In 1992, the need was identified for a vehicle within the state’s civil legal aid network to advocate for children’s issues broadly on a statewide basis. MAC was chosen by the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) to head the newly created Children’s Law Support Project, leading the Education Law Task Force (ELTF) and convening a CLSP Advisory Committee to address the work being done in local and statewide offices across the spectrum of children-related legal issues.
This work continues to this day. The CLSP committee has put on major conferences for the legal aid community and most recently in December 2009 on The Legal Needs of Immigrant Children. The ELTF comprises attorneys and advocates in legal services and public interest law firms to address many of the important education issues that face low-income clients.
The ELTF continues to focus its attention on school discipline and the effects of zero tolerance policies and practices, particularly on students of color and students with disabilities. This work is rooted in the passage of the Education Reform Act of 1993, when school principals gained the authority to exclude children from school. Ever since, MAC and other child advocacy organizations have been receiving calls about children being suspended and expelled from school.
With assistance from ELTF, in January 2011, State Representative Alice Wolf filed a comprehensive school discipline bill (H.177 & H.178). During the following 18 months, these bills were merged and edited to become Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012.
Bill - Chapter 222
Bill Summary - Chapter 222
CLSP also directs MAC’s individual case advocacy. MAC has expanded the staffing for its Helpline with the assistance of trained volunteers so that it now responds to more than 900 families a year seeking assistance for their child in need. Through long-standing support from the Mass Bar and Boston Bar Foundations, MAC staffs the Helpline and trains and recruits pro bono attorneys and advocates to enable more low-income children to receive advocacy help.