FCI's Game Changer Awardee for November is
the Student Expulsion Prevention Project (StEPP)
November 30, 2018
The Student Expulsion Prevention Project provides free legal representation to students facing expulsion in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Starting in the 2015-16 school year, StEPP expanded to offer service to students in all Dane County school districts.
Attorney Puck Tsai of Pemberton & Englund Law Offices, LLC and StEPP volunteer says, “We want to make sure children in the school system are safe, but at the same time we have to balance that interest with deciding if it is appropriate to suspend a child for a long time or expel them.”
Because the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office (WSPDO) doesn’t have jurisdiction in expulsion cases, WSPOD organizes the StEPP training for volunteer attorneys.
In the pilot year of the program, StEPP volunteers represented 14 cases in Dane County; 78% of these cases involved children of color and, of those children, 64% were not expelled. All of the student cases that StEPP oversaw involved children who were out of school for less time than was originally handed down by school administrators.
Says a mother of a student previously represented by a StEPP volunteer, “StEPP helps families, especially the moms who can’t afford a lawyer. After the 15-day suspension, my son didn’t miss any more days. He was reinstated the next day after the hearing.”
In the coming years, StEPP is looking to expand the program to the entire state.
Congratulations, StEPP and StEPP volunteers!