My name is Tamara Howie. I am a rising 2L at Seattle University School of Law. A native of Seattle, I have always known that I wanted to impact my community through legal advocacy and education.
I am interning at TeamChild, located in Seattle. TeamChild provides free representation to young persons ages 12-18 regarding civil legal issues such as rights to education, housing, and mental health. This summer I will be working with another law school intern, and two youth interns. The youth interns are high school students who have demonstrated a desire to learn more about this area of law. Together we will work with TeamChild attorneys on a project to eliminate exclusionary school discipline practices. Among other things, this project includes building awareness with decision makers, organizing a stakeholder "think tank," and possibly developing model school policy. As a native of Seattle, from a disadvantaged area, I feel it is imperative for relatable advocates to be involved. The issues we are working on tend to affect youth of color at a disproportionate rate. As a person of color, from a disadvantaged community, it is important for me to raise awareness of these problems, and be a part of contributing to the solutions.
July 3, 2012
I have finally started my internship and so far it has been a whirlwind of information upload. While I had a general idea of some concepts related to school discipline, there was so much that I did not know. Thankfully, everyone here has been so helpful about making sure we have the information and tools to find whatever we need. As part of my internship, I am co-facilitating several workshops. So far, I have co-facilitated a presentation at South Seattle Community College about diverting minor school offenses from juvenile court to community solutions. We were able to engage community members in meaningful discussions about their perspectives on alternative community solutions. Next week, I will co-facilitate another presentation for young girls at the Juvenile Detention Center. We will share our project about school exclusion, and teach the girls how they are impacted by this discipline policy. It might sound easy, but trying to put together a curriculum that will both inform and engage youth is not easy.
Another project I am involved in at TeamChild is gathering information for a report that TeamChild will help publish this fall. This report will focus on the issue of school exclusion. This is a major component to my internship, and it is the part that the youth interns will be involved in. Together we will be conducting interviews with stakeholders, who have a unique perspective on school exclusion practices in our state. The questions have been formulated, and we should begin interviews in the next couple of weeks. I am especially excited about these interviews because the youth interns will conduct them with me, and they seem to really be interested in hearing the views of the various community members we are targeting interviews from.
Another key component of my internship will be to write a pocket brief regarding burden of proof in school discipline hearings. I have begun research on this issue, but with so much on my plate it has been neglected as of late. TeamChild attorneys hope to use this brief in the school district hearing examinations they attend with their clients.
TeamChild attorneys also assist clients in competency hearings. Last week I was able to shadow one of our TeamChild attorneys in Pierce County. We spent most of our time at the Juvenile Detention Center, working with a client in a competency hearing. I was able to sit through a few cases involving several youth. I was shocked to see that so many youth are involved in court proceedings. It resembled the first day of school, complete with nervous parents and frightened kids.
Overall, I am so happy with the work that I am doing at TeamChild. Right now I feel like I have so much to do, but so little time left in my internship. I look forward to reporting my progress in my next journal entry.
July 31, 2012
While most of my friends’ internships are over, mine does not end for another week. It will be extremely difficult for me to leave this wonderful place where the attorneys are totally passionate about the work that they do. One of the projects that I have been involved with the most is contribution to the white paper, which TeamChild is a part of. This project has afforded me the opportunity to meet a variety of community members. So far I have met judges, community activists, professors, and others. I have had the opportunity to dialogue with them about their thoughts on school exclusionary practices and the impacts it has on the community. I realized so many people are thinking about this issue. We have begun synthesizing the information and sorting out useful information and quotes. This project has given me hope about some sort of education reform, and I am confident that progress is on the horizon.
Aside from the huge commitment to the writing project, I had the opportunity to do another workshop, this time at the King County Juvenile Detention Center. My co-intern and I facilitated a presentation about the impacts of school exclusion. Our participants consisted of young juvenile girls around the 13 – 16 age group. The experience was emotive. I had never been in a juvenile, let alone in the inmate pods. It was difficult to see children in inmate garb, and confined to these small spaces. I came face to face with the realities of tug on your heart this kind of advocacy can bring, and it is hard to see; however, it serves as confirmation that advocacy agencies, like TeamChild, are essential parts of our community. My goal was to teach them about how their decisions now can have a lasting impact on their life, and to let them know that there are resources.
I also had an opportunity to observe juvenile court in Pierce County. Again, I was surprised by the room full of youth who were facing sanctions anywhere from confinement to house arrest and everything in between.
The last component of my internship will be the legislative round table. We are in the process of trying to connect with members of our legislature so that we can engage them in a round table discussion about some of our recommendations to deal with school exclusion practices, and other education issues. I look forward to the dialogue, and to hearing their thoughts on this issue.
Overall, this summer has been outstanding. TeamChild has taught me so much information about the education system and the juvenile system in our state. Each attorney at TeamChild is more passionate than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for this experience.