A Few Examples of Our Current Systemic Efforts

Access to Justice. Access to Education.

SJP's special education attorneys work to protect and enforce special education rights. SJP uses special education law to ensure that older, court-involved students with disabilities can access a quality education.

A Few Examples of Our Current Systemic Efforts

People often ask us what our days are like as education lawyers. While certainly not predictable, our work is becoming far easier to categorize and classify. Since most people are more familiar with our direct client work, the primary focus below is on SJP's systemic work. 

Staff Attorney Rachel Russo represents SJP on the D.C. Secondary Transition Community of Practice, a working group composed of a cross section of D.C. stakeholders who work jointly to support D.C. youth with disabilities as they transition from high school to independent adulthood. Russo has been part of the planning process for the DC Secondary Transition Institute, a two-day training for Local Education Agencies in June (see "upcoming events" for details).

Director of Programs Sarah Comeau testified before D.C. Council's Committee on Human Services at D.C.'s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) Performance Oversight Hearing. Comeau discussed issues related to juvenile justice agency placements, reentry, transition planning, and interagency communication and collaboration. SJP also submitted written testimony for the agency budget hearing held in May (Budget testimony available here).

Executive Director Claire Blumenson and Director of Programs Sarah Comeau participated in the second annual convening hosted by The Legal Center for Youth Justice and Education (LCYJE). This day-long convening brought together various organizations and practitioners from across the country to collaborate on key issues and share strategies. Blumenson presented on using state complaints to seek systemic remedies and the benefits and drawbacks of using litigation alternatives to generate system wide shifts. On June 27, 2017 at 2pm, SJP will join LCYJE to present during the introductory webinar on Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System. More information on the webinar can be found here.

Russo filed a due process complaint on behalf of an individual client and, as a result, secured the following in compensatory education services: 130 hours of tutoring and 25 hours of transition services. Russo has also been making sure the state complaint relief outlined in the 2016 Letter of Decision gets implemented and is meaningful for her clients. In this case, the Letter of Decision addressed D.C.'s violations of special education obligations for older students in D.C. Jail. Based on the Letter of Decision, Russo's three individual clients received the equivalent of 900 hours of compensatory education (approximately $70,000 in education services) to make up for the educational harm suffered due to agency violations. The Letter of Decision also identified systemic corrective actions that were needed, requiring the three agencies to create a Memorandum of Agreement to close the pervasive education gap Russo's complaint revealed.

Our website has more details on 2016 metrics and 2017 Q1 accomplishments.

Corporate Sponsor Spotlight

School Justice Project is pleased to welcome two new amazing corporate sponsors, Halo Top and Mountain Shore Properties, to the SJP family! Both companies were excited to get involved with School Justice Project through both corporate sponsorship and donations for the raffle at the upcoming Third Annual Fundraiser. Curious? Buy tickets for June 8th and you won't be disappointed! 

Mountain Shore Properties is a real estate development company whose focus is on developing properties that create enduring value for communities and our investors. The highly experienced MSP team has led the successful development of hotels, single- and multi-tenant office buildings, mixed-use apartment/retail buildings, and single-family homes in 20+ cities across 8 different states.

Our goal is to develop projects in optimal locations that have high barriers to entry. Our highly experienced group of principals has spent years creating long-standing relationships with key third-party partners and investors that allows our group to overcome many development hurdles and persevere in locations and markets where other real estate companies cannot. Our principals understand that you are only as good as your most recent project, and that attitude has led to an established record of developing tremendously successful projects, which in turn has fostered strong relationships with not only our investors, but also the communities in which we develop.

Halo Top was created in 2011 by Justin Woolverton, who loved ice cream but had to limit his intake because of hypoglycemia. Frustrated that he couldn’t enjoy ice cream as much as he would like, Justin decided to experiment with some recipes of his own making in his kitchen at home. After much trial and error, Justin hit on a formula that would later rock the ice cream world.

He teamed up with an attorney friend he met at a basketball league, Doug Bouton—President and Chief Operating Officer of Halo Top—and together they embarked on a quest to bring the greatest tasting, healthy ice cream to the world. 

Halo Top is available at your local retailers in the DC area, and you can visit their store locator at  to find a specific list!

Organizational News

SJP is grateful to the DC Bar Foundation for its generous grant of $75,000 through the Access to Justice (ATJ) Grants Program. This Program awards grants to DC-based legal aid organizations that provide free legal help to low-income DC residents. 

Director of Operations Donna Munoz organized and facilitated a fantastic staff "pre-retreat."  Our team had the opportunity to reflect on SJP's evolution, where we are now, and where we want to be.  Through a series of exercises and discussions, we explored our personal and professional goals and began identifying what a culture of success would look like for us. 

SJP is proud to be featured as a resource in the Blueprint For Change: Education Success for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, a comprehensive and user-friendly tool for both direct legal services and systems reform efforts. The Legal Center for Youth Justice and Education (LCYJE) launched this new website resource that will serve as a dynamic, interactive tool to improve the educational and life outcomes of youth involved with the juvenile justice system.

SJP partnered with Forward Movement Consulting (FMC) for a strategic planning project. Led by Melissa Johnson-Hewitt, FMC provides client-centered services for dynamic social justice organizations seeking to achieve greater impact for marginalized communities, especially communities of color. FMC has been an invaluable resource to School Justice Project. 

Upcoming Events

June 8, 2017: School Justice Project's Third Annual Fundraiser will be held on June 8, 2017 from 6:30-9:30 pm. We are thrilled to be honoring Brian Whittaker from Nixon Peabody LLP for his incredible pro bono work over the past three years. Presented by AlixPartners LLP, the fundraiser will feature an open bar (beer & wine), heavy hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, and raffle items. Thanks to the generous support of AlixPartners, all proceeds will go directly to the organization. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door, but early bird pricing ends on May 31! BUY TICKETS HERE
Contact with any questions or to support the event. 

June 9, 2017:  Russo has been part of the planning process for the DC Secondary Transition Institute, a two-day training for Local Education Agencies in June. As a facilitator, she will be working with a team of high school staff to guide them through the day and help them set a goal related to secondary transition and plan around it. She will also be moderating a panel on fostering youth advocacy.

July 27-31, 2017: Blumenson and Comeau will be attending the Aspen Institute's Resnick Global Leadership Forum, Aspen, CO.  "The Resnick Aspen Action Forum is one of the Aspen Institute's greatest platforms for effecting real and measurable change in the world. It is an annual four-day event held in Aspen, CO that encourages entrepreneurial leaders from around the world to put their ideas for impact into action."