactful solutions to issues plaguing our most vulnerable citizens,” Ms. Ellis said. “Appleseed’s mission is one that we should all strive to incorporate in our day-to-day lives.”

Mr. Gates said, “Massachusetts Appleseed is doing critical work to fight for equal rights and social justice. I am honored to join its Board of Directors and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to its mission.”

 

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

For Immediate Release

Melanie L. Todman, Associate at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice Board of Directors unanimously voted at its September 25th board meeting to appoint Melanie L. Todman, Associate at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, to join Justin J. Wolosz of Choate Hall & Stewart LLP as co-Vice Chair. The Massachusetts Appleseed Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as education, youth homelessness, and access to justice, is thrilled to have Ms. Todman, among the organization’s most dedicated volunteers, assume a leadership role on the Board.

Ms. Todman is an associate in Nutter’s Litigation Department. Her practice focuses on advising clients in internal governmental investigations and complex civil litigation relating to securities, insurance and reinsurance, commercial and product liability, government procurement, and municipal law. She has also spent time as a volunteer attorney in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and prior to that, was a legal fellow at Heartland Alliance International in Chicago. While serving on the Board of Massachusetts Appleseed, she has been a champion of the organization’s access to justice work, devoting hours of pro bono time to its pilot project, Turning on the Lights: How Online Resources Can Help the Trial Court Illuminate the Process of Self-Representation for Massachusetts Litigants.

“The opportunity to work with Massachusetts Appleseed in this new role is an absolute privilege,” said Ms. Todman. “As a steward of Massachusetts society, Appleseed’s work to first identify issues affecting underserved people in our community, and then engage with community stakeholders to develop long-lasting, structural solutions for those issues, is crucial to building a more just and equitable society. I look forward to assisting the organization in any way I can to achieve its critical mission of working to ensure equal rights and opportunities for every person in the Commonwealth.”

“Anyone who attended our 2017 Good Apple reception honoring Jonathan Chiel will remember Melanie, then a new member of the Board, who closed the event with stirring but disturbing comments about the foreseeable road ahead under the new administration,” said Martha Mazzone, chairperson of the Board of Directors. “She noted the absolute necessity to support groups like Appleseed that stand for the rule of law as the foundation of a just society. I admire Melanie for her rock solid demonstrated commitment to social justice and look forward to partnering with her and with her co-Vice Chair Justin in this, our organization’s 25th anniversary year.”

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

For Immediate Release

John A. Shutkin, General Counsel of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Boston, MA – The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice welcomed John A. Shutkin, General Counsel of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, to its Board of Directors at its board meeting on September 25, 2018. The Massachusetts Appleseed Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as education, youth homelessness, and access to justice, is pleased to have Mr. Shutkin, a truly dedicated advocate for social justice, join the organization.

John A. Shutkin is the General Counsel of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP, based in its Lexington, Massachusetts office. His extensive legal experience includes serving as General Counsel for KPMG International and the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP. Throughout his career, he has devoted his time to working for communities in need, serving on the boards of Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund, Partnership for After School Education (PASE), the Bank Street College of Education, and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. Most importantly, Mr. Shutkin is a committed member of the Appleseed network and served on the Board of Directors at MA Appleseed’s sister center, Connecticut Appleseed.

“I am delighted and honored to join the board of MA Appleseed,” said Mr. Shutkin. “Since moving to the Boston area several years ago, I have wanted to get involved in a local equal rights and justice organization and I could not be more supportive of MA Appleseed’s mission and initiatives.”

“As we continue to build out our program and focus on solutions to the inequities in our legal system, we need true legal advocates at every level of the Appleseed organization to bring to fruition our plans,” said Martha Mazzone, chairperson of the Board of Directors. “John is a lifelong advocate for justice, and we are thrilled to have someone of his caliber and experience join our board.”

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

It’s over! The formal session of the Legislature ended at midnight on Tuesday, which means, although the Legislature will continue to meet in informal sessions, action on the most remaining controversial legislation will be tabled until January 2019.

So what are the results? Read more below about how our priorities fared in the FY19 budget and what happened with a bill to break down barriers for homeless youth.

The FY19 State Budget

The state budget is incredibly important to the people in need we fight these legislative battles on behalf of. We’ve seen what happens when funding disappears – just last year, a Cambridge shelter serving LGBTQ youth came within inches of closing its doors for good.

