My First Week at ICJ

The Institute for Compassion in Justice is committed to ensuring that children and their families are protected from the racial injustice and systematic oppression that exists in low-income communities. The need for protection in Kentucky is made evident by the cases that are handled by the institute. In many of these cases, there are blatant examples of tactics practiced by schools and police officers that help facilitate systematic oppression and the school to prison pipeline. Compassion in justice comes from the ability to make sure that children have a chance to overcome problems that arise from disabilities, family dysfunction, and a lack of proper guidance; there is no compassion involved when certain things that are inextricably related to a specific demographic are used as a tool to punish children in a way that will have a lasting negative impact on their lives. It is important that children understand that their lives are valued by the schools they attend and the institutions that are supposed to be in place to protect and guide them. Most importantly, the children and their families need to know that there are people who understand the difficulties and realities that they face and who are willing to fight to make sure that their cases are viewed from a perspective that reflects this understanding.

Minority and low income students have often had their civil rights violated in the classroom. As a new law clerk with the ICJ, I have seen cases that are true examples of these violations. Teachers have taken it upon themselves to find trouble with certain students at all costs. This includes going through students’ locked phones without consent, leaking confidential information to other students to facilitate bullying, withholding information from students and their families to ensure that deadlines for admittance to special opportunity programs aren’t met, isolating children in rooms with no windows, and often times taking no action to prevent or stop bullying that they are aware of. The cases I’ve seen are only a speck on the big picture of injustice that occurs in schools, particularly impacting low-income and minority communities. These actions practiced by teachers and administrators in the cases that I’ve seen are examples of systematic oppression and they help facilitate the school to prison pipeline. The work of ICJ will ultimately help correct these injustices and provide children who would otherwise be victims with a chance to live out there potential as quality citizens.

By: Michael Roman

University of Kentucky College of Law, J.D. Candidate, 2019

ICJ Law Clerk