How We Began
How We Began
The School Justice Project grew out of Executive Director Claire Nilsen Blumenson's Equal Justice Works Fellowship, sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, and the experiences of both co-founders as post-graduate legal fellows at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Claire used her Fellowship to pilot SJP's model, experimenting with programming and delivery methods. While Claire was representing students securely detained in DC's long-term facility, Deputy Director Sarah Comeau was working with students securely detained in DC's short-term facility. The two became close colleagues and friends, sharing cases and experiences.
Sarah only too often saw her students return to the facility, citing poor reintegration or school failures. Claire saw that a majority of her clients had worked with Sarah prior to their placement in the long-term facility. Together, they quickly identified the pattern through which students seemed to cycle through the facilities—moving from short-term to long-term detention—yet could not find any organization that enforced the rights of this population or combatted this vicious cycle. The two co-founders decided to spin the Equal Justice Works Fellowship into a standalone organization. With an award of seed funding through Echoing Green/Open Society Foundations' Black Male Achievement Fellowship, SJP opened its doors officially in August 2013.