October 2012: Source: Asian Bar Association of Sacramento
I looked expectantly at my new students as they filed into the classroom on my first day of teaching in the law academy at De Anza High School in Richmond, California. For a month, these 10th and 11th graders were taught first by a social science teacher, then a substitute – both excellent teachers but neither with any experience in the law.
So I had come late and these students did not have the benefit of structure, substance or consistency in their first month in the law academy. Admittedly, I thought I was a natural at teaching and I loved kids of all ages.
I knew the substantive material would be familiar and relatively easy. My expectations were of eager students ready to listen carefully, study hard and learn the critical thinking skills that would give them a choice of any career including pathways into the legal profession. Expectations threw me for a curve. Although there were students that certainly did all of these, others brought me to my knees.
DeAnza High School is one of the six law academies started in 2010 in a unique partnership between the State Bar of California and the California Department of Education.
I was one of three partners who put the structure together (Patricia Lee, Special Assistant for Diversity & Bar Relations of the State Bar of California and Karen Shores, formerly the Education Programs Consultant for California Partnership Academies at the California Department of Educa-tion).
The formation of the California Law Academy Strategic Task Force (CLAS) in 2010 brought together 80 of the movers and shak-ers in the legal profession and in education. CLAS included law firm partners, law school deans, judges, government lawyers, school superintendents and principals, general counsels, bar executives and presidents to build the first six law academies in the state under the California Partnership Academy (CPA) model. The bar was looking to build a profession that reflected the population that we serve in the justice system. The CPA model provided the racial and ethnic diversity in its student popu-lation that would meet this goal.
Created by the California State Legislature in 1986, there are currently over 500 CPA’s in California in our public high schools. All CPA’s create a partnership between the school, school district and an “industry” such as health, finance, energy, business.
Although there were many law enforcement academies and other justice system efforts, there were no pure law academies and the profession as an organized bar was not involved with the exception of a few lawyers here and there. (Emphasis added)
These six law academies brought the organized bar and its lawyers and judges to the schools. This was the first “boots on the ground” project on such a grand scale to br ing lawyers and the law into a partnership with teachers and school districts.
We now have law academies in San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Elk Grove, Sacramento and Richmond.
Five of the six are in their second y ear of existence with 10 th and 11 th graders. The legislation requires that 50% of the students be “at risk” and that these CPA’s be housed in public high schools that have at least 350 students. Each academy has 3 core courses and a career tech course that starts in 10 th grade and concludes in their senior year.
Throughout the three years, the profession participates as mentors, creates internships, becomes speakers and co-teaches in the classroom. Each academy has a regional team of lawyers and judges who works closely with the teaching team in planning field trips, motivational activities and assisting with curriculum. On my first day of teaching, I came face to face with the “at risk” requirement.
I was not prepared for the barriers that I faced in actually teaching. Before any teaching occurred, I needed to gain their trust, to learn classr oom management, to render approp riate discipline and to throw everything I had thought about teaching out and start from the beginning. As I got to know them individually, I started to understand the lack of resources that so many live with: the foster parents, the single parent home, the drug addict ions in people they love, the brushes with the law, the lack of success that so many have lived with and the low expectations they had of them-selves. They have taught me so much more than I ever dreamed. I see each of them as a bundle of potential….what an opportunity to build hope, inspire motivation, give them a glimpse of what they can be and help them reach their dreams.
Some come to school every day having lived through a harrowing night. Some find school the safest place to be. Some have learning disabilities or have been told they will never amount to anything. But small victories abound – when one comes up and says they love their law class. When a noth-er trusts enough to share their life and ask for help. When each begins to respond to law and the classroom setting in a posit ive and upbeat way. Now, after a month, I hear cheerful “Hello, Mrs. Ashley” as I meet each student at the door of the classroom. As I walk t hrough campus, voices call out to me. Each of my four classes has AP students who influence the “at risk” students in ways that encourage their academic work. They are on their way to Ivy League school s and they are a joy to teach. The CPA model creates a family as the students move through high school together. This family, as any family, has its crises, its problems and its successes. But as all families, it’s the trust that grows and the love that binds.
1. Simply put, he claim by Ashley that “Although there were many law enforcement academies and other justice system efforts, there were no pure law academies and the profession as an organized bar was not involved with the exception of a few lawyers here and there is false.
For example, a quick google search shows that the Contra Costa Bar Association launched a “Law Academy” already in 2009. CCBA states:
“Our Law Academy encompasses a theme-based, college preparatory curriculum and extensive extracurricular and academic support programs.
The Academy was approved by the district and is supported in part through funding from the Irvine Foundation.
The curriculum includes three elements:
- law-related content embedded in required courses in English, Social Studies, Math and Science
- law-specific elective courses such as Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice
- work-based learning throughout the four years of study
The program serves the diverse student body in the district. The Academy enrolled its first 100 ninth-grade students in the fall of 2009, and will grow to 400 students in four years.”
2. According to annonymous sources, YR is highy skeptical of the claim that Ruthe Ashley and Patricia Lee somehow launched a whole new partenrship between the State of California/Department of Education and the State Bar of California in 2010.
The sources maintain that only recently those self-serving statments referencing events in 2010 begun to show up in doubious publications, such as the journal of the Asian Bar Association of Sacramento, and the like.
The sources also maintain that YR, subsequent to being awarded outstanding volunteer of the year from the Bar Association of San Francisco (“BASF”), also participated in BASF “Law Academy” at Balboa High School in San Francisco.
Finally, the sources indicated that an examination has been launched to ensure no shananigans is taking place by trying to recreate the past as fas as PG&E, Berkeley Green Academy, and CaliforniaALL.