A stable, solid education creates opportunity for DC students and sets them on a path toward a more prosperous life. It is why we fund Advocates for Justice and Education (AJE), an organization providing free, on-site legal assistance to parents, guardians, or students at disciplinary hearings before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
Don’t miss our Partner Profile on Stacey Eunnae, one of AJE’s dedicated attorneys. And see more success stories to learn about the difference a lawyer makes.
This back-to-school season, I am reflecting on the challenges students face in our community — and our potential for creating change together.
I recently learned about Shannon, a 15-year-old DC Public Schools (DCPS) student who faced a 45-day suspension. The cause? Failing to throw away a drink bottle when asked by a staff member.
Fortunately for Shannon and her family, an attorney with our grantee Advocates for Justice and Education (AJE) was on site the day of Shannon’s hearing, reviewed her “evidence packet,” and determined that Shannon’s age-typical behavior fell outside the scope of suspension. AJE’s attorney represented Shannon, successfully arguing against her unwarranted removal from the learning environment. She returned to school the next day.
Shannon’s experience is more common than you might know:
On average, 8.2% of DC students will face at least one significant disciplinary action during a school year. And suspensions and expulsions disproportionately affect low-income students, students of color, and those with disabilities. Students experiencing homelessness are suspended 2.3 times the rate of their peers.
Being excluded from school profoundly impacts children’s lives, including increasing their likelihood of dropping out, interacting with the criminal justice system, and living in poverty. Access to an attorney at these hearings — a legal professional to empower parents and advocate for students — often means the difference between wrongful discipline and staying in school.
In this work I’m inspired by AJE Executive Director Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas, who has long championed equal justice in school disciplinary law. A native Washingtonian, attorney, and mother who has encountered many of the same school system struggles faced by her clients, Rochanda knows what families are up against. Together in partnership, we’re expanding legal aid to meet the volume of need.
It is your support for DC Bar Foundation that sends AJE attorneys to hearings, representing DC’s most vulnerable students. Thank you!
Here’s to a new school year with equal opportunity for all.
Kirra L. Jarratt
Each month, we highlight individuals working to make the justice system more accessible to DC residents. Meet Stacey Eunnae, Senior Staff Attorney for Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc.
Senior Staff Attorney
Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc. (AJE)
Years on the Job
2.5 years at AJE
Where did you grow up?
I moved frequently and lived in DC, Virginia, Egypt, Malawi, and Zaire.
What brought you to DC?
What is your relationship to DCBF?
Favorite Vacation Spot
Sharm El Sheikh
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Yoga, travel, astrology, live music, HBO
One thing (other than your phone) you never leave your house without is…
Water or another beverage
If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I would be a…
List three main challenges you faced early on in your career
Knew zero lawyers, caffeine overdose, and DC jail’s dress code
Most rewarding element of your work
Supporting the most persecuted and rebellious teens
The most pressing civil legal aid issue in DC is…
Lack of 24/7 access to safe, affordable shelter