Letters to the Editor: LAUSD families are in dire need of legal aid. Here’s how the district is helping them
To the editor: Your article on California’s youth homelessness crisis quotes UCLA education professor Tyrone Howard as saying, “We have to take collective action,” and, “Schools for far too long have been asked to solve this problem all alone.” He is right, and with the help of “education-legal partnerships,” schools don’t have to do this work alone.
Prior to the pandemic, “community schools” in the Los Angeles Unified School District emerged as effective resources for supporting students beyond their educational needs. Also called “full-service schools,” community schools forge partnerships with outside bodies to provide primary medical care, dental and other services. This acknowledges the reality that families have more trust in schools and teachers than in other institutions.
That should be extended to legal aid. The good news is, we already have examples of education-legal partnerships in Los Angeles.
Bet Tzedek, a firm providing free legal services to low-income clients, hosts a UCLA School of Law post-graduate fellow at the Immigrant Family Legal Clinic connected with L.A. Unified’s Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus. The fellow helps families with employment law issues, working alongside clinic attorneys who address a number of other issues, like eviction threats or food stamp benefits. The success of this partnership has led us to explore a similar pilot program at a nearby campus.
This type of collaboration may be novel in education, but it isn’t new to the legal profession. For example, Bet Tzedek has two attorneys at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. The thinking behind this partnership is simple: A patient’s health is often impacted by social and environmental factors, and doctor cannot help with those issues — but a lawyer can.
This concept extends to education, and local schools provide the perfect setting to ensure that families have access to the robust protections afforded to them by California law.
Diego Cartagena and Nick Melvoin, Los Angeles
Cartagena is president and chief executive of Bet Tzedek Legal Services; Melvoin is a member of L.A. Unified’s Board of Education.
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