Not this time.

I couldn’t be more pleased to report that all – yes, ALL – of the priorities you helped us fight for made it in!

You raised your voice in the House. You emailed your Senators. You pushed the Conference Committee. You picked up the phone and called Governor Baker. You took action, and it worked.

That means:

Civil Legal Aid: Funded at $21.04 million, a mere $2 million shy of MLAC’s initial request and a $3 million increase over last year. That’s $3 million more going to provide critical free legal services to those who cannot afford an attorney!

The Housing Court Expansion: Fully funded at $2.6 million, a huge win for expanding access to justice into areas of the state where people need it most!

Language Requiring Schools to Publish Meal Charge Policies: Included, and an important step forward in the ongoing fight to end lunch shaming and protect low-income students.

Support for Homeless Youth: Funded at 3.3 million, a huge increase from last year!

Task Force to Tackle Language Access in Schools: Language was included in the budget to establish this task force which will help to ensure schools are fulfilling their obligation to communicate effectively with limited English proficient parents about their child’s education!

For joining us in this series of budget battles and sticking by us for months, thank you.

For standing up and demanding a better, fairer Massachusetts, thank you.

For these remarkable victories, thank you.

Homeless ID Bill

Now the bad news.

Despite our best efforts, Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families, did not pass before the end of the formal legislative session. This bill is a common sense reform measure that would make it easier for homeless youth to obtain state identification.

Without state ID, homeless youth cannot apply for a job, enroll in education programs, get a library card, or accomplish a number of other important, everday tasks. This bill would have eliminated the $25 fee and eased the path towards getting a state ID for homeless applicants. It could have made a big difference in the lives of homeless youth around the state.

We’re disappointed the Legislature was unable to pass Senate Bill 2568 before the formal session ended. But we aren’t giving up. This bill passed the Senate unanimously and we still have hope that, working with our community partners, we can get it passed by the House during informal sessions. Stay tuned as we work to make this happen!

 

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For Immediate Release

Boston, July 24, 2018 – A policy brief released today by the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice examines the impact of banning cell phones and other personal electronic devices in Massachusetts courthouses. It finds that there are unintended consequences to the bans, especially for self-represented litigants, and that access to justice can be harmed as a result.

“It’s become increasingly clear that courthouse cell phones bans put litigants who are representing themselves at a serious disadvantage,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. “Attorneys can bring smart phones into courthouses, and they often store their clients’ phones so they can be accessed throughout the day, if needed. But pro se litigants do not have that option and so they cannot access proof of payments, agreements, and injuries that are stored on their phones in the form of email, text messages, and photos.”

Trial courts in Massachusetts permit the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices provided that they are turned off or set to be silent before entering a courtroom. However, chief justices at individual courthouses may set further restrictions and currently 56 trial courts across the state do not allow anyone other than attorneys, jurors, and court personnel to bring cell phones into the courthouse.

Interviews with attorneys, litigants, and advocates for affected populations, such as people with low incomes, survivors of domestic violence, and people who speak a first language other than English found the following:

  • Litigants are often unaware of courthouse cellphone bans until they arrive at court. A few courthouses offer safe storage of phones and other electronic devices in secure lockers, but most do not.
  • When faced with the option of missing their court appointment if they cannot get rid of their phone, litigants have resorted to hiding their phones in bushes around the courthouse, leaving a phone with a cab driver, and even stashing their phone in the bag of a bicycle locked up outside the courthouse. Outside busy courthouses, some vendors have started phone storage businesses. This works for some litigants, but others cannot afford to pay for storage.
  • Self-represented litigants who are able to store their phones outside the courthouse are often hindered without them in the courtroom because they do not have access to evidence stored on their phones that support their legal claims. Phones are also necessary for coordinating translation services and using hearing assistance apps.

Cell phone bans were originally put in place to prevent individuals from recording victims, witnesses, jurors, or court employees for the purpose of threatening or intimidating them, or even broadcasting courtroom proceedings to people outside the courtroom. While the report acknowledges that these may be legitimate concerns in certain instances, an examination of policies and practices in other states, finds that there are ways to ensure safety without disadvantaging self-represented litigants. Examples of policies in courts in Massachusetts and other states that permit cell phones in courthouses include permitting their use in the courtroom but confiscating them if they are used improperly; designating courthouse spaces in which cell phones can be used; and providing secure lockers to safely store cell phones.

“Cell phones have become an integral part of daily life for most people and banning their use in public spaces such as courthouses has serious consequences,” Silva added. “Living in a democratic society demands a constant balance of security with liberty. Cell phone bans have outlived their usefulness and we need new policies to ensure that everyone who enters a Massachusetts courtroom enjoys the promise of access to justice.”

The report, “Cell Phones in the Courthouse: An Access to Justice Perspective,” is available online: http://massappleseed.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Cell-Phones-in-the-Courthouse.pdf.

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

For Immediate Release

Micah W. Miller
Associate at Nutter, McClennen & Fish LLP

Boston, MA – Massachusetts Appleseed Center welcomed Micah W. Miller, Associate at Nutter, McClennen & Fish LLP, to its Board of Directors at the Annual Meeting on June 12, 2018. The Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit organization that advocates for systemic reform in areas such as education, youth homelessness, and access to justice, is pleased to have Mr. Miller, an enthusiastic and thoughtful advocate, join the organization.

Micah W. Miller is an associate in Nutter’s Litigation Department. Drawing on his experience as a software engineer, Mr. Miller frequently counsels clients on patent matters and disputes in a broad range of technologies. He is committed to pro bono work and has worked with the Victim Rights Law Center and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Pro Bono initiative, where he has assisted several pro bono clients in obtaining abuse prevention orders.

“MA Appleseed has a long history of doing important and impactful work,” said Micah Miller. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve on its board, and I look forward to helping MA Appleseed continue to tackle systemic issues that deny so many access to justice and opportunity.”

“We are delighted to welcome Micah to MA Appleseed,” said Martha Mazzone, chairperson of the Board of Directors. “Micah is one of those rare people who finds the time to serve as a trusted counsel to his clients AND take on extensive pro bono work advocating on behalf of indigent clients. He models what Appleseed was founded on – that the commitment of our legal communities to social justice can make a true difference.”

At the June 12th meeting, members of the Board also unanimously re-elected officers Martha A. Mazzone (Board Chair), Justin J. Wolosz (Vice Chair), Christopher Hoyle (Treasurer), and Sara J. Shanahan (Secretary).

About the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice:

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. Working with volunteer lawyers, community partners, and others, we identify and address gaps in services and opportunities in areas such as education, homelessness, and the court system. Through in-depth research, consensus building, and community problem solving, we develop powerful solutions for reforming the systems and structures responsible. Our work seeks to level the playing field and transform communities.

Innovators for Access to Justice Panel

A panel of innovators in access to justice will present immediately following the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice Annual Meeting.

Dan Jackson
NuLawLab
Northeastern University

Gabriel Teninbaum
Institute on Legal Innovation & Technology
Suffolk Law School

Bill Palin
Access to Justice/Technology Fellow
Harvard Law School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join us to hear these experts from local law schools discuss their work using technology and other innovations to expand access to justice.

Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Time: 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm

Location: Sherin and Lodgen LLP, 101 Federal Street, Floor 31, Boston, MA 02110

Northeastern University, Suffolk Law School, and Harvard Law School alumni are especially encouraged to attend!

The panelists’ presentation will be followed by a brief reception with refreshments.

Email Madeline at madeline@massappleseed.org to RSVP today!

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A Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

You did it!

After so many months of tireless advocacy, you did it. On Friday, Governor Baker signed the omnibus criminal justice reform bill into law. The bill is now Chapter 69 of the Acts of 2018. And with that, you’ve brought us one step closer to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

This is huge.

Thanks to you, we can now stop kids in Massachusetts schools from being arrested for the vague crime of “disturbing school assembly.” We can keep school resource officers from involving themselves in routine disciplinary situations they are not trained for. And we can start collecting important data on school arrests in the state.

For every phone call you made to your senators and representatives, for every email you sent in support of our provisions, for your time and energy – thank you. 

This was no easy journey, and there were moments when it looked like our provisions to keep kids in class might not make it to the finish line. But you raised your voice time and time again and because you did, we won!

Find your legislators here and thank them for leading the charge to make this bill a reality.

The fight to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline is by no means over. But together, we just took a huge step forward.

Thank you for your continued involvement and support.

Warmly,

Deborah Silva
Executive Director

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